If a skier falls in the forest, does it make you laugh?

Of all the wintertime activities – skating, sliding, dry-knuckle boxing, the 100-metre layering – cross-country skiing is among my favourites. I particularly enjoy the solitude, but not for the nature-loving reasons you might think.

To fully explain why, I have to go back to when I was 12 years old and went downhill skiing for the first time. Located some miles out of town, the so-called mountain was a meagre slope that had been fitted with a T-bar to gently push skiers bumward up the hill.

I could not master the T-bar. I spent much of that afternoon trying to settle my kiester on the T, falling over and over into the snow.

“Just hang onto it,” my friend said as he disappeared up the hill without me. Trying to hang on turned out to be like trying to waterski in slow motion, except with harder, icier landings.

When I finally did make it to the top, skiing down was more of the same, only with the added force of gravity, speed and the leering grin of imminent death. “Bunny Hill,” my ass!

That day, I vowed I would never again downhill ski, a vow I have kept all these years and one I’m unlikely to break now, and if I did break it, I would be far too embarrassed to start on the Bunny Hill, so I would choose a more difficult run, and then I would die.

What I like about the solitude of cross-country skiing, then, is that hardly anyone sees you fall on your face. There’s my wife, of course, but she’s used to seeing me fall on my face, literally and metaphorically.

“How’s your groin?” she likes to call out as we ski, not so much out of concern for past incidents but because it’s fun to say, especially if you pronounce it “growin’.”

Being able to carry on such conversations is one of the beauties of cross-country skiing. It’s like walking in the woods, except faster, which is how I like my exercise: over with as quickly as possible.

Unlike downhill skiing, cross-country skiing is not hard to master. Are you moving forward? Congratulations, you’ve mastered it!

These pants are completely uncalled for.

These pants are completely uncalled for.

Deb and I began skiing again three winters ago after a few years’ absence following the ultimate disintegration of our old hand-me-down boots. Which brings me to another reason I like cross-country skiing: I’m cheap. After the initial outlay for skis and boots, that’s it. No lift passes, no costly outfits, no funeral expenses. Just you, your skis and maybe a pair of sweatpants thrown over tights or long johns – the perfect winter activity for people who have let themselves go. Curling is also good.

Despite the simplicity of skiing, there are certain guidelines you should follow.

Tip #1: Make sure there is snow. Skiing on dirt is hard on the skis, and then you’ll have to replace them, which kind of defeats the whole cheap purpose, doesn’t it?

Tip #2: A number of factors can slow you down: ignoring Tip #1; using the wrong type of wax for snow conditions; and falling over. The latter can occur when you take your eyes off your skis to look around you. Never look around. Instead, have a better skier follow you and describe your surroundings.

Tip #3: Always ski with a buddy, especially in the woods. You never know when you might need someone to go for help, give you a push up a hill, describe your surroundings or hand you a snack.

Tip #4: While it’s tempting to ski on snowmobile trails, this is dangerous. A collision can cause serious damage to the snowmobile, and those things are expensive. Skiers should stick to the woods and ski trails, while snowmobilers should stay on snowmobile trails, ski trails, sidewalks, schoolyards, highways, in front of my house, in fact anywhere they damn well feel like, apparently.

Cross-country skiing, on the other hand, is a quiet and courteous activity. I was thinking this just this past weekend as Deb and I were trespassing through someone’s sugar camp. Skiing can be almost spiritual. Surrounded by all that nature, just you and your ineptitude, it’s easy to get so carried away that you suffer a growin’ incident. Maybe you should just calm down. Watch your skis and think of England.

*

Don’t forget to enter my book giveaway contest over yonder, which I totally did not rip off from Lily in Canada.

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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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40 Responses to If a skier falls in the forest, does it make you laugh?

  1. markbialczak says:

    T-bars are hard to figure out when you can’t ski, Ross. I speak from experience, like you. Further, getting off a chair lift on the top of the mountain when you can’t ski is an excellent precursor to what will happen upon the descent. Fall, fall, fall. And there’s one guy who races around our Syracuse city neighborhood on his snowmobile as soon as there’s an inch or two. Loud bugger, that thing.

