Late March is wearing a January face on our cross country trails. You have to ski it to believe it. It’s as if the calendar is eyeing the temperature and thinking, “I’ll fool ‘em and hold onto this. It’s too pretty to melt.”
Here in the outback on the other side of the mountain, where our 40 kilometer Nordic trail network winds through woods, drops down hills and climbs up ridges, it’s eerily quiet as I set out on a late afternoon ski. Once past the first stretch of Stag Hollow, I have first diagonal glide on freshly groomed tracks. The smooth skating lanes of powertilled corduroy are unmarked. A few brittle leaves skitter on the trail surface, some drifting down on the track and startling my glide as I move along. (“Those damn leaves!” I can hear John Capper’s voice in my head. John, now deceased, was the original designer of Crystal’s trails and inveterate curser of dead leaves on tracks.)
I cut up the corduroy with herringbone chops as I attack the cardiac climbs of Eagle’s Revenge. Someone’s been ahead of me; there are other tracks gripping the steeps on my ascent. I stop and whistle and call – friends have said they would be out here on this late afternoon. But the whistle just echoes off the cold walls of the hills, and it feels a little silly to punctuate the outdoor peace. Cresting the very top of Eagle’s, the forested silence is broken by the holler and chatter of Alpine skiers nearby, the clatter of lifts and general gravity slave noise as skiers and riders, separated from the Nordic trail by a thicket of trees, head over to the North Face. I fly down Eagle’s Revenge, the steepest thrill on premise bar none, and am swept back into the quiet. Nary another Nordic soul in sight. It’s just another afternoon alone in the outback, in the solitudinal silence of cross country.
So often, cross country skiers hang up the cross country skis by mid-March. This year, we may be on the tracks long after Alpine has gone down for a nap. Deep snows, meticulous grooming by the best groomer on the planet (Kathy Maginity), and layers of crust underneath the surface snow bode well for striding into the depths of spring. Keep your Nordic skis on!