This has been an awkward winter – mostly too warm for skating and skiing, too cold to pretend it’s not winter. Winter has finally arrived. I awoke to ten inches of fresh powder and a temperature of 14º F (-10º C). The bike club postponed its ski trip three weeks ago due to lack of snow. Somehow they picked today. Can you say “perfect”?

I headed to the outskirts of town and waited for the group to assemble. Folks made fun of me for my 45 year old boots and 50 year old gaiters. The skis, bindings, and poles were slightly newer. When I lived in California I once lamented to my friend Curtis that my wooden back country skis had cracked and all I had left were the plastic waxless skis with the fish scale bottoms. For California conditions, they were actually preferable to wood and wax. Next thing I knew, Curtis was at my front door (no mean feat, since we lived 400 miles apart) with a pair of lightly-used wooden skis.

Half the fun of skiing is picking the right wax for conditions (though I found out last year that the vast selection of waxes from my youth is no longer available). We used special green for 5-14º F, green from there to 23º, and blue from there up to just below freezing. There were several others (including a slew of waxes for the transitional temperatures above freezing) but those were the mainstays and I’d run out of green.

Today was a special green day and the skiing was perfect! Untrammeled snow, freshly groomed but not tracked. (Tracks sometimes feel too much like transportation and not enough like fun.) In some places, they hadn’t gotten out with the machine at all, so it was just fresh powder deep enough to make my skis disappear, and that sparkled like diamonds in the brief moments that the sun poked through.

A rabbit hopped down the trail toward me, followed by a mink. The mink was enough to convince me to pull out the camera. The mink was shyer than the rabbit so, while the rabbit hopped past me, the mink turned around when I stopped. I had to satisfy myself with a snowy landscape photo sans mink.

The trail wound through the woods and onto a golf course before eventually getting me back to the starting point. A coffee shop on the way home beckoned with the offer of a cortado and a chocolate/espresso scone. An hour and a half of skiing is enough to make one hungry and thirsty. Since I had to discard my old woolen ski knickers (which were both too small and worn out) I did a little online shopping while I had my treat. I figured if these young whippersnappers (truth be told, some of them were near my age) are going to tease me about my old equipment, a pair of wool knickers with wool knee socks oughta put ’em in their place.

I expect that snow to beckon again Monday morning. We’ll see if I answer the call, as the forecast is for 1º (-17º C) and breezy.

Some call it “cross training”

I call it “fun”. My complaining about the snow ruining my skating lasted for less time than it took to shovel it.

I realized that 5 inches of fresh power called for getting out the skis, not complaining about not skating. That same giant park that works for ice skates works for skis as well.

I retrieved the skis from the garage, brought them onto the porch to warm up, scraped off the old wax, added a coat of Special Green (for 14 to -4 degrees F or -10 to -20 degrees C), and walked down to the lake. My old wooden touring skis are perfect for cruising through fresh snow.

I soon found I was over-dressed, as the temperature was almost in double digits (-13 C). I started across the lake on roughly the same route I skated last week, then decided on a change and turned west to ski the length of the lake instead of across. I needed to zip up my jacket to head into the wind.

My ski tips were submarine periscopes poking up through the powder. I was in a pristine wilderness on untrammeled snow.
Pristine wilderness, or downtown? State Capitol at right edge of photo.

I skied downtown with a stop at the convention center, a Frank Lloyd Wright design that only took 50 years of discussion to build.

Monona Terrace, the FL Wright-designed convention center

There were several other skiers, a few snowshoers, a handful of fat bikers (not bikers who are fat, but people riding fat bikes), and a fisher or two. I stopped and asked one, and he told me the ice was 8-12 inches thick – almost enough to drive a car on, plenty thick for skis.

Water expands when it freezes. It has to go somewhere. This is where the extra goes — up.

Another few inches are on the way tonight. With the temperature holding steady at 8 degrees (-13 C) it will be powder again, possibly enough to obliterate today’s tracks and make the park pristine, ready for fresh tracks.

Monday, 24 January

Three inches of new powder overnight heralded the leading edge of an Alberta Clipper. The temperature is up to 18 (-8 C) but the windchill down to -1 (-18 C). The warmer temperature meant adding some blue wax (23 to 31 F, or -5 to -1 C) for traction – blue because I couldn’t find or am out of green for the 14 to 23 range. The snow doesn’t care about windchill, but my windward cheek does. The temperature will be below zero by the time I go to work tomorrow.

I skied to the library. It being Monday I had the lake to myself. The only sounds were the schussing of my skis through the snow and the scratching of my pole tips across the ice. The light was flat and grey. The lack of contrast made the wind-driven waves hard to see and harder to photograph, but the snow had the contours of water on a windy day at the right angle.

Another shoreline ice heave

I skied from our neighborhood park to the beach, then walked to the library.

[Aside to MAK: I can’t disagree with you but, working in healthcare, I have to work the way your source works. When I walk into a patient’s room much of their backstory becomes irrelevant. One of my favorite patients (worked hard to rehab, was appreciative and polite, seemed like an all-around nice person) was charged with manslaughter. I have treated murderers. I have treated people who were shot in drug deals. I have treated people who drove drunk and killed their best friend or their child in the passenger seat. Like their vaccination status, that can’t matter while I’m in the room with them. My brain compartmentalizes that for me. It doesn’t seem to be a conscious process. You, on the other hand, don’t have that responsibility, and I applaud your rant from my position at home in front of my computer. I know that rant is no longer accessible but, to those of us who subscribe via e-mail, it arrived in our inbox. Thank you for speaking honestly. And if you like rants, check out this one: ]

Giving thanks

It is 15 degrees F (approx -10 C). The sun is bright. The sky is a brilliant blue. There are no clouds. There is no wind. We have fresh snow, so the sun glints off of countless facets. It is the sort of day that those who don’t live in snowy climes may not be able to appreciate, and those who do often forget to appreciate.

As I rode home from the library, I began to ruminate over things I am thankful for (most, in some way, related to this blog). I am thankful for:

  • construction workers who work outside all day all winter long.
  • constrgarbage trucks blocking the road so I can practice my cyclocross skills.
  • shanty
    ice fishing shanty, snowy day

    the lake near my house that becomes a massive and nearly private park in the winter. After skating on the street last Sunday, I skiied across the lake this Sunday.

  • Ally, Ed, and Steve – who turned a 105 mile slog through 40 degree (4 degrees C) rain inIMG_0363to something do-able. While they claim misery loves cold raincompany, company can also make it not misery, as evidenced by this smile at the end of that day. (Not to mention that we were even smiling for the picture.)
  • Steve (a different Steve) and Kevin, who stuck with me through thick and thin (and thinner) on a long and hard day in the heat and headwind.
  • Anders, who picked up a new helmet for me at the end of said long day, so I could Andersride again the next day.
  • the entire Cycle America staff, for handling the logistics so we could ride. A special shout out to Ed (a different Ed) for delightful surprises on the routes; and to Dan, who never met a hill he didn’t like.
  • the half-fast cycling club, including those I started riding with more than 40 years ago, and those I haven’t yet met.
  • the glaciers which all managed to miss the driftless area, making for great bike riding in the area of the Horribly Hilly Hundreds (and to HHH, as I just learned that I was selected in the lottery to ride this year).
  • icicles. Snow to sculpt.
  • the Parks Department, for plowing the bike paths.IMG_1494.jpg
  • public libraries.
  • getting old. I’ve seen a lot of folks the past couple of weeks with broken ribs from slipping and falling on the ice. Many tell me how horrible it is to get old.  I think it beats the alternative.