Ski Season in February!
Short and intense is the life of a ski retailer and ski lover. We wait for our wonderful parks to cover their manmade trails with feet of fake fresh snow. Finally, real snowfalls randomly after the new year and stick just long enough for us to enjoy the natural trails and explore our Mpls lakes on skis.
Then the Birke arrives, again! A focused ski season is topped off with Gear West’s Birke wax service, an indoor expo, and of course, the BIG events. Then poof…Skiing pretty much ends after that.
Having been in the ski business for 38 years AND loving ski racing for nearly as long, I become a bit reflective at this time. A few thoughts for this year:
The Nordic-Happy spirit that is fueled in part by Jessie Diggins successes, has injected a lot of cheer to this Nordic community. Actually, the classiness of all the American Nordic skiers including our local Olympic couple, Caitlin and Brian Gregg and our Gear West ambassador Alayna Sonnesyn increase snow excitement as well as technical knowledge into the ski community. This wellspring of ski enthusiasm continues to spill over into all things Nordic. Check out “The Trail Runner’s Guide To Skiing “about xc skiing.
What I see and feel now is excitement for cross country skiing in all its forms, family skiing, youth skiing, kids skiing, ski racing, and for sure, with all these Covid dogs, skijoring. The younger generation is carrying the torch now and I love the character of the those emerging. Alayna Sonnesyn, our local skier has won the Women’s skate Birkie three times and is aiming for her fourth exudes Nordic-Fun. The warmth and willingness of Alayna to give back to her Midwest community and to Gear West (one of her sponsors) inspire us. We support her and will continue to do so, not only for her WINS but also for her cheerful stamina to energize every skier she encounters.
MY next, “wow another Birke!” thought? AGE and a more positive way to embrace our evolving ability to ski. Growing old is nothing new to the world, but it is to me. With 31 or is it 32? years (Yikes, I forget!) of racing the Birkie, participation memories tumble all over my mind. Birkie in the mid-80’s transitioned us to carry kick wax in our pocket should our legs tire from 52k of the new skate technique. We skated on classic skis whose tips we sawed off to create what is now the shorter skate ski. The Birke 90’s found my mindset a serious race to win focus. (Second place was my claim to fame). Children, and getting them (happily) to the Barnebirke start line on time, was the next daunting challenge. And the ski adventures continued too much snow, minimal snow, and cancellations… broken skis, and fast skis. Each Birkie created new stories, laughter, and an excuse to eat a lot. The Birkie is mentally easier for me now because gratitude for the ability to still ski race supersedes most of my prior, self-imposed performance goals. But physically, tackling fire tower and Bitch hill, plus the never-ending lake becomes tougher.
My goal as time ticks by? I must avoid apologizing about becoming old. “I still love to ski, even with this old body” should be replaced by “Ya baby! Watch me move!” Of course, not everyone fits this mold, and if you wear your age proudly, way to go! Yet for us athletes over 50, it’s hard, isn’t it? How often I hear my mature Gear West customers state, “Well, I am old but….” Or, “I can’t ski the way I used to so I don’t deserve…. (fill in the blank). If your mind desires to ski more than your body can ski, I say, “Thank goodness you stopped by the store and let’s find you some super fun equipment to fit your goals.”
At the City of the Lakes Loppet event, many of my skiing peer group gathered at the start line excited to be on snow and chattering happily, yet most of us felt we needed to excuse why we were not doing
what we used to do. Apologetic phrases such as, “I can’t ski the long race”, or, I am not racing, only just cheering” (on snow, in the cold and on skis), or “I can only ski as fast as my old (or new) knees will allow” peppered our conversation.
Why do I fall into this “sorry I am old, I did what I could” pattern? Most likely because I own a youthful sports store with a way younger, faster staff, and I need reading glasses to operate the checkout counter. Of course, I am slower now at 62, why wouldn’t I be? My body has served me well over the years and it deserves to enjoy more rest, like my aging Doberman dog, Ace, who happily curls up on the couch after a two-minute house patrol stroll.
So, my musings on this ski season center around the healthy growth of this sport (as fragile as skiing always is, because snow and cold are still the most Important ingredients of skiing sustainability) and, from words spring thoughts, positive or negative. I (we) need to embrace out loud our continued enjoyment of all kinds of skiing, be it racing or just the joy of movement on snow on a chilly winter day.
To my friends who love skiing but with different priorities than in their early years, let’s celebrate! We can support and cheer on the passionate skiing youth and flipside, they can learn from us, how positive energy blossoms from a healthy outdoor lifestyle. The ‘younger’ skiers will always take over the front line of their Birke wave, but we all can own the podium. The winners are those who embrace the spirit of skiing, at all ages.