Training Tuesdays: To Ski or not to Ski

It’s getting to be that time of year when the ski hills open and Vancouverites flock to them en masse to capitalize on an always fleeting ski season.  Occasionally I am even one of them. However, I must make it clear that I am not a fan of the downhill variety of skiing. In fact, downhill skiing is one of the most terrifying things I have done in my life. I am clumsy. I lack technique. I am tense with fear. That is a dangerous triad when it comes to skiing.  No, my skiing of choice is the cross-country variety, classic cross-country to be exact. I’m not even cool enough to be a skate skier.

I don't look nearly this stylish...nor poised.
I don’t look nearly this stylish…nor poised.

Hear me out before you judge me for partaking in the choice winter sport of the elderly (as I was once told by a random person behind me in line at Nesters in Whistler).  It is a great workout. I love skiing uphill. Love it. In fact, if I could only ski uphill and never have to experience the sheer horror of careening down a sheet of ice on two narrow slats I would be overjoyed. Seriously, if you think you can’t bail uncontrollably on cross country skis, you are wrong.

The point is, I love the workout of cross-country skiing. My SI, however, does not. Years back, the last time I had more significant issues with my SI, my physiotherapist at the time suggested I take up skate skiing if I wanted to ski cross country. She said that the forward motion of classic cross-country would aggravate my SI. She was right. Last year I definitely noticed my SI acting up slightly, its aggravation worse the icier the conditions. It’s mostly due to lack of skill, but when my ski slips backward on ice while going up hill, it’s the exact motion that pulls on the ligaments surrounding my SI. In short, cross-country is bad news for me.

So now I’m left with a conundrum: do I give up cross-country completely or do I give skate skiing a try to see if it’s a better fit for my many injuries?  If you don’t know me, you’re probably thinking ‘yeah, just give it a try’. To you I say, you have no idea just how completely lacking in natural skill I am. Here are my fears:

  • I just, and I mean just, got the basic hang of slowing down outside of tracks. Yes, after five years of cross-country skiing. Prior to that, I relied on perfectly groomed trackset routes and hoped for the best.  It’s a wonder I never killed myself or created a world-class collision with someone else. Last year my dear friend Alexa finally explained slowing myself in a way that made sense to my uncoordinated self and, while that helped tremendously, I am still full of fear when skiing downhill and prefer tracks to open slopes.  Skate skiing requires control in downhill stretches.
  • Related to the above, I legitimately fear bailing epically. When I lived in the Rockies, I had the luxury of professionally groomed Nordic Centre courses and good, old-fashioned Rocky mountain snow. Here in BC, track-setting seems like more of an afterthought, and the delightfully moist air and fluctuating temperatures turn most of the tracks into glorified ice chutes. As a result, I’ve taken some seriously impressive spills here, even on moderate hills. Picture arms flailing, head first, tangled ski nose-dives and you’ll have a good visual for my experiences.  An epic bail of this nature would surely wreak havoc on my SI.
  • Skate skiing requires legitimate technique. In classic, you can get away with knowing nothing.  The tracks do a lot of the work, and the motion itself is similar to walking. Skate skiing, as you would expect from it’s name, uses a skating motion. That’s fine on nice, little ice skates, but trying to use a skating motion with long skis seems like a recipe for disaster to me. I can envision myself stepping on the back of my skis and falling forward in the most ungraceful of tumbles. With my general lack of grace and coordination, I imagine the whole act of skate skiing would not only look awkward, but would take me way too much time to get the hang of.

See? Conundrum. It’s such a fabulous winter training activity, and yet a veritable minefield of opportunity for injury or embarrassment. If anyone’s a skate skiing expert, I’d love to hear your thoughts!





2 thoughts on “Training Tuesdays: To Ski or not to Ski”

  1. Your description of loving going uphill matches my mountain biking experience. I love climbing up (even with the asthma), but then borderline panick coming down. I got pitched over my handlebars and rolled down a hair while climbing uphill and was fine, then 10 minutes later a tight switchback going downhill made me cry.


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