Confessions of a Nordic gaper |

Confessions of a Nordic gaper

Once a winter — and rarely more than once a winter — I click into a pair of cross-country skis and prepare to embarrass myself.

I’m a snowboarder, so the whole separated-feet thing — and the pole thing and, heck, most every thing required in nordic skiing — is foreign to me. I haven’t learned how to stop. Anytime I step out of the nordic tracks, I inevitably cross my tips. It can get ugly. I once set out on the Owl Creek Trail with a group of friends and had crashed into each of them before we made it to Tiehack. Skiing in the woods in Wisconsin with my wife once, I managed to fall into a snowy ditch in a knot of limbs and skis and poles, powerlessly watching her glide elegantly away into the forest beyond as I wondered how long it would be before she realized she’d lost me.

Recently, on yet another of this winter’s unseasonably warm February nights, I suited up for an evening of skinny ski misadventures for the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club’s progressive bonfire dinner at the Aspen Cross Country Center, the annual fundraiser where you ski around and stop at food and drink stations for a four-course meal along the way. The party’s always a fun, “only in a ski town” sort of affair. And there are usually enough novices like me struggling to stay upright that I don’t feel all that bad about my lack of skills.

This year’s outing actually went well. I’m proud to say I didn’t fall (though I may, in fact, owe that to the rerouting of the course around its most significant hill this year) and I didn’t crash into anybody. A small victory, and maybe a sign of progress. My next goal: stopping.

More than anything, these annual Nordic outings have helped me empathize with the gapers among us on the mountains. You can’t really curse and mock them after you realize that, with a different kind of plank on your feet, the gaper is you.

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