Reawakening my inner Nordic

I have recently been rediscovering my inner Nordic skier, which has been slumbering for many years. Ski tours this winter in Leavenworth, Blewett Pass, and Snoqualmie Pass – including one beautiful day introducing  my 8 year-old son to what we used to call cross-country skiing – represent more classic touring than I have done in years. The simplicity of just moving across the countryside on light-weight gear allows me to focus on movement, rhythm, and accumulating mileage rather than vertical; enjoying the tour, rather than the turn.

S’s first cross country ski tour not in a pack

As a boy growing up in semi-rural western Massachusetts I grew up skiing both alpine and cross-country.  I had the extraordinary benefit of having corn fields around my house, so I was able to ski out my back door whenever there was enough snow. As a teenager we moved to the hills and woods where I could explore even farther. Track skiing was a rarity at home, but on family trips to Colorado or northern New England we would ski at the nordic resorts. I was always trying to ski faster, sometimes imagining a cross country race the way other kids imagine a football game.

When I was in college, my dad and I took a trip to a hut on the 10th Mountain Trail in the Colorado high country. The gear was typical for the time – which is to say terrible – but we shared space with a guided group and played around on slopes near the hut. From that point I rarely skied cross-country and my focus turned to telemarking and peak touring. I soon moved to the Northwest where I skied some of the standards: Mount Saint Helens and Mount Adams as well as some moderate tours in the Central and North Cascades.

I enjoy a challenging adventure and the aesthetics of leaving fresh tracks – and not just a few sitzmarks – in the backcountry but I have never been a real adrenaline junkie. With a busy family life I often just want to explore new areas, visit places for their beauty or solitude; where turns are more of a bonus or a pleasant side-effect rather than the goal. On my tours I sometimes feel the payoff of moving lighter, faster, and farther is greater than the modest descent.

My patrol always provides course support for races at a local public-access nordic ski area. We ski out on the course with our patrol packs, hang out at one location for a while and watch the racers go by. On the longer races we rotate positions periodically during the race to stay warm. For someone like myself – who as a kid, inspired by images of Bill Koch, would roll up his stretch ski pants like knickers and treat every outing like a time trial –  slogging along while the racers flew by became torture.

This season I decided to return to my my roots (a few technological advances not withstanding). I got  my first ever NNN set-up and have spent the season embracing my inner kick-and-glider. Even while carrying a patrol pack, the relative weightlessness, speed, and sound – specifically the lack of it – feel familiar and comfortable. It has been like a little recreational homecoming.

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About langleybackcountry

I am a member of Cascade Backcountry Ski Patrol (CBSP), a volunteer National Ski Patrol organization loosely based in Seattle. Our group operates as volunteers with USFS Ranger Districts outside of developed ski areas in the Cascade Mountains near Snoqualmie, Blewett, Stevens, and Washington passes.
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One Response to Reawakening my inner Nordic

  1. Becky says:

    Thank you Mark for sharing. We have been hitting the trails of Mt. Hood the past month enjoying our new snowshoes. I love watching the cross country skiers and have asked Ben if next year we can begin cross country. He grew up skiing also.

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