Cross country skiing is my favorite winter sport. This year another snow storm hit Northern Arizona just before my birthday. In fact, Arizona Nordic Village received 10 inches of fresh snow in the middle of January and we were very optimistic that the snow would not melt until the end of the week.
When we arrived at Nordic Village the temperature was at a freezing point, but a strong wind blew freezing rain and snow, which chilled us to the bone. I had to bundle up and put on a warm hat, gloves and an extra sweater.
Before I went skiing I asked a lady, who worked at the lodge, about the condition of the trails. She told that all trails are open for cross country skiing. I also asked her opinion about which trail would be the most gentle for skiing downhill. She answered that I can take Babbitt trail uphill and Wild Turkey trail downhill because it has the gentlest slope. She also warned that this trail has an elevation change of 333 feet from top to bottom and suggested to take an easier trail called Dog trail. Dog trail meanders in the woods at the foot of the mountain and is generally flat.
Damp cold got under my jacket and into my gloves. To warm up I took Black Bear trail. Chilly wind blew through this quiet, relatively narrow trail swaying tall pine trees. Icy lumps of snow were shaken down from the fluffy green branches of the pine trees by the wind. They dropped onto the trail with a low thump. Occasionally, some pine trees made a squeaky, strained sound, as if they were mourning, sighing, and complaining about the strong wind. The ski tracks were meandering between the squeaky pines and aspens, whose white trunks were inked by black marks. I met two people who were snowshoeing. They enjoyed the solitude in the windy forest.
After completing Black Bear trail I started skiing Babbitt trail, going uphill. Part of the trail was not groomed recently. There were two ski tracks, a few inches deep, which were made through the snow and I followed them. This part of Babbitt trail has lots of switchbacks and the higher I skied the more snow I saw on the pines’ branches. Even the pines trunks were plastered with snow, which fell down occasionally with a rustling sound. When I was half way up to the top, I realized that I could not make it without water. I had carelessly left this in the car. Also I was running out of time because I had to return my skiing equipment by 4 p.m. It was nonetheless a very enjoyable day despite the strong wind blowing icy drizzle across the trails.
The next morning, when we were driving to the Nordic Village, we saw that the top of San Francisco peak and the surrounding mountains were wrapped in a thick fog. When we arrived to the village there was a blizzard. But there was an unexpected surprise: I got a price break on ski equipment rentals as a birthday gift from the Lodge staff.
Gusts of wind blew snow powder across the trails, which were groomed the day before. Now they had about an inch of fresh white snow. My skis had a little cushion of snow making it easier to glide along the trail.
I was debating which trail to take today: the easy Dog trail or the challenging Babbitt and Wild Turkey trails. Suddenly I saw a young mother with her 6 year old daughter skiing down at the bottom of Wild Turkey trail. If a child can do it then so can I. I also recalled a famous FDR’s quote: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Also there was not much risk of breaking a bone because the slope was not very steep. Finally I also remembered that I had decided to learn how to ski downhill during a previous trip. Those were the pros. The only con was my fear.
Meanwhile the blizzard stopped and the sun showed itself from behind the clouds. The sunlight made the colors of pine trees, snow and the sky much brighter and more vibrant. I stopped to catch my breath and take pictures whenever another beautiful view appeared on the trail. It was quiet. I decided to take the challenging trails.
Skiing uphill along Babbitt trail was breathtaking because of the elevation gain and the serene beauty. Part of the trail was not groomed recently. There were a few inches of fresh snow on it. With every step snow sunk softly under my skis with a subtle crunchy sound. It was incredibly quiet and peaceful in the woods.
Tall pine trees, lining the trail, cast blue shadows across the trail lit by the soft sunlight. The black trunks of pine trees were covered by snow on the windward side. The pines’ fluffy branches with long needles held loads of snow. Fir trees standing in deep snow were themselves dressed in silver white gowns of snow. Their gowns covered them from top to bottom. That was the top part of Babbitt trail which looked like a magical snowy wonderland. The trail leveled at the top of the hill.
Just at the trailhead of Wild Turkey trail I met a grooming machine, slowly moving along Babbitt trail. The driver stopped and we had a little chat about the trails and downhill skiing. In fact, he thought that Babbitt trail would be easier and suggested that I follow his machine downhill. He also suggested using a wedge technique to slow down around sharp curves. He told that he had skied Wild Turkey trail and that it’s extremely beautiful.
I took a last photo at the top of Wild Turkey trail and began my downhill journey. It was exciting, unspeakably beautiful, and exhilarating. I was able to slow down and stop using the wedge technique. There were a few sharp turns along the trail. I did not take off my skis and did not fall.
I am very thankful for the support, advice, and encouragement of my husband and of the Nordic Village staff.
It feels quite liberating to conquer a fear and accomplish a dream. The world seems more colorful, vibrant, and cheerful after that. It feels that everything is possible. I do not plan to do a bungee jumping or skydiving, but there is a list of little fears that waits for me to overcome.