Libby and I have been cross-country skiing since the late 1970s. Back then we had new skis and boots and there were a few informal ungroomed trails on Casper Mountain. We had a gang of people who skied and it was great, skiing on trails around the Girl Scout camp on the west end.
Four of us skied by the KTWO Radio broadcast tower near the camp on a full moon evening in 1980. It was almost like daylight at 10 p.m. and an amazing experience. As we skied by the tower two people from the radio station came out to us and gave us “Fifty Years of KTWO Radio” old fashioned transistor radios. What a unique happening.
My skiing prowess has peaked maybe mid ‘80s, and is on the downhill side of the curve, but in the late ‘70s I was in my first and last ski race. I fell in the deep snow a couple of times and was running last. There was what appeared to be a fifty year old lady ahead of me. (When you are twenty eight, fifty seems old.) I could see her. I thought it would be totally embarrassing to let her beat me. I almost caught her but fell on the hill down to the finish. We were both so slow that they had taken down the finish line banner and gone home so there were only a couple of people left to see my embarrassing last place finish.
Now the people we skied with have long ago moved or passed on. We feel quite fortunate to still be skiing, a lifetime sport. We understand in all we do that we are fortunate to every day be able to be active. Fifteen years ago we ran into a fellow we know who was seventy years old and we thought “Wow, he is old and still skiing.” Now I am much closer to seventy than sixty and we are still skiing. Wow.
We retired our first and favorite beautiful wooden twenty-year old skis a few years ago for new and improved ones. The new skis require no waxing, no tar, no torch for applying the tar and wax. They have a plastic fish scale tread which goes up hill and down with relative ease. They honestly work a lot better. The old wooden ones were faster but the new ones are more age-appropriate, the new ones are slower and so are we.
Then a few years later we retired our 30 year old three pin bindings and leather boots for new ones. We got new skis then too. The kid who sold me the new boots was younger than my old boots and his comment was “Yes, I have heard of those old lace up boots.” The new boots don’t hurt your feet like the old ones and are much warmer, new and improved. Great. The new bindings are tricky, however and it takes a lot of practice and retraining to get them on.
The ski trails on Casper Mountain are now maintained by the County and there is a ski lodge at the cross country facility. There are miles of groomed trails, some even have lights for night skiing. There is a course for the biathlon, a national training center for racers who ski and shoot targets. Awesome.
We have skied other places like Yellowstone where you have to dodge buffalo and Vancouver B.C. where you can see the ocean from the cross country trails, and know we are blessed to have such a great facility ten miles from home. It is sad that our long time ski friends aren’t here to share in the fun. It is really nice, however, to see parents with their ten year old kids skiing, kids who can ski better than me. Cross country skiing was limited here until I was in my late twenties. Maybe if I had started at ten I would be a better skier. And the ten year olds “skate” now. The trails are much wider and groomed now and you can push out with each foot like ice skating and glide much faster than the classic “slide one foot forward, then the other,” style. We old folks just try to stay out of the way.
Cross country is a great experience and one of the best activities for getting in and staying in shape. My bad back got worse in October of 2016, right sciatic nerve shut down. So we hadn’t skied since February of 2016 and really missed it. Eight months of physical therapy and steroid shots in my back and we are back on the trail. What a great feeling! I can whine a lot about my maladies but I remember all the people my age I know who can’t bike or swim or ski and count myself among the fortunate few old people who can.
You can’t beat the experience of skiing through the snow covered scenic woods, having fun and working hard, staying in shape, seeing deer, elk, buffalo, birds, squirrels, checking out the other old people who shuffle along like we do, some in/on their forty year old skis and boots. A great plus is that you can buy skis, poles and boots for $300 that will last you thirty years, that is $10 a year. And, the Natrona County season cross country ski pass is $35, about the price of lunch for one at some of the fancy ski resorts. We have skied five times so far this season, that is seven dollars a day and going down.