RANT ADVISORY: Anyone who considers themselves an avid cross-country skier should probably just skip this post.
This morning, I agreed to go cross-country skiing with friends up at Eaglecrest, a (shudder) groomed loop near the downhill ski resort. I have probably been skiing too many times this week for my liking; I was grumpy and a little undercaffinated; and I took a nasty fall while walking across the parking lot, which left my knee swollen and bruised. In every way, I was not off to a good start.
After a long weekend of partying, my friends were somewhat grumpy themselves, and the general environment of parka-piercing winds and sticky snow put us all in a surly mood. So we stomped our way over the trail, collecting clumps of snow under our skis and trying to shake it loose. This created a lot of awkward downhill moments when one leg was sliding and the other was sticking. I was skiing in this one-legged position down the set tracks when I came around a corner and met an oncoming skier. Since I was the downhill skier, I did what I considered the polite thing - I veered off the tracks and did a faceplant in the powder.
And as I looked up through a face full of snow, I could see this guy grimacing down at me. He was clad in one of those yellow single-piece spandex suits that makes a person look like a walking condom, and he was practically wagging his finger at me. “You are going zee wrong way,” he said in a German accent that my friend mimics so well.
“Huh?” I said.
“You can not go zis way on zis trail, especially because you are accident-prone perzon,” he said. (Never mind that the trail is in no way marked one way or the other, there is no map indicating it is not a two-way trail, and we had already been passed by countless people going the same direction.) He continued to lecture me about arrows (There were no arrows) and learning to read signs (no signs either) and “accident-prone” even as he started moving back up the trail.
I used to run into Ski Snobs all the time in Homer. The seem to make up a larger-than-average percentage of the sport's population. I always want to open my mouth to respond to them, to say, “Don’t you realize that because of your rabid exclusiveness and hostility toward beginners, your culture is going to age and die out? That pretty soon there will be no one left to defile all of the best frontcountry trails with corduroy groomers and parallel tracks that serve only to funnel people ‘in zis direction.’ And when that day comes, we’ll no longer have to yield to your totalitarian toe-the-line regime. We will take to the trails with our snowskates, our fat bikes, our airboards and skiboards, our snowshoes, our Yak-Tracks, our skijoring dogs and horses. So what if we have to dodge the ruts and postholes? We are not that fragile. And we will not submit to going ‘zis way.’ We will go wherever we want to go, whichever way we want to go, however we want to travel!”
“Multi-use winter trail enthusiasts, unite!”
But I never actually say this. Usually I just say something witty along the lines of “Whatever, Dude.” Then I daydream about escaping to the backcountry ski trails, where I can eat up great singletrack with my snaux bike and smile at the snowshoers as they stomp by. Someday. Someday.