Colbert: Figuring out this Nordic thing
To be honest, Nordic skiing didn’t look like a whole lot of fun. It’s essentially the winter equivalent to running, and I hate running.
Well, to be really honest, I don’t hate running, I’m just really bad at it. It makes too many body parts hurt, and my mental endurance reaches its end before I can get my playlist sorted out.
But, I knew if I wanted to do this Aspen thing correctly, it was important I at least give it a shot. Plus, the cross-country skiers I know personally are all really cool people, and that can’t be a coincidence.
Enter Preston Files, a Basalt resident who runs aspentrailfinder.com, an incredibly nifty website that helps you, surprise, find trails in the Roaring Fork Valley. Files invited me to take a few laps with him at the Aspen Cross Country Center a few weeks back, which offers up more than 60 kilometers of free trails on the Aspen Golf Course.
After dishing out a few bucks for rental gear — it was less than $30 to get ahold of boots and skis for the day — we were off and running, err, skiing. Files made it quite clear he was no expert himself and it was best to take his advice with a grain of salt.
We stuck with classical skiing, because trying to skate would have been more embarrassing than wiping out directly under the chair lift. I was surprisingly competent enough to get my skis attached and get in the “train tracks,” which I needed to keep from accidently wandering into some hidden ravine.
Among my regrets might have been wearing my snowboarding pants — I at least went light on the jacket — and my lack of ingested calories beforehand. Turns out, there is a reason these Nordic skiers are so fit, and it’s because it’s one heck of a workout. If you can’t tell, I’m more of a chairlift sort of guy.
Thankfully, not many people were out that day to see my struggles. I only seriously wiped out once, when I tried to go Bode Miller on a short downhill. More embarrassing was trying to get up those short downhills — my one step forward, slide two feet back approach wasn’t getting me very far.
To his credit, I don’t think Files laughed once, although he sure had the right to.
Now, I’m certainly going to continue to spend most of my time on my snowboard, likely in a chairlift-serviced environment. However, there was something oddly addicting about cross-country skiing that I can see drawing me back to the sport. There’s a freedom to go anywhere in the snow that you can’t get on a snowboard, and it’s about the easiest way to burn some serious calories during the winter without stepping into a gym.
With Nordic gear being relatively cheap — well, it’s certainly cheaper than the Alpine side of the sport — I believe it’s an activity I can fit into my schedule more often. I’m always looking for new ways to play in the snow, and this was an avenue I had not explored, this being only my second winter in the mountains. I now want to explore the valley’s myriad of trails, with a trek out to the Maroon Bells being high on my list.
Oh, and Files, thanks for the invite, and for not laughing at my follies.
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Maytham is one of a handful of local skiers to have joined Peter Olenick’s P.R.O. team, headed by the Carbondale skiing icon. That group has spent a lot of time this year holed up at Copper Mountain, and Maytham believes that is paying off.