Anyone in his right mind would be skiing not reading the blog of an old geezer, but since you are reading this, I can assume we are like-minded so here goes. The last time you heard from me here was 3 years ago because that was the last time we had measurable snow in the DC area. After my misadventure then, I was determined not to make the same mistakes twice, so now I can report the same attempt with different mistakes. After a whole 2 inches of fresh powder covered the frozen slab left from the January 3 surprise storm, I thought it might be a good day to try XC in Holmes Run again.
One of the reasons you haven’t heard from me is that, as a semi-retired family physician and volunteer medical director of Culmore Clinic (an interfaith-supported free clinic for indigent adults without health insurance in Bailey’s Crossroads, VA), I have been on call 24/7 for the past two years and for the foreseeable future.
I do not venture far from home and I was wistful to re-experience the stillness of a frosty morning and brave the single digit windchill. I dutifully layered up, discovering that my wool pants mysteriously shrank at the waist. This time I rubbed MaxiGlide on my waxless XC skis and put on the touring boots which were rehabilitated after a major operation with rubber cement and prolonged immobilization while it set and cured.
I set out the front door after remembering to empty my bladder which involved searching under 4 layers of clothing. Once outside the door I discovered that I didn’t feel steady in touring boots on packed powder, so I went back inside and changed into my telemark boots with waffle soles. Because the tele boots have thicker soles, I had to use my XCD skis which have minimal vertical camber and no grip surface. They are basically skinny alpine skis with three pin bindings harkening back to mid 20th century (as I do also).
The walk seemed a little longer, the skis a little heavier, and my breath a little shorter than when I was 71, but I arrived at the same place where I took the first photo for my last story. Bending over to click my boots into the bindings I realized that I am not as strong, steady, or limber as I was last time. I also realized that I had my skis pointed straight downhill and that both my ski mind as well as my ski body was out of shape.
The beginning of that trail is a steep narrow switchback which even on my bike I used to creep down with my hands hard on the brakes. I started in a snowplow and realized that the icy ruts and bare spots were either going to tear up the bottom of my skis, my body, or both. The last thing my colleagues need is an ED encounter with me when every bed is filled with the unvaccinated struggling for breath. As the saying goes, there are old skiers and bold skiers, but no old bold skiers.
I unclipped my skis and walked down to the bridge over the stream. I am really glad I did because there were several driveways crossing that section plowed down to the asphalt and if I had come downhill and hit those at speed I would probably have 2 broken wrists; a showstopper if you live alone.
I did ski across the bridge and when I came to the hill down to the trail, I started hesitantly until my muscle memory kicked in and I got my “ski legs.” I picked a path where the snow had drifted to cover the drainage gulley next to the access road but apparently there was still water flowing under the drift. When I got to the end of the access road the snow was caking just like it did on my XC skis the last time when the temperature was 5 degees warmer.
Also, when I got to the trail itself, I realized it would not be skiable even if my skis were dry. Well I went out to get exercise, and walking an hour carrying skis is not a bad workout. At least this time, I didn’t have to call the Marine!
Charles Sneiderman jokes that he was a cross-country skier until he met Connie Lawn and his life went downhill after that. He is a DC area native and a semi-retired family physician. He reports on senior and adaptive snowsports for DCSki.
Great to hear from you Charles. Your volunteer medical work is awesome! Love the hat, I got one just like it (UMD '76). I did some neighborhood XC skiing myself this week. One day was good, the other was like skiing on raw pizza dough :-o