Nordic instructor Bill Perry has been skiing for 55 years and is still learning more every day.
MOUNT WASHINGTON, BC – After I got my job with SnowSeekers I said there were three things I wanted to do in my first year: snowmobiling, dog sledding, and nordic skiing. I was fortunate enough to get out on a snowmobile a few times during my first season, and although it's been a little more than a year since I started here, I can finally cross nordic skiing off my list.
I clamoured for a chance at cross-country skiing all last season, but it just wasn't in the cards (scheduling conflicts, workflow, etc.). I wonder now whether it there was some sort of predestination going on, because when it comes to locations, Vancouver Island's Mount Washington has some of the finest nordic skiing in North America. There's over 55 km (34 miles) of world-class groomed terrain that weaves in and around the resort as well as the scenic park lands that surround it.
Having never cross-country skied before, I thought it wise to latch myself to a quality, veteran guide, one who could show me the ropes while giving me a bit of a taste of what Mount Washington is all about. I couldn't have found a better teacher than Bill Perry, a cross-country skier of 55 years and a former silviculture forester.
Whether he sensed trepidation on my part or not I'll never know, but Perry began our lesson by refuting one of the biggest myths of nordic skiing. "Most people think of hard work when they think of cross-country skiing, when in fact the goal is exactly the opposite," Perry said. "Cross-country skiing is about being as lazy as possible."
This assertion sounded funny and a little contradictory to me at first, but once I understood Perry's intention, it made a lot of sense.
The crux of cross-country skiing , I've learned, is form. Although this is the case with most physical activities, it rings especially true with cross-country. Without proper form it can be an exhausting experience. Until you learn to embrace your own momentum, cross-country skiing can turn from a fun activity to a seemingly endless chore. But once you have the proper movements down, it becomes almost effortless.
Or so Perry tells me. I certainly didn't get there in one lesson.
"One of the aspects of the sport I find so rewarding is that you can constantly refine your technique. I've been doing this for 55 years and I'm still working at it."
That might sound intimidating to some, but for people like Perry and myself, what that means is a lifetime of small challenges. It's exhilarating to accomplish a goal, no matter how small, and with nordic skiing there are enough small challenges to last you, well, 55 years.
With the amount of snow at Mount Washington (this sign is about six feet tall), conditions are always fantastic.
Perry took me through a series of exercises during our one-hour lesson. Whether it was keeping my weight over my knees during a stride or learning the proper release of my poles during extension, each seemingly minute detail had a large effect on the ease and effectiveness of my movements. It was fascinating.
So much so, that, at the conclusion of my lesson, I barely realized how hard I'd worked.
"It's an activity that makes you feel fantastic. You're working your body and, if you're doing it right, you hardly even notice it. And with all this beautiful scenery it's easy to distract yourself."
It's that feeling you get from a really great run, but instead of looking at pavement and buildings and garbage you get to enjoy gorgeous forests and snow-peaked mountains. I can't think of another aerobic activity I've ever had so much fun with.
When I returned from my lesson the first thing I said to Doc Pow was "You've created a monster today." Just 30 minutes after I was finished I was dying for more; thanks to Perry and the wonders of Mount Washington, I'm a nordic skier for life now. Only one lesson and I can say that with all the confidence I possess.
If you've never tried cross-country skiing before I implore you to give it a shot, and if you're a veteran of the sport, then you ought to visit Mount Washington. It's something that anyone can enjoy, especially those who have left their downhill days behind them. It's a fantastic afternoon, an invigorating workout, and a scenic tour all rolled into one. What's not to like?
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