  2. My husband has tried to convince me to cross country ski for years. The last time I did it, I ended up crumpled at the bottom of a slight hill while what looked like the Swedish Olympic team skied past me remorselessly. Ice skating I can handle, but hobbies with long sticks, things with wheels or sports that require special wax, hats or conveyance are off my bucket list for good!

  3. T bars are harder than the skiing. I do remember that the first day of learning to ski SUCKED…but then it sucked less and became fun (but I never managed to go beyond blue square runs)…I did crack some ribs on a mogul hill, so I hate those… but overall, I loved skiing and wish I was still doing it..but like you said, you need snow and money. We have mountains but I have no takers to go with me in my wimpy family! Also, I’m too embarrassed to tell the guy that adjusts the bindings my weight and it’s possible that it’s important to NOT lie on that like I did for my license.

  4. Elyse says:

    I learned to downhill ski at 40 when we moved to Switzerland. I also learned French at the same time. I suck at both. Sacre bleu.

  5. Lily says:

    I’ve hear cross country skiing is really tough! Like running a marathon without the runner’s high. Skiing is fun, but terrifying. I’m always sure that I’m going to break a bone. It’s never happened, but I’m pretty sure I’m due for a serious injury.

    *totally ripped off my idea. (And made it even cooler.) how dare you.

  6. My first experience with a T-bar was also traumatizing. I fell off but my ski caught the bar and was dragged up the hill on my back. I was screaming, my mother was screaming. Sadly, I didn’t learn my lesson. Would have been much cheaper that way.

  7. ksbeth says:

    yeh, the t-bar. have memories of the t-bar.
    i’ve never tried x-country but it does look fun. and the tights look colorful.

  8. Cross-country skiing is a LOT of work. When I need solitude, I simply lock myself in the bathroom, plug my index fingers in my ears and say out loud, “la la la la la la…”

    I used to try and ski but I was always too poor to afford the proper equipment and clothing. I would wear two pairs of denims. I looked ridiculous. But I mastered the T-bar. So there’s that.

    What’s a sugar camp? What’s inside that building? Does it cost a lot?

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Ah, you didn’t click the link! There’s a lovely photo of a sugar camp or sugar shack as it’s sometimes called. In French it’s “cabane à sucre,” which is a phrase even English Quebecers use because it sounds so nice.
      Anyway, it’s a maple farm, and the shack is where all the collected sap is gathered (either trucked in by hand or fed by a system of tubes running from tree to tree) and boiled down to be turned into maple syrup. It’s called “sugaring off” and is a great springtime tradition around these parts.

      • I certainly did click the link! I couldn’t, for the life of me, imagine what all those people—including children—were waiting in line for. That sounds like something that I’d be very happy to wait in line for. Even with children.

        • rossmurray1 says:

          Oh man, you have to try sugar on snow. What you do is boil your syrup, get it really hot, then you pour it in lines on clean packed snow in cans. It congeals instantly. Then you take a popsicle stick and curl up the lines of syrup like you’re spinning a strand of spaghetti. Then eat, it’s cold and warm at once, gooey, sweet. Mmmmmm….

  9. I curled for a couple of winters and loved it. Time to get back on the ski trails (the cheap ones!)

  10. Addie says:

    I tried cross country skiing once. I gave it up for curling.

  11. Eli Pacheco says:

    I feel like I should cross-country ski to justify some of my choices in pants purchases. And if there were some idea that at the end of a cross-country ski run, I’d have a great chance at eating something drenched in maple syrup?

    I might set a record.

  12. John Pinette has watched you ski: (3:51) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WTtvVEOpwk

    PS: Now I’m FP, too. Neener, neener.

  13. benzeknees says:

    As a young teen I begged my parents for skis & waited with bated breath for Christmas. There they were – a beautiful pair of turquoise skis with poles etc. Living in flat as a pancake Winnipeg, there are few hills to use for downhill skiing, so the next day we went to a small hill on the riverbank a few miles outside the city. I went down the hill the first time & knew this was not going to be for me! I tried a few more runs but never got comfortable (& totally unable to tell my parents they had completely wasted their money). I tried a few more times, but my heart was not in it. Then my father decided maybe I could use the skis like waterskis behind our snowmobile. Two cracked ribs & a near decapitation later, the skis went into storage & were never used again.

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