My belly is full of hot soup and fresh bread and I’m cruising down a hill on my new cross-country skis. They’re Atomics; it’s a big deal.
Perhaps a little overconfident, I swoop down the hill and around the corner after my friend Katie, who has reluctantly tagged along despite the terrible weather. We’ve just skied all the way to Island Lake Lodge in the rain.
I hit the corner, lean a little too far back and bam! I crash into the snow. I laugh as I pry myself from the ground, wet and sopping in my splash pants.
Cross-country skiing makes me feel like a little kid; an out of control, pre-pubescent, uncoordinated little kid who depends on the pizza slice to slow herself down.
And it’s a great time.
After several weeks of postponing because of rain and with a looming deadline, Katie and I decide to brave the less than welcoming weather and head up to the Lodge one Sunday morning. We gather our dogs, gear and hit the trail.
“Is there any real technique to this?” I ask her a few minutes in. I haven’t cross-country skied in more than a decade.
“Nope,” she replies, lunging into each glided step. So lunge I do and it’s quite delightful.
Casual chat and enjoyment from watching the dogs play keeps us distracted from the downpour of rain and slushy snow. An hour later we’re halfway there.
We stop for a few minutes at a recently fallen avalanche that blocked the ski trail a couple of weeks back. Unclipping our skis, we climb onto the debris and Katie notices a big, brown bum in the bushes.
It’s a moose. The dogs are barking at it but it pays them no mind, slowly eating its leafy greens. We quietly head back to our skis and continue on.
The trail is mostly uphill and I’m discovering that cross-country skiing is more of a workout than I originally imagined. The combination of sweat and rain has us entirely waterlogged. The Lodge’s promise of hot soup and Fernie beer is all that keeps me from turning back.
The rain quickly turns to snow with the elevation increase and gliding past the old growth trees is picturesque. We may be wet, but the well-maintained ski trail has its perks.
Finally, the snow-covered roof of the Lodge comes into view and we arrive, drenched but gratified.
The dogs stay outside as we head in to immediately hang our wet clothes next to the fire.
My friend Logan – a chef at the Lodge – prepares us two steamy bowls of carrot and fennel soup with salsa verde, while our host brings us two bottles of Fernie Brewing Co. beers.
We sit by the window and watch the snow fall heavy outside. A bald eagle perches on the limb of a dead tree. The fire crackles from across the room and Katie and I clank our mugs of beer together to our little day of success. I’m so happy that we decided to come.
The soup arrives and we devour it and nearly an entire loaf of buttered bread. It’s amazing how good food can taste when you’ve worked up an appetite.
After a couple of hours in the Lodge and with our clothes somewhat dry, we dress and venture back outside. Logan has granted me the name “Rocket Jesse” and says I’m to fly down the hilly trail with great ease.
However, the large and delicious bottle of Ol’ Willy Wit Ale has me feeling a bit tipsy and as we head downhill I easily lose control.
Katie laughs as I find myself upside down and backwards on the slope. The lack of edges on these skis is enough to make even the sturdiest and least-awkward person fall. I just so happen to be full of awkward and not the least bit sturdy.
I squirm back to my feet giggling and continue, the dogs running next to us.
We reach the truck and everyone – dogs included – seems a little better for the fresh air. Despite the rain, my cross-country ski adventure was hugely amusing. And if nothing else, it feels good to feel like a kid again.
Visit www.fernienordic.com for more information on ski trails, rentals and everything cross-country skiing.