Friday, February 5, 2010

Our Canadian Christmas: cross-country skiing

According to that digital doyen of internet information, Wikipedia, cross-country skiing evolved in Fennoscandian countries in prehistoric times and was used to hunt deer, elk, and the like. The sport was apotheosised in 1924 when it became an Olympic event. I don't think I'm Olympic material. I don't think I'm even go-fast-downhill-on-skis material. However, these crushing realities didn't prevent me from thoroughly enjoying myself when given my first opportunity to try cross-country skiing. I would have tried it sooner but we don't have an awful lot of snow where I come from in Australia. In fact, my first experience of snow on the ground was as recently as 2007. [This guy has put together a comprehensive summary of all things snow in Western Australia, just in case you were interested]

I would have started this next paragraph with, "One fine December day in Bobcaygeon..." but, that day being well into the Canadian winter, your evaluation of a December day anywhere in Canada depends a lot on what you are used to and what your reference for comparison is. Therefore, going on my personal experience, I will have to begin differently: One freezing, chilling, toe-numbing December day in Bobcaygeon Andrea and I went to see her friends Paul and Val with big plans to do some cross-country skiing so that the non-native (me) could have the experience and also, of course, because it's fun and people like an excuse to have to leave their houses and do something. Paul and Val are very nice people and lent me some special skis, shoes, and ski poles. Andrea, being a local, had brought her own from home after extracting them from the garage in a fit of rummaging.

I'm sure I was trying to look charming and sophisticated here but I somehow come across as looking a bit drunk and clueless (but warm nonetheless and that is the important thing). This is me standing in the living room of Paul and Val's parents' house. And that's not a glass of alcohol although I don't know what it is. The beanie (or "tuque"), snow pants, and heavy jacket are all borrowed from Andrea's home base. At this stage I had consolidated my expectations about cross-country skiing under the banner Expect to Fall Down a Lot (but falling down a lot is okay).

Paul and Val. Nice couple at the start of a very promising life together and living in what seems to be a beautiful part of the world. We're at the start of our skiing trek here. I'm being generous with the word "trek". For everyone else it was a walk (or ski) in the park but for me I guess it was a gruelling trial by fire where I could only expect to get burned. Ouch! Okay, it was actually not bad at all. In fact, it was a great experience but more on that later in the wrap-up.

Val helps me lock my shoes into the skis. These skis are not smooth all the way along the underside: in the middle there is a section of tread which provides traction when pushed down against the snow and ice.

It's another beautiful day in Ontario as Paul tutors me on some of the basic principles of cross-country skiing.

Summer's crop has been harvested leaving the dead stalks standing in rows in the sleeping field. The frozen lake beyond remains frozen under the winter sun. And under that cold sunny sky we made our way through the landscape on pieces of fibreglass. As I was saying before, too early in the piece, I guess it was a gruelling trial by fire where I could only expect to get burned. Ouch! Okay, it was actually not bad at all. In fact, I really enjoyed having the opportunity to try skiing; it was fun and I barely fell down at all. Why? Because it was too late in the year for a fall. [that's a joke]

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