Reporter’s Notebook; Ups and downs of the diagonal stride
I headed out to the Tahoe Donner Cross Country Area one day a few weeks ago with former Sun sports editor Erick Studinecka, who offered to teach me the basics of the sport. Following my debacle at snowboarding, I was in search of less precipitious pursuits. Cross-country skiing sounded like a sure thing.
My first mistake was allowing my would-be instructor to try to teach me skating, rather than traditional diagonal striding. Skating for me was an exercise in skiing in place, with an occasional tumble. With poles I could make progress, but I had no previous experience on skis or ice skates, and was flailing badly.
I remedied the situation by getting outfitted in classic cross-country skis. Much easier. Erick gave me a few pointers, told me to stay in the tracks, and said I should take the “Last Round Up” loop and he’d catch up with me later. He skated off and disappeared.
My stride was working out and I was really getting into the swing of things when I discovered I was on top of the hill going down into Euer Valley, and there was no turning back. I only fell three times on the downhill slope, if you don’t count the sudden stop at the bottom. That was really more of a …er… deceleration. Rapid deceleration.
After I shook the snow out of my jacket and pants, and recovered my poles, I skied over to the Cowboy Camp, where I was still out of breath when my friend arrived and greeted me.
“So you made it all the way down here? How many times did you fall on that hill?”
As it turned out, Erick had told me to take the wrong trail. He searched for me on Lions Leap, before skating down to the valley when he realized his mistake.
We agreed to meet back at the cross-country center and Erick departed again.
I skied the High Noon trail and headed back to the center. I soon discovered where the real work in cross-country skiing is – the uphill slope. I clambered up the hill, and fell backward about four or five times on the slippery slopes. The uphill part of my education had been neglected, and I was leaning too far forward on my skis, instead of putting my weight back to make the waxless scales grip. I covered the same stretch of hill about four times, backward and forward, before I made it to the top.
My apologies to anyone I passed when I was headed back down into the Euer Valley in reverse. I know it was a disturbing and unusual sight. It won’t happen again. I hope.
Despite the climb, I did make it back to the cross-country center in one piece. Cross-country is definitely work, but it’s fun. I enjoyed being able to stop and take in the view, and the view across the Euer Valley is worth a long look.
Still, I was happy to be back in the center with a drink and a slice of pizza. I spent about two hours on the trail and only covered about four miles,
Since then I’ve invested in equipment, and plan to head out for some more nordic skiing soon. This time, I’ll take a lesson.
John Bayless is the Sierra Sun news editor.
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