Last weekend’s cross country skiing was invigorating. It began with our second lesson. Once the instructors had divided us up into groups again, the advanced group took off down the trail. My intermediate-group instructor told us to go ahead and get into the tracks and start moving, so I did. I moved along a bit, making room for the people behind me; apparently I made too much room. I stopped and turned around to see what we would be doing next and they were no where in sight. The advanced group was just a little in front of me and they, too, had halted to move into some specific teaching. Greg saw me looking lost and encouraged me to hang out with his group, saying he was confident I could keep up easily with their slowest person. It looked like the best choice at the moment and I never saw the intermediate group again.
Our first new skill was going down a slope without the Nordic tracks. The instructor tested the hill first and said it was slightly icy. Greg went down smoothly. Another young man went down slowly and carefully. A smiling woman went down. Two more of us were left. I offered to take the next turn and began cautiously, but with some hope since I have been downhill skiing this month and done decently at it. It’s not the same and the hill was very icy. I slid about half-way slowly, ending sideways, still able to stop. Then the instructor asked if I could make it just off to the side. My efforts lead to the beginnings of a Gumby twist, my skis crossed, and further movement was going to be a direct act of gravity. The instructor panicked and began grabbing me from all directions, making me feel like a 2 year old. I got frustrated with that and told him that if he didn’t let me try, I was never going to learn. He wasn’t convinced that was safe, making comments about having had students go “over the side.” Finally, he was satisfied enough to let go of me, but not before I was thoroughly embarrassed.
Once back up at the top of the hill, the emotion of the moment caught up with me and some tears proceeded to fog up my snow goggles. The instructor apologized for being a little rough and gave a pep-talk on not being worried about embarrassment. The other slower person decided the group was too much for her and abandoned me. The rest of us headed up the trail for more lessons.
If I was slowing everyone down, no one appeared impatient. We practiced some techniques for momentum on level terrain , then stopped at a side trail with a 45 degree incline. There were 3 ways, we were told, to get up a hill. The first was to run up on the skis. Greg took right off doing that like a grasshopper in the spring. The instructor called him “an animal.” I said, “Welcome to my life.” The next option listed was using the skis in a wedge. The other students did this after a short distance of the ski-running. The final method was to take off the skis and walk. The instructor accompanied me as I went up this way for the approximately 50 feet.
At the top, we saw the beginning of a gently winding alternate trail. It was much more powdery and I felt quite comfortable. I have done the Nordic skiing with a friend before the lessons, and then Greg and I had spent 2 hours skiing after the first lesson. I sailed along at what seemed to me to be a moderate speed, having been given the point position. The instructor seemed pleasantly surprised that I could ski at all and exclaimed that I had good form. I picked up a little speed on one longer downhill section, completely under control, and enjoyed the run. The next thing I knew the instructor pulled in front of me and was shouting wildly at me, “STOP! Laura!” I easily came to a stop right in front of him, smiling in my enjoyment. Then I glanced up to greet him and saw his rapid breathing, consternation, and heard him say, “Don’t scare me like that!” I looked at him quizzically until I realized he had thought I was out of control. Greg guesses that the way I dress added to the impression of lack of athletic ability, all bundled up like a newbie afraid of the cold and padded for falling.
The advanced-group instructor and I parted on very good terms, but I had already determined that my next lesson, beginning to learn skate skiing, would be with the intermediate group. That was today. He teased me when we were dividing into groups, picking me, like choosing teams, as his first draft. He didn’t put any pressure on me, and even made me feel like I would be welcome if I wanted to “be advanced” again. Maybe after a little more practice.