October is a month where most people go out to a farmer’s field and pick pumpkins for Halloween. In Canmore, October is the month we start skiing. Skiing, with skis, and poles, on white(ish) snow, in spandex. Oh yes! Last winter the Canmore Nordic Centre staff made a large pile of snow. Then covered the pile with sawdust to insulate it throughout the summer months, keeping the snow until early fall. This was how Frozen Thunder was born. On October 13 the staff began spreading the snow out and making a trail. I skied officially for the first time in the new season on October 16 at 8:47. The final trail consisted of a 750m loop, and an optional climb to make the loop a total of 1km. Unfortunately the weather didn’t really cooperate that well. Unseasonably warm temperatures did a lot of damage to the snow and the joy of the early snow became a challenging workout. The sawdust that had kept the snow cool over the summer was now slowing the skiing down a lot. You would be gliding on your ski and suddenly have the ski come to a complete stop. Countless times the ski stopped so suddenly that I nearly ended up on my face.
With the early snow come two very unique sensations. The first is with the skis. Every time you begin to ski after a month, a week or sometimes a little as a few days of not being on snow, your skis feel incredibly long. You feel like a clown with shoes that are three times too big. Most skiers always take a second look at their skis to make sure they have the right ones on. Usually within a few kilometers, this sensation seems to fade away. You begin to get your sense of balance back. You trust your feet that they know what they are doing. You glide on a flat ski, kick off your inner edge and then land on the outer edge. After about an hour you are skiing like you had never left the snow.
The second sensation is a sense of freedom. All summer long we have been roller skiing, and with that you wear a helmet. Well, when you also ski the majority of the time with a rifle on your back this becomes awkward. Every time you go into a tuck your helmet and the barrel of the rifle collide. In order to tuck and still see where you are going, you have to crane your neck to the left or right. Picking a side is sometimes not good enough yet, and you have to twist your neck almost around the barrel to see straight ahead you. This is where the snow comes in. On snow we don’t wear helmets, so when you have the rifle on your back and you tuck, there are no problems. Your head is feel to move where ever. With a slight twist you can get the barrel to rest right by your ear and get much lower in a tuck which is faster but still see where you are going. It’s one of those feelings, where you forget about everything else around you for that brief moment. Like that perfect drive in golf, right down the fairway, that unstoppable shot, top-shelf in hockey or having a bite of that perfect freshly baked apple pie. Mmmmmm, pie!
Training has been going extremely well. All the pieces are now slowing falling into place as the race season nears. I’ve noticed a steady improvement in my shooting throughout summer. Shooting is the not the only improvement. Skiing technique was another focus point and it is looking good. Along with that my strength has increased. Now the focus is to take volume training from this summer and throw in some intensity. Slowly throughout the remaining training months we increase the speed and if all goes well all this equals a great racing season.
October also signifies Open Season. Yes, the hunt is on; for the first traces of natural snow. Will it be the long climb of Moraine Lake road or endless meadow of Sunshine or the sparkle of Silver Star or will temperatures drop to allow Canmore to extend its trail and its lead for skiable distance? I have to admit I have a daily regimen of checking the webcams and forecasts to see where the snowflakes will fly. With the few snowflakes we received here in Canmore today an old favorite popped into my head;
I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,
Just like the ones I used to know,
Where the treetops glisten
And children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow…
It may be a little early for tunes like this but the treetops were surely glistening this afternoon.