Cross-Country Skiing || Observations in Parallel

On a recent Sunday morning, the woman at the Nordic center warned the group of folks lined up at the door that conditions were spring-like and slick. And of recent moose sightings.

Opting for the snowshoes, I stomp-crunched my way around the two-mile trail, cautiously aware of all potential animal sounds. Moose tracks plummeted a foot down into the snow; clear evidence of their heft and my lack of it, me barely making a dent on the snow’s surface.

I went there to ski, however. After completing the first loop, I started up the path again in the same direction, not wanting to break any snowshoe traffic rules of which I was unaware, and at the crest of the hill, decided to take my chances on skis.

I had been cross-country skiing a few times before, but the last was more than 15 years ago. I swapped out my snowshoes, got a pair of skis, boots and poles, and walked down the road to the green golf course trail, “Easy Does It.” I struggled to put on my second ski as the first was ready to take off (with my leg attached) in a different direction. Under general circumstances, I’m no klutz. With about 15 years of downhill ski time and seven years of snowboarding, this should have been easier. It became immediately clear, however, I was in for an amusing and humbling experience. With each slide of my skis, I tried to find my physical and metaphorical groove. At times, the pre-carved tracks facilitated that and at others, they fought me.

Being present is not optional. As I stopped worrying about how my flailing arms, giggling, gaping mouth and wide eyes might appear to others (very few of them given the conditions), I tuned in to the parallel lessons between cross-country skiing, business and life.

Being a fairly new resident to Colorado, I still have some things to learn about local wildlife. A quick Google search on the snowshoe trail led me to learn that depending on the state and distance of a moose, I could back away slowly, talking gently…run as far and as fast as possible to plant myself behind a tree, and worst-case scenario, if attacked, I should curl up into a ball and play dead. Now awkwardly perched on two long and skinny toothpick-like sticks, a new factor was introduced: figure out how the hell to get said sticks off my feet and then run.

Ten minutes into my pursuits in what was, at best, spring conditions and, at worst, a poor attempt at ice skating, there it was; the big, brown, antlered lump of an animal eating from a tree in someone’s front yard. He was close enough to instill a high level of fear and discomfort, but just far enough away for me to keep moving without him seeming to notice my presence. My first official parallel lesson was to keep moving around the obstacles. Do the research, make an informed decision and just keep moving.

I was repeatedly reminded that I couldn’t rely on formerly tried and true methods (i.e., the snowplow to slow down.) I had to adapt to the conditions at hand.

Starting or stopping can be hard. Building up momentum, synergizing the planks, staying focused on the task at hand, all a challenge. Once you have that momentum, identifying and cultivating the right conditions to cease moving (if on the wrong course) is also difficult.

Oh, the dreaded fall, a not-so-gentle reminder that things are smoothest when both skis work in unison. One can lay there, wallow in the cold hard ice-snow trickling down her back and whine or get up. Get up.

Sometimes the snow is ugly, crunchy and dirty and you still have to make a decision. If you happen to run out of snow, un-ski, adjust course and walk. At times it’s easiest to stay in the grooves, though it may not be the most efficient or the right way. Fear not leaving the grooves and carving your own path.