On the Snow Again
My skis remembered what to do. I did not. Ten yards out of the parking lot, I caught an edge in an ice rut and toppled in a heap. Looking around, I saw no one watching. I got up, dusted the ice crystals off, adjusted my ski pants, and again prepared to glide gracefully down the track of the slight hill.
It had been a year since I had laced up the cross country ski boots and clipped into the bindings. Today the sky was bright blue with a few puffy white clouds over Iron Mountain in Jackson New Hampshire. The snow had a faint tint of blue from the reflected sky. A slight breeze and warm sun made the day quite comfortable. I pushed off with my poles and let the slope take me down.
Gliding, wind in my face, the “shwoosh” of the skis over the granular snow; it felt good to be on the snow again. The trail crosses the golf course and leaves Jackson Village by way of the red covered bridge over the Ellis River. Along the trail side there were a dozen sets of small poles and jackets. It looked like there was a group lesson for elementary school kids.
Up ahead, on the little hill that led to the covered bridge, I could see a dozen or so people. There were two handfuls of kids, without poles, learning how to cross country ski. An instructor, a few parents and some adult skiers were watching the second graders. The kids skied up the incline and turned into the downhill tracks. They crouched and slid down the incline. The track kept their skis pointing straight. Some were holding their bodies tight with apprehension while others were loose and really enjoying themselves. The apprehensive ones used a wide wedge step to climb the hill. Some other kids had figured how to “run” straight up the hill on tiptoes.
We skied through the bridge and headed towards the beautiful Ellis River Trail. It was mid-week and there were not many skiers on the trail. The snow was well groomed loose granular and packed powder. Sweet! The snow was fast and the glide was good. It became cooler in the woods and I took off the sunglasses. We skied along the trail that we have skied for three decades. There are a number of loops and turn-a-rounds but it can be as long as 15 kilometers one way. There were few parts of the trail where you could get some interesting hills but not many. For experienced skiers, it is a good training run for distance and speed. Ski skaters love to run this trail.
In the October of 2010, a slight earthquake on very wet land caused the hill side to slump into the river. A 1000 foot piece of the riverbank trail was destroyed. A quick make-do repair was accomplished for the winter season. In fall of 2011, a new and more difficult trail was constructed. It is not a gentle trail for beginners. It rises steeply to view points of Mt Washington that had not been visible before. Down hills are challenging when the snow is fast and hard packed. Today, there were boot tracks on the side of the trail. Some skiers had chosen not to ski the new trail. Skiing required competent edge work to climb and descend.
As we climbed, it became just a bit cooler and the wind had risen a little. It sang “rrrrr” in the high branches, occasionally dropping down and sweeping along the trail. A beech leaf, dried tan and rolled like a cone, had fallen onto the snow.
The wind rolled it along, then off the track and into the forest. At the viewpoint near height of land we stopped. My under-layer shirt, damp from the exertion of the climb, felt chilly. I pulled the jacket zipper higher and my cap lower. Snow covered Mt Washington rose majestically into the blue. The white outlines of the weather station on top were clearly visible against the sky. We had never seen this view from the trail before.
Rested, we turned and headed back towards Jackson down the hard, fast snow of the new trail. Snaking turns, interesting dips. The wind whistled by. “SHwuoosh” as the skis glided over the snow. “Sccrrape” as the edges bit in on the turns. No straight track running here. “rrrrrr” in the high branches. Around the last turn and onto the long slight downhill, I double poled once for a short glide on the straight run-out. Then, I slowed and stopped to see that Meg had made the challenging turns and was following.
I remembered our two kids skiing with us two decades ago on a hill like this. David was about 10. He would tuck and crouch low. Hands together out front of his body and with his poles tucked back under his arms, he let the hill take him down. A grin spread wide across his face and the light of excitement in his eye. Amanda was 14. She would double pole for the initial speed and then stand flexed slightly forward, skis in a slight snowplow. She glided with her arms out and her poles a bit back, hair flying behind in the wind and a smile wide across her face.
Meg had made the turn under control, loosened up, and confidently skied into the straight track. I turned and double poled over a slight rise and down the inclined trail. “SHwuoosh”. My eyes had tears…from the cold wind.
“travel light and wear a smile.” Jack Holmes