I always wanted to learn skiing. No wonder, since my childhood idol was Adam Małysz and other ski jumpers, I also loved to watch alpine skiing on Eurosport on winter weekends. But after a few attempts, when my fear of speed and losing control destroyed the whole fun I just accepted, that I am just not gifted in this sport.
And then I decided to spend the whole winter working in a ski center in Norwegian mountains, in Nesbyen – a place called for xc-skiing paradise. There could be no better possibility to try it once again, especially when the xc-trail starts 200 meters from your home. I might not be talented, I will never be a second Justyna Kowalczyk, but now I will have enough time to learn at least the basics and be able to explore the amazing , unspoiled mountains around me. And of course, there is no better way to integrate with the Norwegian society than to learn cross country skiing!
Walking on thin ice
I started poorly. Mostly because I didn’t even waxed my skis. I always used waxless ski with a fish scale before, so I didn’t even realize how important that was. I was bravely fighting against the gravitation on the uphills and trying to gain control on the downhills. Somehow I survived 6 kilometers, but it didn’t help me with my confidence on the ski.
The second attempt was walking on thin ice. Literally. It was during the thaw and the tracks were icy as hell. One kilometers in these conditions gave me more stress than all the fuckups I ever had at any of my jobs (and I had many, believe me).
I was about to give up skiing once again, especially when I got borrowed a fat bike. – I will be a hipster and cycle the xc-skiing-trails, in spite of Norwegians – I thought. And it was fun, although the freezing toes.
But my knee didn’t quite like the tough uphills in the deep snow. And I really wanted to use my time in the middle of nowhere and spend more time moving outside. So I had a good reason to leave the comfort zone and keep trying to master the art of skiing.
I got some good advices from a Norwegian skiing instructor (thanks, Ove!) and a Danish who learned skiing as a 30 years old (thanks, Jan!) and now it was just about practice. And telling myself that the hills just look so steep in my head. (Imagination is a bitch. My mind loves to play a game called „look, this hill is so steep, you can kill yourself here”. People who’ve been with me to the mountains know what I’m talking about.) At first I was scared of falling. But according to horse Rafał’s motto – if you don’t fall, you’ll never learn. And honestly – you’re much more likely to hurt yourself cycling over 50 km/h and falling on the asphalt than skiing 25 km/h and falling on the snow.
There’s a mountain top, that I’m dreaming of…
As soon as I cought the rhythm and felt comfortable with the two boards attached to my feet, I started craving for a challenge. Mountain top tour. And not on just any mountain top – I picked Hallingnatten, the highest peak in the area (1314 m.a.s.l. may not sound very impressive, but 26 km and almost 600 meters to climb is quite a trip for a newbie).
I didn’t care that the forecast said it was going to snow the whole day. Better for me, it will be less painful when I fall on fresh powder. And, as the Norwegians say: there’s not such a thing as bad weather! It was much warmer than the previous days (-1 felt like a real heatwave after few weeks with temperatures below -10) and the wax I used wasn’t working. My skis were sliding like satan. I tried to put some „warmer” wax on and they stopped to slide at all, all the snow was sticking to them. Nobody said it’s going to be easy…
Into the white
The real fun started when I came above the tree line. Just fog, snow and cold wind. Everything was white. The light was so flat, that I lost the ability to recognize the shapes. I didn’t see the tracks, I couldn’t tell if the way is going up or down. Complete white-out. The sticks marking the trail were covered with ice and were blending into the white background, it was getting harder and harder to find the way. And there was not a living soul around me – just the spacious plateau, covered by a thick layer of white powder. No shelter, no civilization – just me and the nature.
I knew that when I get in trouble, I can always call my colleagues to come with a snow scooter and rescue me (perks of working in a ski center!), but if I get lost in the white, I will not even be able to tell them my location. Pushing 5 km more to the top doesn’t sound like a reasonable thing to do in these conditions. – Time to get out of here! – I said to myself and turned back. My tracks were already covered by snow, so I just hoped that I’m still on the right trail (it wasn’t obvious with my poor sense of direction). But I came home safely and realized, that I even enjoyed the downhills that would be terrify me just two weeks ago. I drank hot chocolate, ate a waffle and realized, that I just spent my Sunday like a typical Norwegian.
And the mountain is still there, waiting for me!