EL JEBEL - After two days of shoveling what seemed to me to be a decent amount of snow in the midvalley, I couldn't stand it any longer.
Once I'd cleared the driveway, the deck, the patio, etc. of another 4 inches of snow Sunday morning - by my estimate the weekend left at least 8 inches of snow in El Jebel - I started rooting around for my cross-country ski gear. My plan was simple: drive across the highway to Crown Mountain Park and test the expansive acreage of the playing fields there. Eight inches of snow, including Saturday night's soft, powdery layer, atop the smooth, mowed fields ought to be skiable, I figured.
On my waxless skis, I started breaking trail near the pavilion, striking out toward the far side of the field, intending to parallel the paved path that encircles the grassy area. I'll bet the paved loop covers about two miles.
Much to my delight, I found someone else's tracks on the far side. Someone with fat touring skis had already set a nicely uniform set of parallel tracks. I slipped my skinny skis into the grooves and veritably flew on the lightly packed snow. It was as good as groomed, with virtually no grass poking through anywhere.
Last winter's dearth of snow made for a forgettable season by any measure, so to be on my cross-country skis less than two weeks into the month of November, in El Jebel no less, was nothing short of amazing.
What made it even better was what I'd forgotten until I was more than half way through the first of a half-dozen loops of the park. A torn hamstring in early February brought an abrupt end to my ski season last winter. I still occasionally make a move that makes the hamstring scream and I've been worried cross-country skiing would aggravate it. Instead, it was fine and I forgot all about both the injury and the fact that I'd been anxious about it.
Gliding across the field as another round of snow showers gathered momentum had me grinning. Winter? Bring it on.