Colder than usual temperatures have kept the 5 inches of snow that fell over the past week loose and powdery. Midday Sunday I was able to get away for a couple hours on my back country skis. When it's too cold to ride my bike I break out my skis, poles and boots and head outside for some winter recreation as I have done for the past couple decades. The best way to avoid cabin fever I have found is to stay out of the cabin.
I learned how to alpine ski in Loveland, Colorado in 1990. During the next three years while in the military I had the good fortune to ski down mountains in Montana, Idaho and eastern Washington state. During that time I also learned about and enjoyed cross country skiing. Through the Air Force MWR, or Moral, Welfare and Recreation we could rent our equipment and hit the slopes. A full day lift ticket could be had for eight dollars for the nearby Mt. Spokane ski area, about a 45 minute drive from my Base. After my military service I moved back to Ohio and knew I would pretty much have to give up downhill skiing. There are a few ski hills around the state but elevations are measured in hundreds of feet instead of by the thousands like out west. So for me it's just not worth it.
However once back in Ohio I knew I could still have fun in the snow with boards strapped to my feet. I did some research and settled on a type of ski called a back country ski. These are a bit wider than the typical cross country ski and have a sturdy binding system. The increased width, while making the skis slower, provide more stability off groomed trails. Think of them as the mountain bike of the skiing world. I bought the back country versions without the steel blades mainly to save weight. With a general lack of hills I did not think the bladed versions would be worth the extra cost and weight. Without the blades it is much harder to carve turns telemark style but that opportunity doesn't present itself much in the places I ski. The one time I wish I did have bladed skis is when I am traversing rugged wooded country. Often skiing through the woods one is crossing sticks and logs of all sizes and it would be nice to have the extra bite of the steel blades.
The place in the photographs is a park only five minutes from my home. This area has a nice mix of wooded terrain and grassy fields. I easily spent two hours and did not ski all the area available. I was lucky enough to be the first person to put down tracks this year so that was rewarding. I usually follow someone else's grooves when I happen upon them. Cross country skiing is a great way to skip out on the gym yet still augment my winter fitness. What I like most is the fact that after the initial expense of purchasing my gear 12 years ago I have not had to spend another dime. After the first ten minutes or so I am fully warm and able to enjoy the peaceful beauty of the frozen landscape and the rhythmic swish, swish, swish of my skis through the powder.