Skating through the snow

Happy Sunday Homo sapiens!

A big hearty hello to all of my Cro Magnon readers, too!
Aloha to all of my Cro Magnon readers, too!

I apologize for my conspicuous absence during the past few days week. I made such a big deal about announcing my un-retirement, then proceeded to promptly vanish off of the face of the Earth.

As your social media advisor, I simply must say: "get your shit together"
As your social media coordinator, I officially advise you to get your shit together

I could bore you with an excruciating description of what it’s like to do mutation rate estimation experiments for 12 days in row.

I've been a busy bee....and I've blown through a LOT of petri plates
I’ve been a busy bee….and I’ve blown through a LOT of petri plates

However, this blog is supposed to be a space for things that are amusing and interesting, so I will spare you the gory details of my latest laboratory labors. I grew a bunch of bacteria, I found a bunch of mutants, I made a nice graph about it and then I moved on with my life.

I found a LOT of mutants.
I found a LOT of mutants.

That particular chapter of my research is officially in the history books, so let’s turn the page because today I want to talk about my new winter weather hobby: nordic skate-skiing!

Pretty much pro
You have NO idea how many times I fell over trying to take this selfie

Cross country skiing is an awesome way to get outside during the winter and enjoy some scenery at sub-zero temperatures.

Classic skiing at Caribou Open Space
Classic skiing at Caribou Open Space

I’ve always enjoyed classic cross-country skiing, gliding over the snow for a three-hour tour is a meditative, low impact way to connect with nature.

Classic cross country is awesome, but I was recently introduced to a faster, fiercer member of the nordic skiing family tree: skating.

Wait...I can go FAST while I do this? Hold the phone.
Wait…I can go FAST while I do this? Hold the phone.

My Dad got me in to skate skiing on my most recent visit to Colorado (in case anybody is keeping score, this is that latest in a long string of examples where my Dad  inspires me to do something interesting; I refer my gentle readers to : triathlons, cooking, meditation, etc… for other evidence that the apple steals all of his cool ideas from the tree).

I've come to accept that I will never be as cool as this guy, but at least I can occasionally be FASTER than him
I’ve come to accept that I will never be as cool as this guy, but at least I can occasionally be FASTER than him

I instantly fell in love with the experience of flying over freshly groomed corduroy. Skate skiing is awesome because it combines all of my favorite activities: sweating, wearing spandex, playing in the snow, endurance sports, the outdoors, and stache-sickles.

IMG_6093
Any day where my mustache freezes is a success.

 

If cross country skiing is comparable to hiking, skate skiing is analogous to trail running. It’s great to get outside and explore nature. It’s even better to experience the outdoors while exploring your anaerobic threshold. Skate skiing is fun because it happens to be SERIOUSLY difficult.

Three hour tour my AUNT FANNY! Let's find our VO2 max.
Three hour tour my AUNT FANNY! Let’s find our VO2 max.

I was poking around on the internet and found a ton of articles espousing the benefits of skate skiing as cross training for runners. An older, but nicely controlled, European study compared the endurance benefits gained by a group of athletes embarking on either a cross-country skiing or running training program over the course of two successive winters; each activity led to identical performance gains. According to competitor.com, nordic skiers have the highest VO2 maxes of ANY endurance athletes. Nordic skiing isn’t just a great cardio workout in general, the skating motions work some muscle groups in areas that runners are notorious for neglecting such as: shins, ankles, hip adductors and the pelvic girdle, not to mention the solid upper-body workout provided by the poling motion. Also, because skiing is low impact (gliding, rather than pounding), it’s a great option for injured runners to get outside while they recover.

Seriously, skating looks so beautiful and elegant but it will TUCKER you out.
Seriously, skating looks so beautiful and elegant but it will TUCKER you out.

The one disadvantage of skating compared to running is that the sport has a few more requirements than simply: “put on some shoes, then put your feet on the pavement.” You can’t skate without a pair of skis, poles, and the associated accoutrement.

Obviously.
Obviously.

You also need a place to GO once you’ve acquired your gear. Skate skiing is a little different from typical backcountry; you can’t just go tromping through the woods through three feet of fresh powder, those skinny little skis won’t get very far. The ideal substrate for a skating session is nice, cold, hard-packed, freshly-groomed corduroy.

On the sabbath day the lord created the bombardier snowcat...and the snow-seekers were joyful
On the sabbath day the lord created the bombardier snowcat…and the snow-seekers rejoiced

I was nervous about whether it would be easy to go skate skiing in my adopted habitat of Washinton State. Seattle is awesome, but the emerald city loses it’s collective shit and shuts down entirely if it snows an inch within the major metropolitan area.

OMG IT'S THE SNOWPOCALYPSE
OMG IT’S THE SNOWPOCALYPSE

I needn’t have worried. The Kornsberger Ski Club maintains (and grooms!) roughly 20 km of premium trail-goodness at the Snoqualmie Summit less than an hour’s drive along I-90 from my house!

I am so happy for the kindness of strangers
I am so happy for the kindness of strangers

On Saturday morning I got up bright and early, loaded my skis into my Subaru, and headed east to check out what the Cabin Creek Nordic Ski Area is all about. IMG_6101

I intended to do a quicky 10K loop, but promptly got distracted by a fork in the trail leading to Mt. Amabilis.

Two roads diverged in a wood and I....took the one that lead straight up a mountain.
Two roads diverged in a wood and I….took the one that lead straight up a mountain.

The Mt. Amabilis trail is a winding, five mile tour through delightful scenery…straight up a mountain.

Skating up 2,000 vertical feet is...not a joke.
Skating up 2,000 vertical feet is…not a joke.

My skate to the summit was punishing, but totally worth it for the pristine vistas. The second half of my skating session was certainly a LOT easier (and faster) than the first.

35 mph eh?
35 mph eh?

Overall I’m stoked on the fact that I can indulge in my new favorite winter sport while I’m based in Seattle. It was great to get outside and really push myself for a long challenging endurance session. I’m easing my way back into running after a stress fracture right now, which means that my time on my feet on the streets is limited. Covering 10 miles on the snow takes my mind to the same meditative place that I find on my long runs. Even though Cliff Mass’ forecasts are a little grim for the PNW’s downhill ski season, I will DEFINITELY be making more journeys to cabin creek over the next coming weeks.

How can you argue with this?
How can you argue with this?

I hope everyone is having a groovy Sunday.

Have any of Y’all tried XC skiing?

 

 

One thought on “Skating through the snow

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