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Two Sizes

My Love-Hate Relationship with Cross Country Skiing

As the snow continues to pile up and I do my best to embrace winter adventure, I have run into a bit of a dilemma.

I hate cross country skiing.

… no, wait. I love it.

Ah, nope, hate it again.

See what happened there? That could be a recording of my thoughts while cross country skiing.

When it is fun – like when going downhill – I find it really fun. When it is work – like when doing everything other than going downhill – I find it to be… well, not so fun.

What dilemma?

You might be asking yourself here… what is the dilemma Dave? Sounds like you prefer downhill skiing. So go grab your Whiteface pass, ride the lifts with the 16 year olds, and stop bitching.

I know. I know. But here are the reasons I consider this a problem.

For starters, my family loves cross country skiing. Jess thoroughly enjoys it and the dogs go absolutely bazonkers when we take them along with us. I want to be a part of that.

Another problem is that cross country skiing goes well with the other types of backcountry activities I am interested in pursuing. It is a “skill” that will come in really handy and that will open up adventure options.

But probably the biggest reason why I consider this a dilemma is that I actually WANT to love cross country skiing. I really do. In this way it sort of reminds me of my feelings toward Yoga.

Seriously though, who wants to live in a place with a winter like ours and not enjoy all the snowy fun you possibly can? So I am pretty determined to add this activity to my list of things I enjoy doing. Cross country skiing and I will have to come to some sort of an understanding.

Kick and glide? More like stomp and stumble

Part of my problem is that I am just not very good at it. Or, at least I don’t think I am. I certainly feel awfully awkward out there.

Have you ever gone snorkeling at the beach? You know what it is like to walk around on the sand with your flippers on? That is roughly what cross country skiing feels like to me.

It is a combination of big awkward steps, or lots of little silly ones, all done with 5 foot planks strapped to my feet. And the kicker is that occasionally these planks actually slide across the patch of snow I step on – which I was under the impression was supposed to happen all the time. But since this happens only occasionally for me, and always at random times, it catches me off guard. So I flail and wobble to catch my balance when it happens… and then I settle down and take another big awkward step, or maybe a few silly little ones.

And so it goes for however long I am out there, or until we reach a downhill section.

That awkwardness will eventually go away

I keep telling myself that part of the problem is that I am still pretty new to the game. My awkward steps will be replaced by smooth, graceful strides if I just keep at it and practice, practice, practice.

Or will it?

Have you ever watched someone who is good at x-country skiing? I mean, REALLY good? You know, like Olympians…

[jwplayer config=”Custom Player” mediaid=”8615″]

Ok, ok. That probably isn’t a fair video to show.

So ignore the falls.

They still look like they are trying to make it through a carnival funhouse, don’t they? Like they are not quite sure which way the floor will move next. They have that “something is not right and I think I might fall any second now” look to them.

Well, that’s how I look out there! So while I am clearly a noob at this, maybe I am not nearly as goofy looking as I think. Maybe this is just the way one looks while cross country skiing.

Drunk Monkey

Today, while out stomping and stumbling at Henry’s Woods in Lake Placid, I was feeling especially awkward. I felt like a drunk monkey out there.

Before frustration got the better of me I decided to turn around and head for the comfort of a heated car while Jess and the puppies took one last lap. It was while taking my skis off that I noticed a little arrow notched into my bindings.

Wait… are you telling me these things are footed? There is a left ski and a right ski?

It appears so. Only problem is that both of the little arrows on my bindings pointed to the same side. Ah ha! My buddies at The Mountaineer must have given me two left bindings on accident. That so totally explains why I have drunken monkey syndrome!!!

When Jess got back to the car I was excited to explain my discovery and grabbed her skis to show her the little arrow.

Only… hold on… her arrows are both pointing in the same direction too. Both to the right. What the hell? Is it really possible that when we bought her skis a year ago that they made the same mistake, but for the opposite foot?

No, of course not. They didn’t make any mistakes. A few moments later I noticed the lengths of her skis did not match.

We had somehow swapped a ski. I was wearing one of hers. She, one of mine.

So not only was I out there trying to dance with two left skis… but I had different sized skis on each foot. I was wearing one of my left skis, and one of her left skis.

I suppose that still makes me a drunk monkey, I just can’t blame anyone but myself for it.

OK fine, it is not that bad

All of that being said, this love hate relationship is already trending more toward love… well, solid “like”, at least. Even if I won’t admit it to Jess.

What can I say, I like to embellish my struggles a little bit.

But there is just no use denying it, cross country skiing has already allowed us to get out to places and play in conditions that we otherwise wouldn’t experience. And that is damn fun.

It has also treated us to a few adventures. Even if just small, random ones… like skiing a local trail at night with headlamps.

And sometimes it is just so invigorating.

There is something about getting out into the cool air, surrounding yourself with nothing but forest, and winding your way through snow covered trees… it clears the head, it gets the blood pumping. It is a feeling that is hard to describe.

So, yeah, I guess I’ll keep at it for a little while longer. And, from here on out, with the right ski on the right foot.


  1. Leanne

    I’m happy to help with the kick n glide next time you are in Boston! I’m back teaching x-c skiing at the Weston ski track this winter and they are open for the season…so even if Boston hasn’t seen many snowflakes this year, skiing can still happen.

  2. PHeller

    I tried XC Skiing last year and I was miserable. It hurt my hips, my knees and I could have walked faster if it were not for the clunky plastic boots.

    I bought snow shoes instead.

  3. verplanck

    perhaps try some waxing? That may help the gliding…

    • Dave

      Our Karhu’s are waxless, but have scales to achieve a similar affect.

      I’m definitely getting better at the ole kick and glide – went out around Lake Placid the other day and didn’t feel like a drunk monkey! I am finding that I prefer tighter trails with lots of ups and downs and twists and turns and obstacles… they significantly reduce the “I’m getting frustrated and bored” factor for me.

  4. Glenn

    The term “waxless” is the most misleading in the world of xc skiing. There are two kinds of wax. Kick wax gives grip in the middle section of the ski and your fish scale pattern replaces that type but you still need glide wax to make your skis slippery, to prevent the snow from sticking. You can put it on the smooth tips and tails or the whole length of the ski if you are getting sticking in the middle.
    Getting at least one lesson with a knowledgeable instructor will take most the “work” out of the skiing. The main thing you have to do (after waxing your skis) to go from walking on skis to actually skiing is commit all your weight to one ski, as if you were throwing yourself forward onto the ski. Then you will glide. It takes practice to get the balance.

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