Tuesday, 24 January 2023

I love skiing from home!


Skiing from the front door is wonderful. I love it. I almost managed it during the recent heavy snowfall, now sadly all gone in a big thaw. In fact I could have skied from the front door but only a few yards before I’d have had to remove the skis to cross the fence (the garden gate being out of action due to the snow piled up against it – I could have dug it out but it’s easier just to cross the fence). Being pragmatic I carried the skis to the fence and put them on once across. It was also pragmatic to ski locally, the roads being a horrid treacherous slippery mess of snow and ice churned up by the occasional gritter. I didn’t fancy driving anywhere. And why bother when I could ski here.


The first day I had a short ski across the fields, getting used to being on skis again. The snow was soft and deep enough to make the going slow and arduous. Only when I turned and skied back along the tracks I’d made did I have that feeling of effortless movement that comes when the skis glide freely. On the edges of the snowfields the trees were plastered in heavy snow. 


In the latest issue of The Great Outdoors magazine (March 2023) I have a feature on a trip using the oldest gear I have. Although winter there wasn’t enough snow for skiing on that trip. For these local ski tours I did bring out some very old ski gear. My Asnes Nansen Mountain skis date back to 1986, my Garmont Tour leather Nordic ski boots to 1994. They both still work fine, though it’s been a few decades since I took them into the mountains. I have slightly newer (only twenty-two years old!) and more suitable gear for that. For local skiing on gentle terrain the older gear is ideal.

After that first short tour more snow fell. I decided to go further, into the woods and then out onto moorland. Under snow this managed landscape, the woods mostly decaying plantations, the moors used for sheep and grouse shooting, becomes wilder and more exciting. Suddenly there’s a feel of the arctic. Horizons expand, damaged land vanishes under the white blanket.

The snow was even deeper but also heavier and wetter, sticking to the skis and under my boots. I hadn’t brought any wax, these skis being waxless, so had nothing to rub on them to stop the snow balling up in great clumps underneath the skis. Banging them with my poles shifted some of it. More effective was skiing over the edges of fallen branches in the forest so the skis were scraped clean.


Skiing in the forest was difficult. The snow was soft and deep in places, crunchy and shallow in others. Weaving a way round fallen trees took time. An increasing wind shook snow off the branches. I was working hard and feeling quite warm but after one dollop of snow landed on my head and ran down my neck I put my hood up.


The reward for skiing through the forest was the delicate, ephemeral beauty of the snow-laced trees. There would be more snow but the woods would never look just like this again. Indeed, they would have changed when I came back this way later in the day. It was a privilege to see them like this.


Once out of the trees the wind caught me and I needed that hood for warmth. Progress was easier as the snow, whilst still quite deep, was even. The wind brought squalls of snow, short and fierce, followed by brief bursts of blue sky and sunshine. Although only a few miles from home I felt I was in remote wild country. All I could see was snow, rocks, and trees.


Before turning back I found a niche against a rock below an old juniper bush to sit out of the wind for a hot drink and a snack. With an insulated jacket on, sitting on a foam pad with my pack as a backrest, and a cup of hot ginger cordial in my hand, I felt quite cosy. I even bothered to set up the tripod and take photos of my pleasant little nook.


Beyond the camera the white world stretched out to distant cloud-shrouded hills. I gazed at the wild winter landscape for a while then reluctantly left my shelter to ski back along my tracks, much faster now with even some gentle downhills to run.


The high mountains are still snowy. That’s where I’ll go next.


 

3 comments:

  1. Stunning landscape. Very envious, but a great read.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Beautiful
    I'd love to try that with you ...

    ReplyDelete