Have you ever seen the graceful ease with which a skier seems to float over the snow? Snow which threatens to swallow up the casual hiker, trapping legs, concealing potholes and filling the boots of the unwary?
Have you, like me, dreamed of one day joining their joyful ranks, at one with Nature rather than at odds with her? Have you, like me, tried to make that dream a reality?
Hurts, doesn’t it?
It certainly takes practice and having a dog is good motivation to get out and do it. Our Dog goes nuts when she sees Our Lass or I on a new form of transport; we had a right old time of it when we introduced her to mountain biking and surfing so I knew what to expect when I got hold of the skis for the first time and she didn’t disappoint me!
Luckily, there’s a spike on the end of the ski poles so after the first three or four times she leapt on me and knocked me into the snow, she learned not to. Now she races along happily by my side and apart from the odd occasion when she stops dead right in front of me, she hardly causes any accidents at all. Best of all, it tires her out and she’s much happier after a good run.
Ever since the snow got deep enough, I’ve been going to a local forest which has a few hills in it in order to practice different techniques of going downhill under control. The problem is, after practicing going downhill, you have to get back to the top again and there aren’t any soft, girly ski-lifts. In addition, it’s too far to go when I take Our Dog out for her evening constitutional. Our Dog came up with an ingenious solution to this, however. She spotted a rabbit whilst on the lead in the park the other night and dragged me a hundred metres through the snow in a sadly misguided attempt to catch it. Now all I have to do is wind her up enough while we’re out for a walk and I can practice my downhill control in the local park without a hill. Dogs are so useful!
It’s not just the local park and forest which are good places to go and practice, there is a network of cycle paths around town and alongside the river which are largely free of cyclists at the moment. I say ‘largely’ because there will always be some nutter out cycling in the ice and snow but it’s good to be able to go for a longer trip once you’ve got the hang of the basics. There is more to the technique than simply not falling down, after all.
So, to recap, you’ve got the skis, you can often go down hills without serious injury, you’ve got the hang of the strange loping gait essential to long-distance travel and your whole body is no longer in agony for three days after each trip. What next?
For myself, I’m off to the mountains to see if I can do all this in a less friendly environment. I’ll also be making some extra holes in my belt; I’ve lost about five kilos in the last three weeks and it’s certainly not because I’ve been drinking less beer!