As some people around certain parts of Europe have pointed out, it has been snowing recently. Following last year’s ‘Most Useless Winter On Record’, I vowed to learn a thing or two about cross-country skiing so that I can enjoy the mountains in winter too. Here’s how I went about it.
Step 1: Ask a friend. I asked all of my friends whether any of them knew enough about cross-country skiing to give me some lessons. To a man they said ‘no’. Even the women. Oh dear, I thought. How about some tips, then? Advice? To man they said ‘Nope. Sorry.’
‘Hell’s teeth!’ I fumed. Do you people spend all your time in pubs? To a man they said, ‘Yes. That’s where you met us. Where on Earth else do you expect us to go on a freezing cold winter’s night? Oymyakon?’.
Gave up on friends, sought self-help options.
Step 2: The internet! Of course! Why didn’t I think of this before? The internet is the fount of all knowledge and entirely trustworthy, as all modern students know. YouTube has more cross-country skiing videos than I could shake a stick at and there are blogs a-plenty.
Step 3: Acquire some appropriate clothing. Based on previous experience, I’m going to spend a lot of time lying in the snow tangled up in skis. We are fortunate to live near a Norwegian second-hand shop, which is fantastic as it’s the only one I’ve ever heard of, although there are presumably some in Norway. So now I’m the owner of some used but highly serviceable kit: I won’t be winning any points for fashion but personally I feel that tumbling down a mountain in public, wearing flashy gear you obviously have no idea how to use, robs a chap of his dignity somewhat.
Step 4: Learn the lingo. All technical stuff has it’s own vocabulary and now I’m starting to get my head around it with help from local shop staff. One of these days I’ll get around to learning it in English but I found a great source of information to be the blog ‘Explore cross-country’, which has taught me much so far, including the phrase ‘skinny skis’. Not only is it easier to type but it will make me sound more knowledgeable and ‘with it’. Daddio.
Step 5: Acquire some skis and boots. Honestly, you have to sooner or later. I started by renting a fine, modern set from a local shop, along with the appropriate boots and a pair of poles, all delicately wrought from finest carbon fibre by Teutonic Ski-Wrights and glistening most expensively. I got lots of help from friendly staff who very patiently spoke slowly and loudly for me in the greatest traditions of dealing with foreigners and I walked off filled with advice and warnings about having to pay for any damage. After a couple of days and some close shaves, I panicked and gave them back. Now I’m riding a pair of old Pilz which I borrowed from a colleague’s father along with some equally old boots and poles which go splendidly with my Norwegian salopettes, Russian Navy Telnyashka (which is like a Breton shirt except Vladimir Putin wears them) and the rather natty softshell jacket Our Lass gave me for Christmas.
Step 6: Get out there and get on with it! Last year I stuck to the local park at night, when there were less people to see me make a fool of myself. I had one reasonably disastrous trip where I learned that I needed to learn how to go downhill safely and that was pretty much it until this year.
So here I go, armed with new knowledge and old kit, out into the big wide world of skinny skiing (See how cool that makes you think I am?).