When it comes to cross-country skiing, I may be the first off the starting blocks but that “darn Swede” seems to beat me to the finish line. Unfortunately, her stamina and technique out- preform my exuberance and excitement.
Do you remember those long wide heavy skis of years gone by with the leather strap that was pulled through a slot in the ski? These were not just for show. They were used as a mode of travel across the Parkland in those snow-bound years. Nor was there any fancy specialized ski boots to go with those skis. Our pioneers used any footwear that was available at the time. To actually make the ski was an art of its own; to get the right tree, cut the ski to rough form and heat it just right to get the front end to bend correctly. Those were people with patience and talent.
Once a trail was set, our pioneers could move quite well from one location to another. Trappers from that era sometimes preferred them to snowshoes if the trail was well set.
Today my favorite is the Mongolian ski introduced to me by my friend Lawrence Barabash of Preeceville. I was a bit skeptical at first but after using them I personally would not use anything else for back country skiing. The Mongolian ski is a bit of a hybrid between a snowshoe and a modern “track cross-country ski.” The mohair on the bottom gives it enough traction to climb without waxing yet it has some slide to allow less friction when moving ahead. The short length allows for travel through light bush, making it very adaptable to most skiing conditions.
The great part about cross-country skiing is that basically anyone can do it, almost anywhere. It is a great form of exercise, just remember to “layer” if you are going any distance and bring water.
For me, one of the most interesting aspects of skiing is the quietness, the stillness in winter conditions. You can observe all the other animals that are moving about, leaving their tracks and trails in the snow. I have often come upon many different animals that, because of my stillness and wind advantage, didn’t even know I was in the area. That alone is very special.
So, if you find the winter being a bit long, get a hold of a pair of skis and venture out into the great outdoors. Who knows what you may come upon. If you look back and see movement behind you seemingly coming closer at a steady pace, it is probably that darn Swede.