Friday, February 6, 2009

Free Your Heel and Your Ass will Follow

You don't always need a lift to enjoy good skiing. Nordic skiing offers a number of ways to enjoy the snow covered wilds without the cumbersomeness of snowshoes or the trudgery of postholing. The unifying concept is that in one way or another, your heel can pivot free and allow forward motion under your own power.

There *was* a trail here at some point!

Amber and I took up cross-country last season.  Even though in some ways it is more challenging, Amber preferred it as an introduction to skiing since she could work on balance and technique without the mental stress of always being pointed downhill.  In the process we've fallen in love with Nordic skiing.

The Summit Lodge at Royal Gorge, a large, groomed, Nordic trail system

For one, Nordic skiing can be very economical.  A trail pass for a groomed cross-country center typically costs a of fraction of the price of a lift ticket at a downhill resort; there are even nooks and crannies where you might find free groomed skiing, and the savvy can leave the Visa Card at home and cut their own trails through the virgin white.

A variety of Nordic skis

While the more downhill-oriented Nordic equipment, like telemark, can rival the cost of high-end alpine gear, the price of a high quality cross-country or backcountry touring set-up is comparable to a bargain basement alpine ride.   But enough about money, it's the skiing that is so freakin' fun!

One side-effect of Nordic skiing is the strange, sudden growth of antennae

They say going up is half the fun, and it's just that part that seems so boring to some folks and attractive to others.  When you get a good rhythm going, and you have good form, gliding forward in a continuous motion seems almost effortless (though in reality it takes a surprising effort to maintain such a smooth stroke).  Climbing steeper hills can require interesting techniques or special gear, but just when you're peaking, then comes a downhill portion beckoning you to relax your lungs and take a free ride down.

Snowbound roads make great ski highways (Glacier Point Road, Yosemite National Park)

It's a total interval workout, whether you're touring over rolling hills, or alternating climbing and carving.  I find it really gets my juices flowing, and while alpine skiing is exhilarating, Nordic skiing has its own special rhythm and harmony that I think, is an even better high.  Plus, after a long day in skis, getting your tracks on the up and the down, you'll sleep better than any chair lift ever did.

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