Saturday, January 19, 2008

Returning to Roots

Every once in a while I become nostalgic about the "old days" of skiing with skinny skis, leather boots and long poles. In the late 80's, when Peg and I started our cross-country to telemark conversion, we slowly progressed up the chain of gear that now has become a march of technology that never seems to end. Learning to telemark turn with short leather boots, partial or no metal edges on skis was a chore that I hope to never return to again. But, the physical work was amazingly demanding with the older gear and the strength required to pull off a day in the backcountry (or, God-forbid, a ski area) was exponentially greater than what it takes to telemark ski now. Perhaps we are fortunate though, that as we age and get busy in city life, kids and work, our time is not our own as often so having the new "stuff" lets us cheat our age and out of shape muscles a bit.

Today was a return to roots, kinda. We put on out XC boots and combi XC skis and took off up the Rendezvous trails just NW of Winthrop. 10 km up and 10km down on skinny skis, no skins, cable bindings of big plastic boots. Of course, the skis and boots we did have we capable of skating so after we schlepped up to Rendezvous Pass, we turn around and cruised the mostly downhill run with a combination of skating and classic skiing. The great thing to realize was how much fun it was to be out on a road tour, seeing other families and groups heading up and down the trail. Having light skis with great agility was fun and brought me back to the old days of backcountry touring to a degree. Sure, we weren't slogging up a steep ridge at Rainier in a blizzard, but the memory is there of the lightness and speed of gear that was made to cover distance, not carve up a steep face with graceful tele-turns. It is good to mix it up -- it surely reminds me that times are a changing, even in the backcountry. The beauty of it is that the backcountry doesn't change - the stark beauty, the wild weather, the snow that decides if it you can ski it or not. Time to head out again and see what awaits - in my new gear...

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