When we talked about writing this blog, I asked Ryan how he would describe cross-country skiing. The first thing he said was “challenging.” The second thing, “addictive.” It was certainly both for us. In the days after our first two-hour lesson, we were both sore. Muscles we have probably never used ached. It was the good kind of soreness that you feel after you have had a nice long run. We have woken up every day since that first lesson wanting to do it again.
There are two basic types of cross-country skiing. There is the skate style skiing, which involves shifting weight from one ski to the other in a skating motion. The classic style, that we tried is performed on prepared trails that have pairs of parallel tracks carved into the snow. The skis used for cross-country are slimmer. These very thin skis fit into the tracks and require the skier to kick straight back lifting only their heel. Both varieties are among the most strenuous cardiovascular workouts one can do.
We all started all a little shaky but the instructor started us out slowly with exercises that had us skiing without poles tossing a ball back and forth to improve our balance on the skis. The first day was very challenging but also fun and exciting. The difficulty of learning this new skill was made to seem easier by the breathtaking views all around us. Whenever we stopped to take a very cold breath now and then we also took a look around at the beauty of the mountains that surrounded Kandersteg.
The pictures below are of Kate and Brian learning plow on the down hills (left) and learning the proper form for going uphill (right).
It started to snow again about half-way through the lesson. It was beautiful. The thick white flakes made it more difficult to see as it covered our glasses but also provided a little more traction for the skis.
On the second day, we had a new instructor. He pushed us a bit more to try new things, to go faster, to try bigger hills. He seemed to work well with the four of us and our individual skill levels, which we needed since of course the four of us all had our separate strengths and weaknesses.
The second day was probably my favorite because everything just sort of clicked. Approximately a foot of snow fell the day before so there was much more traction and it seemed a bit easier on the uphills. Even plowing on the downhill was a little easier with the fresh powder. Though, I would never say cross country skiing was easy by any means. It was probably the best workout we’ve had and each session lasted two hours!
On the last day of our lessons, we all went out to ski for a couple of hours on our own. We tried two new trails that we hadn’t see before. One took us through a residential area, over pretty bridges and down hills that I wasn’t really ready for. The pictures below are of one such hill. At the top of the hill, we joked about falling. Then near the bottom of the hill, the track I was on ended. We hadn’t learned what to do when the track ends (we would learn that in our third lesson). So, the second picture is a real fall. When my track ended, I opted for falling in the soft snow, which was actually kind of fun. So much so that I skied back up the hill and did it again!
On our last day, I spent a lot of time looking at Ryan’s back and then just trying to find him. He was FAST! The instructor showed him a few extra moves to challenge him. Ryan made quick work of all of the hills so when I twisted my ankle at the end of class and Brian was tired from moving so quickly on the hills, we cut our lessons short by about 10 minutes. However, the instructor had something more in store for Ryan. They skied FAST. Faster than Ryan had gone the previous days. He could just barely keep up. They went back to a tough hill that we had skied earlier in the day. Ryan was grabbing mouthfuls of snow to hydrate but he did keep up. When he found me later in the hotel lounge, I had never seen him so tired, sweaty and out of breath… still out of breath. Still he loved it and wanted to go back for more the next day.
Even with all the falling and the sore muscles, I’m already looking for our next ski destination! Next, we try down-hill skiing! Neither of us liked it the first time we tried it but maybe our tastes are changing. We have to give it a shot!
We learned one more thing later when Stefan stopped by the hotel to check on Kate and me. The Swiss German word for bruise literally translates to “blue kiss.” We all left Switzerland with lots of kisses… blue kisses, purple kisses, green kisses, even red kisses.