I love to hike. Therefore, I also love to cross-country ski. I’m just not very good at it.
I don’t let that deter me though, and every year I try to take the kidlets out for a few ski trips. We usually go to Jolley’s Ranch (just my speed and only a few minutes away) or Soldier Hollow, where we can pretend that we are Olympians as we raise our poles triumphantly while crossing the official 2002 Olympic finish line.
This year I decided to shake things up a bit, so Sarah, Emma, Sarah’s friend Josh and I headed up to Sundance for some back country fun.
The Sundance website gives the following directions to the Nordic Center:
“2 miles up Hwy. 92 from the Resort”
That’s all you get. Sounds simple enough, right?
I happened to know that Hwy. 92 is kept meticulously plowed in the wintertime, so I wasn’t worried at all about the fact that Big Bertha was refusing to go into four wheel drive. We wouldn’t need it on a plowed road.
We happily drove up Hwy. 92, admiring all of the fresh powder that had fallen. The canyon was gorgeous. We arrived at Sundance, and then kept on going the requisite two miles to the Nordic Center.
Here is what the Sundance people forgot to put on their website:
“The turn off to the Sundance Nordic Center is located two miles up from the Sundance Resort. After you have taken the turn off, you will be subjected to several more miles of the most ice-packed, uber-steep, twisting, narrow road you have ever encountered. If another car is coming in the opposite direction, one of you will have to back up. All the way. If your vehicle gets stuck on the super-icy uber-steep road after narrowly escaping death as a crazy jeep comes at you, you may be stranded forever and eaten by cannibals. Please don’t judge the cannibals too harshly. They, too, were once nice people until they became trapped on our road of despair. And whatever you do, do NOT attempt to drive to the Nordic Center without four-wheel drive. “
That would have been much more accurate.
Dear Crazy Jeep People,
Why you leave us to die out there all alone?
Luckily for us, I am resourceful. After half an hour of begging, pleading, kicking, and some truly awesome Suburban maneuvers, we made it to the Nordic Center.
The Nordic Center was a tiny yurt, half-buried in the snow. The only restrooms available were two blue porta-potties that smelled strangely like popcorn. Not that I would know.
And get this – they didn’t even have hot chocolate. No wonder their victims had to turn to cannibalism. Sheesh.
They did have plenty of skis, however, which they were more than happy to charge us a small fortune for.
By the way, there were several men in the yurt laughing about how many times they had gotten stuck in the snow the day before. It wasn’t just me.
We laced up our boots, and then I asked for a trail map.
The nice lady at the desk blinked at me.
Then she said, “Well, I guess you can take one of these (handing me a map), but all you really need to know is that if you point your skis downhill, you’ll end up back here.”
Sounds simple enough, right? (Where have I heard that before?)
We headed out the door, popped on our skis, and pointed them up the hill. We were off.
I have to admit – Sundance was breathtakingly gorgeous. The weather was perfect. The sun was shining while occasional snowflakes would fall from the sky. The trails were pristine. A few feet of snow had fallen the night before, leaving an untouched wilderness before us. The benefit of traveling all those icy miles to the Nordic Center was that we really were out in the middle of nowhere, and the solitude was spectacular.
We admired the scenery as we skied up the mountain.
And kept skiing up.
And then up some more.
Now, Jolley’s Ranch is mostly level. It’s great exercise for middle-aged moms. Soldier Hollow is comprised of rolling hills. You go up for a while, and then down for a while.
At Sundance, it’s all or nothing.
You can either go all the way up the mountain, or all the way down the mountain.
I very much enjoyed my trip up, but the youngsters were getting kind of bored by the lack of downhill activity. We finally reached the end of the trail. Literally. It just stopped.
So we turned around and started going down.
When you are cross-country skiing down a mountain where there are no rolling hills to break the ride up, you will soon start to go very fast.
Faster than the speed of light.
I am not exaggerating at all.
I never exaggerate.
We were flying.
This was a problem for me.
Take a look at this picture:
Do you see the parallel tracks on the left-hand side that are being ignored by all of the skiers? Those ladies can ignore the tracks, because they are awesome and they have skills. I am not awesome, nor do I have skills. It’s all I can do to walk and chew gum at the same time. Therefore, whenever I am going downhill, my skis must be firmly planted in the tracks, like this:
With the tracks, I am invincible. Without the tracks, I am lost.
Unfortunately for me, the trail-makers at Sundance do not understand my dependence on the tracks. In fact, their tracks regularly and somewhat arbitrarily disappear, usually at the most inopportune places possible, like curves. They expect their skiers to be able to maneuver the turns on their own. I cannot do that.
Especially when I am flying down the mountainside faster than the speed of light.
I’m not sure I can even count how many times I ended up face-first in the fresh powder after missing yet another turn.
And I wasn’t the only one.
At one point, an insanely crazy trail branched off of the only slightly less difficult trail that we were all zooming down in a state of complete out-of-controlness. At this critical juncture, the powers that be had once again decided that the tracks were no longer needed. So we made our own. Unintentionally. And then all four of us ended up piled up on top of each other in the previously pristine snow.
It wasn’t pretty.
Sarah began the trip looking like this:
About halfway through, she looked like this:
Notice she is still smiling.
By the end of the trip, she looked like this:
She may or may not be swearing in this picture.
I’m not even gonna tell you what I looked like.
Two and a half hours later, we made it back to the yurt, just in time for closing. Emma had arrived 20 minutes before the rest of us. She has skills, too.
And now, it was time to make the perilous drive back to the main road. I had spent the whole afternoon worrying about it.
My worries were not in vain. We couldn’t even make it out of the parking lot.
“Doesn’t this thing have four-wheel drive?” asked the nice man who ended up towing us all the way back to the highway. We only delayed four different cars (all with four-wheel drive) on our way back out.
It wasn’t embarrassing at all.
Joshua wants to go skiing next weekend. I think we’ll go to Jolley’s Ranch. It may not be glamorous, but the trails have reliable tracks plowed into them and four-wheel drive is not required to get there.
I’m gonna take the truck anyway.