Taking on skinny skis... more to it than I thought 

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So I was shamed into buying cross country skis, classic of course, that were too long, too stiff and needed waxing. I think I used them a half a dozen times, never successfully and never with the right wax. My classic period came to an end when the skis became welded to each other over the summer because I put them away with klister on them after a particularly unsuccessful outing.

I hated cross country skiing because (1) I have no ankles that support me on platforms narrower than my feet and even then, not 100 per cent of the time, and, (2) skiing in tracks makes me claustrophobic in a way only people who have gotten road bike tires stuck in Toronto streetcar tracks can fully appreciate.

I'd kind of forgotten about that first point when, several years ago, I decided skate skiing seemed like a good idea. I didn't mind skating on my downhill skis over Whistler's famous flat spots and I figured skate skiing was a lot like that.


Skate ski boots have no ankle support and the skis have a platform not much wider than fettuccini noodles. Oh, and no edges. Still, that didn't stop me from using Zippy the Dog as an excuse to ski from Rainbow Park to Meadow Park and back. Accomplished skate skiers consider that distance a warm-up; I considered it a day trip... with a lunch break... and sometimes a nap.

I first thought lessons would be a good idea when Wonder Wife tricked me into skate skiing from Callaghan Country Lodge back to Whistler Olympic Park, a distance about as far as Whistler to Vancouver. No one I met along the way said things like, "Nice form." Many said, "Are you alright?" with a look of concern generally reserved for people coming out of a coma.

I'd like to say I learned a lot in the four lessons I signed up for but, having missed two of them due to illness, it would only be a half truth. Bob the instructor was patient, knowledgeable and infuriatingly accomplished. Others in the class were infuriatingly graceful and balanced. And though no one ever actually said, "Are you alright?" to me, I did see several of those coming-out-of-a-coma looks.

Of course it turned out everything I thought I knew about skate skiing actually had more to do with fly fishing or macramé but I did confirm my suspicions about there being technique involved in skate skiing, although I was horrified to discover there are actually multiple techniques one might apply to the endeavour. And, as it turned out, I was completely familiar, theoretically, with the technique one uses to get up the steepest hills. Not unexpectedly, it was the technique I generally employed on flat ground.


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