Northern Exposure

Memo to self – get head examined.  I signed up for a cross-country ski event this weekend, but I’m having second, and even third, thoughts about the wisdom of this.  It’s the Frostbite 45, advertised as a 45 km fun classic ski event, but in reality, it’s going to be something entirely different – not much actual skiing, and possibly no fun at all.

Although I probably haven’t skied that distance before, I was a first excited about the idea, a  fun and social ski on a marked course, with the other 85 victims people who’ve signed up.  It wouldn’t be terribly hard to do that distance on the groomed cross-country ski trails here in town.  However, it’s looking much more difficult now.  It’s a 46.5 km ski (can we please call it the Frostbite 46.5?  What happened to truth in advertising?) on a snowmobile trail through the wilderness.  I like the wilderness aspect of it a great deal, what a fun way to see someplace new and wild, but the problem is that snowmobile trail.  It’s going to be uneven and lumpy, like skiing on ball bearings.  The lack of groomed tracks also means it will be slow.  And then there will be the holes in the trail from the runners also doing the course to contend with.  (Memo to self – try to keep ahead of those pesky runners.  Failing that, trip them.)

The Route

The Route

The real problem is the temperature.  When I signed up a while back, I imagined, wishfully, that because the event is in March, the month when daffodils bloom in Vancouver, it couldn’t possibly be too cold, and in fact it would probably warm and sunny, yes, that’s right, perfect weather for a long day outside.  And of course with warmer temperatures the skis slide along much faster, so it wouldn’t be too tiring.   Challenging perhaps, but doable.  (I did one ski earlier this winter where I came home utterly exhausted, only to realize that I could have walked the distance faster.  The skis were so slow they were a liability.)  Sadly, my worst fears are now realized.  The forecast is for something like 35 below, which means that when we set off first thing in the morning, into the bitter north wind, it will likely be somewhere near minus 50 with the wind chill.  And there aren’t going to be trees to hide behind.  The first part of the route heads north for 10 km or so along long and narrow Walsh Lake.  The wind is going to be formidable.  If any flesh is exposed, frostbite will ensue.   It’s going to feel like someone is throwing knives at my head, even through my thickest winter hat.  The wind also means even slower skiing.  I hope its not so slow that it brings me to a dead stop, like that one morning when I was on my bicycle and couldn’t peddle forwards.   Add to this the weight of a pack with various bits and pieces of extra clothing and survival gear.  (A spare nose is not on the required list of gear, but I think I’ll put that in too.)   I can get water refills at a few points along the trail, but how am I going to keep my food from freezing?  And how will I keep warm enough, but not so warm as to sweat?  I’d like to know what happened to winter lite!  This is winter heavy.   Memo the self – get nose examined after ski.

Fortunately, I do have one secret weapon, my friend Jenn, long time local girl and hardy outdoors woman.  She’s done this event before, back in the days when people were tougher, and it was 135 km over 3 days, complete with camping at night.  (She must be ridiculously tough).   She had given me all manner of good advice.  Like, minus 30 in February is not in fact as cold as minus 30 in March, because of the sun.  And, it’s helpful to increase the size of your wax pocket in cold temperatures, as the ski is stiffer.  Our ski yesterday, in a sunny but cold minus 38, proved her absolutely right about both of these.   But my all time favorite piece of Jenn advice is how to drink a chocolate martini from a chilled metal flask at minus 38 without freezing your lips in the process.  In fact, said chocolate martini is so powerful, I’m not sure I’d even notice if I did lose my lips.  I read somewhere recently a quote by some smart woman who said “When times are tough, I go from treat to treat”.  Wise words, and Jenn obviously subscribes to this way of thinking, as chocolate martinis are mandatory for her on any ski below minus 35.  I’m not sure if this is life saving, or life ending advice, but in any case, they are lots of fun!  In fact, I may resort to having one at the start of the Frostbite 45, to channel my inner tough chick.

Jenn and friend

Jenn and Friend, in Winter Heavy




About Tandi

I love my morning coffee, reading, the wilderness, paddling, poetry, my Spanish husband, and being a doctor. I also love writing my blog, and reading yours.
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11 Responses to Northern Exposure

  1. LCVoigt says:

    Wow. Hardcore. Sounds painful. If anyone can find the F.U.N. in that race it’s YOU! Good luck!

    • Tandi says:

      Thanks Lisa! Your comment has me pondering what F. U. N. stands for and many things come to mind, some involving swearing. This will at least give me things to think about on the long trail tomorrow. When the going gets tough I often resort to my favorite Stan Rogers song which has swearing. Very therapeutic when one is portaging a canoe, I find. XO

  2. Jenn says:

    Fear not grasshopper- all will be well on the trail.
    You must save the precious martini til you are 300m from the finish -when you must stop and wipe the frost mustache from your upper lip before you are swarmed by paparazzi at the finish line.
    Think of it as a lovely day hike -that way any glide is a bonus!

  3. grtescp says:

    This sounds like a fabulous challenge, and as my military bootcamp instructor says – “it’s not about how you feel during, but how you feel after”!!
    Channel your biking skills – draft behind others to avoid the worst of the wind, and hopefully they will flatten out a smoother line for you too!
    Have a great day and enjoy that martini at the end!
    Louize x

  4. Karen Cain says:

    Tandi – Isn’t there an easier way to get a chocolate martini? As a matter of fact I am sitting on my deck right now, viewing the spring bulbs,wearing sunglasses and drinking one. Much later I thought I might stroll down to the beach.
    Please take care of that nose of yours, you’ll need it to smell the flowers – that would be in August?
    Kidding aside, GO FOR IT, YOU INTREPID WOMAN!
    Karen on a small gulf island

    • Tandi says:

      You raise an excellent point. Too bad I didn’t think of it earlier! However today Jenn gave me my own official plastic ski martini glass so I’m going to have to break it in. Probably not at the race tomorrow though!

  5. Penny says:

    Best wishes my dear. We are pulling for you!
    Bob and Penny

  6. shoreacres says:

    Well, I hope it was fun and you’re sitting around with that martini. Or at minimum, I hope you didn’t have any problems and are sitting around with that martini! I admire you greatly, but if you think there’s a chance I’m following in your tracks – it’s not happening. I’ll sit back and wait to be your appreciative audience while you tell the tales. 😉

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