Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Chore skiing

Before the next storm brings rain and snow I slithered around the woods to gather pine cones. They're great for starting the woodstove with less than enthusiastic firewood.

I slung a 5-gallon plastic bucket for the cones over my shoulder with an old piece of climbing webbing so I could have my hands free to hold my poles. A job like this is much easier than when I skied out with a bow saw and an axe to cut dead pine because I had run out of any kind of firewood. But it's far from the groomed trail experience.

I'm  bushwhacker at heart. Just as I used lift-served skiing to get concentrated turn practice so did I use groomed trail skiing to stay in shape for trudging forays on obscure trails or no trail at all. In both cases I spent as much time as possible in the woods, although I had to be forcibly weaned from groomed-trail cross-country skiing. I could get back into that habit. But even at the height of my addiction I would never spend the money and time to travel to a ski center on my day off.

Skiing around the woods looking for something stupid like pine cones or dry sticks gets to the roots of skiing much more than recreational sliding on machine-prepared surfaces does. Skiing was part of practical daily life. It was enjoyable even as it was utilitarian.

A friend of mine living in Seattle, who dated a Norwegian woman living there, noted that she had a very unadorned style of skiing that casually covered a lot of ground very efficiently. It was well practiced from childhood in its native environment rather than consciously studied in a place to which it had been transplanted centuries after its invention.

The skis I used today are at least 15 years old. They're very similar to the ones on which I started skiing almost 30 years ago. All the waves of innovation that have created products targeted at very specific types of skiing can't change the fact that a relatively traditional touring ski can go almost anywhere. Maybe I can't keep up with the gear addicts on their exquisitely designed perfect tools for the back country or the immaculately prepared track, but those aren't always the most comfortable people to hang out with anyway.

On old skis, with old boots and old poles on a sunny afternoon I wanted nothing I did not have right there.

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