Happy Sunday Homo sapiens!
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.
I could bore you with an excruciating description of what it’s like to do mutation rate estimation experiments for 12 days in row.
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.
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!
Cross country skiing is an awesome way to get outside during the winter and enjoy some scenery at sub-zero temperatures.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 intended to do a quicky 10K loop, but promptly got distracted by a fork in the trail leading to Mt. Amabilis.
The Mt. Amabilis trail is a winding, five mile tour through delightful scenery…straight up a mountain.
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.
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.
I hope everyone is having a groovy Sunday.
Have any of Y’all tried XC skiing?