Unlike riding a bike …

It’s been a fantastic winter for skiing: an over-the-top, amazing, can’t-get-enough sort of year.

But I’ve spent so much time on my back country xc skis that my feet are all torn up from my boots. I’ll spare you the details of the blisters and my attempts to avoid making them worse. When the snow beckons I just can’t stop: I spend as much time as possible breaking trail in the woods, watching the animal tracks, pausing for a minute under the hemlocks along the Charles River — it’s an addiction.

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So, when I had a few bucks in my pocket I thought I’d change things up a little — give the old feet a break. I headed over to the Weston Ski Track to revisit skate skiing. Maybe I was a little cocky, believing the time I’d spent on my BC skis would translate. In brief, it didn’t.

I was on the skate skis about 5 minutes before my first face plant, at the bottom of the first hill and in front of dozens of people. Wonderful. That was humbling. If muscle memory is a real thing, mine have Alzheimer’s when it comes to skate skiing. I’d taught myself 3 years ago on the eve of a triathlon I’d entered on a whim, figuring that I’m a skater and a skier, so naturally I could just pick this technique up and zip along …. I found out the hard way that it wasn’t true then and going back to it wasn’t easy either.

For the first hour I fought with my flailing arms and legs, just trying to find the right rhythm. Traditional cross-country skiing is a front-to-back motion but skate skiing is lateral, and the skis are a fraction of the width of traditional skis, more like very long blades. Skate skiing requires a side-to-side rocking motion combined with planting the poles simultaneously at just the right time … fortunately there’s something to be said for stubbornness because I wouldn’t let myself use imbalance, the frigid cold or the awkwardness of the motion as an excuse to take the skis off and go home.

In the meantime, a team of high schoolers flew by me, not even using their poles. Another heaping helping of humility, please? I wanted to get my phone out to snap a photo of one of the skiers gracefully blowing past me but they were too fast, no joke.

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Still, I was glad to be left out there alone, searching for the enjoyment I found on these skis a few years ago. I decided that in 2011 the triathlon entry fee hanging over my head forced me to learn quickly, and this time I was just there to mess around, so it didn’t “take” as quickly.

The guy in the rental area gave me some incentive for next year, though: there’s a Tuesday night race series, he said. It’s a great group that needs more women to participate, and with a season’s pass it doesn’t cost much at all … hmmm… if we get this kind of snow next year ….

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