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 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.