I can’t say I began downhill skiing when I was in high school, because that would paint the inaccurate picture that I am actually a downhill skier. If downhill skiing consisted of standing awkwardly, wobbly and ever so briefly on skis followed by long stretches of sliding down a hill on my butt, then by gosh I would be one heck of a downhill skier! No, I started attempting downhill skiing while in high school in the mid 1970s, using a rope tow while wearing knitted acrylic mittens. I can still feel the rope burns on the palms of my hands and the sea of interconnected, multicolored bruises on my derriere and thighs. Almost unbelievably I continued to try to downhill ski.
Around 1987, while standing in line to purchase downhill tickets, I had an epiphany: I was not a downhill skier. I walked away, drove to a ski shop that sold cross country skis, made my purchases and did not look back up that steep hill. I had never even been on cross country skis until I went over to my sister Karen’s home later that afternoon and snapped on my brand new skis. I glided ‘round and ‘round in her backyard. Turned out, I was a cross country skier.
In 1993, Chuck and I moved to this old house, set on four and a half acres. The first few winters we went cross country skiing around our property and in the fields across the road. Because our land is mostly wooded, the skiing was challenging. We often carried small pruning shears with us to trim low hanging branches which otherwise would thwack us in the face. It made for a lot of stop and go skiing. So we tended to ski in the fields instead. But we missed being in the woods.
Chuck had owned a pair of traditional snowshoes for many years. We decided to outfit me with a similar pair, rather than the new high tech kind. As you can see in the last photo, mine are more of an elongated oval, with more contemporary (read significantly easier) bindings. Chuck’s are the rounder ones with the old style (read pain in the neck) bindings. Both are bent wood, lashed with rawhide. They are lightweight, highly functional and easy to maneuver. I had found cross country skiing easy to learn, but snowshoeing was even easier. And the risk of falling was minimal. (As I type that, I remember one fateful trek when my right snowshoe plunged through the layers of snow, into a stream. My right leg was through the snow, up to my crotch, while my left leg and snowshoe were still on top of the snow, bent at a ridiculous angle, with my left knee at chin level!)
This afternoon we realized we had no obligations and a layer of fresh snow on top of a decent snow pack. It was sunny and just above freezing. What in heaven’s name were we doing inside? Out we went. I thought of all of you and brought the camera along in the hope of communicating what it felt like. I don’t know how many of you have ever snowshoed. If you never have, I hope this makes you want to try it!
First things first
The reason we strap on the snowshoes
Remember to look up
The tracks we leave behind
Hey Chuck, wait for me!
Navigating barbed wire and the stone wall
Until next time...