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Falling in love with cross-country skiing in the South Cariboo

Free Press reporter Fiona Grisswell returns to skiing after four decades

I’ve fallen and I can’t get up. That was my first thought as I lay in the snow at 99 Mile on my first cross-country ski trip in almost 40 years.

It seemed like such a good idea to get back into the sport.

Like riding a bike, right?


What had I been thinking?

There is no way these skinny sticks attached to my feet are going to stop me, I told myself, racking my brain for those old lessons on how to get up.

Thank god for Kelly Sinoski, my editor, who came out with me on this little jaunt. As she explained what to do all I could think was “huh?”

Eventually, her instructions filtered through my brain and I slowly lumbered to my feet with all the grace of a giant panda.

I survived falling, my 58-year-old mind thought in giddy relief.

Oh crap!

Moments later, I was sailing into the bushes on the side of the run.

Lying there on my back, staring at the sky, I began to laugh. So did Sinoski, aiming her camera at me.

Oh, great. My finest moments are going to be on display for all of the South Cariboo to witness.

I laughed, and told her, “You go - I think I’m just going to stay right here.”

Eventually, I managed to free my skis from the snowbank. No small feat as I somehow jammed both ends of the ski into the snow. (Who made snow so darn slippery, anyway?)

Once I was upright we set out again.

Skiing on the 100 Mile Nordics’ beautifully groomed runs is a far cry from the skiing of my younger years where we had to break trail when we couldn’t find a skidoo track to follow.

Despite my series of falls, it was so peaceful out there. It was probably one of the most relaxing days I’ve had in a while.

We were on the Gentle Giant, a five-kilometre beginner’s route lit for night skiing, but there are various trails for different skill levels. The Nordics have a long history in the area, with competition-sanctioned trails designed for the official race circuit. People from all across Canada used to come here to race.

The sport regained popularity again in the past few years. Last year, it held a Teck Northern Cup, an entry-level/training race for youth under 23. More than 60 people signed up. Teck Northern Cup #3 race will be held Jan. 28. (See story A2).

It seems people other than me are discovering the beauty of cross-country skiing, signing up for punch cards or annual passes with the Nordics, which has a lodge and rentals at 99 Mile.

The club currently has a membership of 263 people, a number expected to climb over the season.

On our tour, we met up with Emma Raine, a newcomer to the Nordics but someone clearly comfortable on a set of skis.

Watching her and Sinoski ski ahead with ease, I sighed.

Ouch! I’m going to feel that tomorrow, I thought, as my tailbone connected with the edge of a ski as I went down yet again.

Pay attention Fiona!

As I struggled to get up for the fifth time, I felt I’d had more than enough practice both falling down and getting up.

I realized though that falling is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s how you learn to get up. If you plan on going out on your own, it is a good skill to master.

And in the past, one of the joys I found in cross-country skiing was the peace of going on a solo run. But it’s also good to have friends along. Over the course of the afternoon, the two women became my unofficial cheering squad and instructors.

Eyes forward, back straight, hips over ankles, bend your knees, and lunge, lunge, lunge…..

I was skiing!

High fives and grins all around!

But I could sure use a break - falling is hard work! When we got to the Beanstalk Cabin, someone had lit a fire in the pit outside.

I was thrilled.

The Beanstalk and McGregor cabins are perfect places to rest and have some lunch. On a miserable day, you can light the woodstove inside.

But it was mild and snowing gently. We spent a few minutes basking in the magnificent view.

Time to get back on the skis.

I could feel my confidence growing, along with my appetite.

When I was renting my skis at the Nordics lodge that morning, it smelled amazing. I couldn’t wait to dive into a bowl of hot, homemade soup or chili, both on the menu that day. And maybe finish off with coffee and a cookie.

My right ski stopped. What the…..? I hit the ground again.

Sticky snow proved to be my nemesis. Naturally klutzy, I managed to twist my knee the wrong way getting up, aggravating an old injury.

Oh well done. I’d been having so much fun.

Slow and steady, like the tortoise in Aesop’s fable, I made my way back to our starting point.

The lodge was in sight as I took my final tumble of the day. I was tired and my knee was throbbing a steady beat.

Getting up again was no longer an option that afternoon.

I decided there was no shame to be found in shucking the skis and walking the last few hundred feet.

I don’t look at this as giving up. Despite being sore, damp, cold and hungry, I can’t wait to go do it all over again.

The Nordics Lodge at 99 Mile is open daily until 4 p.m. Rentals are available for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

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Fiona Grisswell

About the Author: Fiona Grisswell

I graduated from the Writing and New Media Program at the College of New Caledonia in Prince George in 2004.
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