The Magic of the First Ski of the Season
During our first real snow of the season here in Vermont, I was stuck inside all day. It wasn’t until after the early December sunset that I had the chance to start slipping around on it. While it’s nice to take your first ski in the light of day, there was something fortuitous and enchanting about that first evening ski tour. As soon as I got the chance, I threw on a headlamp and a pair of well-loved waxless (or “fishscale”) skis and headed off onto the wooded, hilly trails that crisscross the nearby Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Historic Park. The air was crisp, and the stars were twinkling early. The better part of the moon was peeking out, and it was silent except for the fresh snow shaking loose from maple branches.
I wound my way up through the gently swaying trees to the first landmark of my route: a large mountain pond dug a century ago to provide water to the farms below. The fresh powder blanketed the ice, and in the starlight the whole oval depression was not unlike a moon crater. As I fell into a comfortable rhythm cruising along the rolling trail that circles the pond, I was struck, as I am every year, by how incredible skiing really is. In the dark especially, the feeling of soundlessly gliding across snow easily tricks your body and mind into thinking that you are flying frictionless above the ground. In a way, this is true: the snow provides a cushion on which your skis float, unbothered by anything so slow as solid ground.
As I continued breaking the first tracks across the ungroomed powder, I reflected on this special ability of cross country skiers to explore some otherwise remote wintertime wilderness. With just boots, poles and skis, it is possible to cross snowy terrain quickly, while having a blast along the way.
This point was driven home for me once I had climbed up from the pond to the summit of Mount Tom, which overlooks the picturesque village of Woodstock, VT. The town’s glowing lights—including the Christmas lights encircling the village green and draped across the Central Street trees—appeared to float amidst the black of the valley below. At the same time, perched on my snowy outcropping with the mountainside hidden in darkness, I too felt like I was floating, observing the glimmers of a mystical village from above.
Gliding quickly, smoothly through the trees back to my car, I was overwhelmed by the spectacular experience of the season’s first ski. Whether it was that night in particular, or just the fact that I hadn’t felt the unmatched sensation of sliding across snow in nearly a year, there was a magic to this season’s first ski—a reminder of the beauty and joy that cross country skiing has to offer.