Skiing in Norway: give it a [second] chance

“Since when does Leah ski?”

When I first moved to Norway, I gave cross country skiing a chance. I got my own pair of skis and set off without much instruction or direction. It was sink or swim, glide or fall.

I fell, several times.

Falling is a natural part of “getting to know” the sport (or so they say). Your body’s center of gravity is different, your feet move different… everything is different. Then there are those hills, and if the waxing on your skis is off, it can be too slippery to climb hills, or too sticky to glide down them. Not to mention the cold, so even though you’re tempted to bundle up, you’re also working hard and sweating. It’s a tricky balance.

When I first started skiing, I was skiing with someone who was an “all or nothing” type of skiier. Go fast! Go hard! Go on forever! My partner at the time competed in ski endurance-based races, and didn’t have much time leftover for slow learners like myself. No matter the weather, though, I was out there, desperately trying to catch up with him, or falling on my butt, or freezing my butt off. I tried and tried but ultimately, the sport simply didn’t appeal to me.  By the time the relationship was over, so too were my efforts on skis. The skis themselves only represented struggle and frustration. They got lost through the years, but I hadn’t missed them.

Skiing cabin, usually serving waffles and coffee. A welcome sight after a long climb! (Lilloseter)

Fast forward five years and it is one of the most glorious winters in Norway’s recent history. Snow everywhere, and lots of it. I knew I needed to get in on this powdered snow action. Everyone was skiing, everyone looked so happy.

Since I was only half-committed, and wanted to take this born-again interest and relationship slow, I set out to find a used pair online. This quickly proved to be impossible–everyone was skiing, no one was selling second-hand! While on a cabin trip with a group of friends, and I mentioned my predicament to someone who just happens to work for a sporting store. “Come on in,” he said, “and we’ll get you a good deal.” Of course, they managed to upgrade my gear and I spent a bit more money than I wanted to, but it felt so invigorating, fresh, and independent. Exciting, and….ok, it was also terrifying. Absolutely terrifying.

As I carried them out of the store, I thought shit, what about all this money I just spent?! My buyer’s remorse levels were through the roof. I was completely dependent on the enthusiasm of those around me, that I had done the right thing, that it was worth the money.

happy skier

Skiing in Sogn og Fjordane.

As I meticulously waxed my skis for their virgin trip, I had no idea what to expect. I waxed and re-waxed, and researched YouTube all evening long.

It was dark that night. The air was quiet, and the snow lit up the tracks along with a big moon. I was nervous. It had been many years–five–and I had spent a lot of that time convincing myself that skiing “wasn’t for me.”

Was this a really stupid idea? Is 2018 the year that I break my tibia? 

My boots made a soft click, click as I secured them to the skis. I took a tentative first step with my right foot. I glided. The left foot followed so naturally, so easily. Then the right… I could literally feel the worry leave my body.

All I felt was this new and intoxicating freedom; I was in the moment. I was so happy that I felt tears rolling down my cheeks. I thought, these are MY skis, my new shiny beautiful skis. The independence, the joy, the empowerment of skiing; I am still in awe of just how amazing and fun skiing can be.

For all of those who have felt as if they have given skiing a chance but have fallen, get back up. Try a different technique, go by yourself, get an instructor. Take a break from it. I’ll come with you!

ski gear

My gear! Seen here at Ullevålseteren

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