Dragging the kid along…behind our skis

When you move to the mountains you assume that, by some form of extreme osmosis, you will become proficient in every mode of snowsport and summer adventure after a season or two.

It’s somewhat true. Depending on the friends you make early on, what they’re into, how willing they are to show you how to do stuff and what equipment you can amass, you end up covering a lot of outdoorsy ground. Soon enough, you’re the one showing newbies how and where to bike and board and backpack.

But some blind spots persist.

My blind spots, now in my 11th winter in Aspen, include downhill skiing (I’ve never been, as I chose snowboarding upon my arrival). I’ve also never been on an overnight rafting trip and never attempted kayaking. Never figured out rock climbing. One omission that I’m attempting to amend this year is cross-country skiing.

Before this winter, I’d been on cross-country skis on a handful of embarrassing occasions. I slid and scraped and stumbled my way through the annual Nordic Bonfire Dinner several times and endured one death-defying cross-country ski through the northwoods of Wisconsin (I literally fell into a ditch at one point in a tangled mess of limbs and skis, and believed I would have to claw my way back to civilization “Revenant”-style).

This winter I decided to get my Nordic game together. At the ski swap, I picked up a pair of old skinny skis and boots and poles. More importantly, my wife and I got a chariot for our infant daughter, which would allow us to cross-country ski together and pull her behind us.

The chariot is one of those marvelous and bizarre Thule contraptions — a plastic bubble of a pod to which you can attach skis (or wheels for running or biking) with the kid strapped inside like it’s a car seat. Metal poles and a harness tether to the skiing parent up front.

We’ve been going out to the Aspen Cross Country Center most weekends and doing a lap, literally dragging the kid along.

With the unseasonable warmth and the underwhelming snowfall on the mountains — and since you can’t legally ski downhill with an infant attached to you anyway — it’s one winter sport the three of us can do together. These sunny days on the Nordic trails have been our highlight of the season so far. We can ski side by side — assuming I can keep up with my wife, which often I cannot — with the kid gliding behind us, watching and cooing and oooh-ing (and mostly not crying) from the warmth and comfort of her little husk.

And I’ve slowly improved. I do still get lapped by the spandex-clad cyborgs who whip around the trails on their skate skis, I am still gripped with mild terror anytime I have to navigate down even the gentlest of slopes on those skinny skis, and I don’t think I’ll be ready to schuss up to the Maroon Bells anytime soon. But, by the time my wife and I were pulling the kid between food stations at the Nordic Bonfire Dinner last week, I could glide a bit, I’d figured out how to use the poles, I could move in a straight line and I could make my way around the course without falling. Not falling very often, at least.