Night skiing on a narrow logging road may seem like it’s just for advanced skiiers. Turns out, it’s also good for terrible beginners like me.
With only the moon and a headlamp illuminating my path, the vision I have of tumbling down the steep road is largely gone. After all, I can’t actually see the rest of the road. All I can see is the four feet or so in front of me. Which is where I am looking at my skis because they are crossed.
Hailing from Saskatchewan doesn’t usually help your odds of being a good skier. But I’ve always been an adventurer. When some friends told me about their journey up 5-Mile Hill adjacent to Valemount, I said “Double Yes!!”
An hour and a half later, by the time I got to the top, I was thinking “Double No!!” I can’t do this! I whined. I hate skiing! Who would strap boards to their feet? Having just bought new skis, however, I was committed to trying. Also, I didn’t really have a choice. I’d just sweated up a very large hill on skiis (imagine hiking with really heavy shoes) and my knees were in extreme pain when I snowplowed.
Oh, I hate it when the universe conspires to make me learn new things! No, No!
With no actual ski hill in Valemount (one with a lift of some kind), beginners have limited options. Ski touring on 5-Mile is considered by many to be the best local option. The road is groomed regularly for skiing, new snow provides wonderful powder, and the narrowness forces a beginner to learn how to make tight turns – or else.
Part of learning many sports is trusting yourself to stop. As I drifted towards the road ledge, stiff as a constipated snow elf, the adrenaline and my ankles seemed to harmonize into my skis turning away from a precipitous fall. I’m probably exaggerating about the fall – constipated skiiers don’t go very fast, and it was no different from many ski hills I’ve visited.
The day time is probably a much better time to ski 5-Mile. But taking away good vision probably forces you to use your other senses – to recognize the pressure on your boots, the various forces that kept making my skis cross, the pressure of my skis against the snow as I turned…
Ski touring involves not just going downhill but also going up using “skins.” This equipment can be expensive, but friends have found some very reasonably priced gear second-hand.
If you are new to skiing and interested in joining me in the constipated snow elf club, you can find a new group on Facebook called Ski Touring Valemount. The group includes sled skiing too (where you reach the top on a snowmobile). See you (or hear you) on the slopes.