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  • MIke McGrew

Freaking Cold Out

I just got back in the house from walking Rocket and I am here to tell you: it is freaking cold out there. Rocket recognizes that it’s cold, but her overriding concern is that 7:30 has come and gone and we haven’t had our morning outside bonding experience. That is a problem. Never mind that it’s -20. That is not the point. The point is that we walk every morning regardless of the weather and just because it’s a little chilly doesn’t mean I have the option of wimping out and cancelling the walk, like I cancelled my skate clinic today.


We survived the stroll, but there’s no way I’m going back out there until the thermometer says something a little more reasonable. Like something that is a positive digit as opposed to a negative. I’m planning on skiing this afternoon, but I’ll require a little help from the weather.

When it’s this frigid there is no way you’ll catch me skate skiing. I got an email from a friend last night saying that skating yesterday “was like skiing uphill on sandpaper”. Right. That is exactly what it’s like.


On the other hand, when it’s super cold out and the snow is abrasive like it is now, classic skiing can actually be enjoyable. For starters, you’re in a track that’s been skied in, making the snow slightly less abrasive. You’re getting much better glide than skating would provide. Kick waxing is straight forward at these temps because all you need to know is go with your coldest kick wax. If you’re on no wax skis I pity you, but you’re still going to get good glide provided you glide wax your tips and tails, which an astonishing number of skiers neglect to do.


And last but not least, your hands are going to stay a hell of a lot warmer classic skiing than skating. At my advanced and declining stage of life my hands get cold skating at 25 degrees unless I’m wearing wool liners. But with classic you’ve got that big arm swing with each stride, driving blood into your finger tips with each poling motion. I’ll start out with the liners in place and take them off when my hands start to sweat after a couple of K.


My moment of enlightenment came several years ago when I was skating on a day similar to this one. I was grinding along up Whitetail Hill, hating life and my hands like blocks of ice, when here came a woman on classic gear sauntering by me without a care in the world. She made some off-hand comment about it being a tough day for skating and as she breezed effortlessly on by, the lightbulb went on in my head. Time to quit being a dumbass and get some classic gear.


So, I did. And immediately wondered what had taken me so long to make the move. When I started skiing, sometime in the early part of the 20th century, what is now called classic is all there was: all you needed was skis and a two-track through the woods. We groomed the original version of the Seeley trails by skiing a track in. If we were lucky someone from the Forest Service would run a snowmobile over them once a month.


Now this is where I’m supposed to say, “you kids just don’t realize how good you got it” or something equally codgerly. If that’s even a word.


Anyway, skating came along, it was fast and dynamic, and the rest is history. Don’t get me wrong, I love skating, but when I came back to classic I was glad I did.


Classic was like coming home for me. It feels natural. Now, whenever we get fresh snow and have a good classic track set, I’ll alternate classic days with skating days. They use the same muscles but in different ways and with different emphasis, so you actually recover better by switching it up. It’s simpler to have an easy day classic skiing, especially when conditions are soft. It’s cross training on skis.


So, until it warms up considerably, I’ll be the old fart out there on classic gear.

But when the snow transitions and we’re grinding the surface with the ginzu, you’d better believe I’ll be gleefully sailing along on my skate skis.

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