At the start of the winter, I went all-in on a sport I’d never tried.
But I had a ton of help when I started skate skiing. At the Boulder Nordic Club’s annual swap, Toni Geer, the president of the junior Nordic team, grabbed me by the arm and made sure I walked out of Boulder High with good skis.
Then, pal Alan taught me how to wax those skis like a pro and will do anything to make sure I’m fast. For a race this weekend, he offered me his “number four” skis. He’s convinced they’re faster than mine.
But the person who had the biggest effect on my winter of great content in this new sport is Eldora’s Peter Marshall, who taught me how to skate ski. Peter’s the one guy to whom I owe a recent skate skiing victory.
During my first skate lesson with Peter, I confessed a fear of Eldora’s 17th Avenue, a green trail with a long climb.
“Don’t let it get into your head,” Peter told me. Then he suggested that executing the climb in one push would be a worthy goal to work toward before the end of the ski season.
Since that day, I have skied 17th willing to destroy myself in order to get to the top without stopping.
When I skated 17th with Peter at my second lesson, I stopped four times. Four times, I either pulled over or just stopped dead in my tracks in the middle, suffocating from the effort, spitting and blowing snot rockets in an attempt to spew out the suffering.
I had to do better.
Seventeenth climbs, then levels briefly, then climbs, then levels again. I practiced cresting the hill, then skiing easy on the flats. But I still had a technique problem. I couldn’t figure out how to ski up the hills without charging them like a raging, snotty bear.
After my second lesson, I caught a cold and didn’t ski for two weeks. When I returned, I felt off balance and out of shape. But the second time I skied after that cold, I still felt out of shape but managed to ski to the top of 17th Avenue in only two stops.
Most importantly, I figured out what I did right: I slowed down. I couldn’t have charged the hills if I’d wanted to that day, so I was forced to use the techniques Peter had taught me.
Finally, this was looking like a plausible goal for the season. Two weeks later, I dropped to one stop. Then I did a ski orienteering race and didn’t ski at Eldora for a weekend.
Then I returned to Eldora laden with expectations.
After warming up without poles in the Stadium, I skied down the rolling Peterson’s Return to the bottom of Dixie. I skied uphill from there to the bottom of 17th in one push.
That felt good. I paused at the big trail sign at the bottom of 17th to mentally prepare: Don’t charge, and don’t stop.
I carried this mantra up and over the first rise, into the short flat section, then up again. I spit but did not stop. When my form fell apart, I reorganized myself and tried to remember everything Peter taught me but did not stop. Eventually the mantra changed to simply:
Don’t stop. Don’t stop.
On the last rise, I realized I might actually do it. Almost there, don’t stop.
At the top, I stopped and, having accomplished my goal, laughed like a lunatic. I was out of breath, so laughter escaped in crazy guffaws. There were a couple of skiers standing there. I’m sure they thought something was wrong with me. I didn’t care. All I wanted to do was keep laughing.
And say thank you to Peter Marshall.