I have to remind myself that skiing with a friend is not the same as training for the Birkie. The trails we ski are not the highly groomed, fast and populous areas where I put in mega kilometers and really push myself for technique and speed. And today was a prime example.
We chose the Porcupine Mountain Wilderness Area for today’s skiing. It’s perched on the edge of Lake Superior, and in the last few years they haven’t had good snow for cross-country skiing. Since the recent snowfall blanketed the Porcupines, we decided we should take the opportunity to try their trails.
It soon became clear that we were in a wilderness area, not a ski resort. The ski chalet reminded me of ski trips in my youth – rustic fireplaces and simple tables surrounded by families picnicking from coolers. Their definition of trail grooming was a bit loose. Yes, they were packed, but despite the designation as a classic ski trails, there were no classic tracks. We had a firm surface for skiing, but missed the solid tracks to keep our skis from slipping sideways.
Skiing through the woods, we saw side trails off to rustic cabins. We encountered one couple hiking through deep snow in the woods, searching in vain for their cabin, and hoping we could direct them. We’d passed it earlier on, and were happy to help. Further up the trail we saw a tent – sure enough, winter campers. We didn’t see many people out on the trails, but the footprints told us we were sharing the trail with hikers and shoeshoers.
We first headed out on the trail that parallels Lake Superior near the shore. It was quiet and pretty. The closer we got to the lake, the more moisture in the snow, which made it sticky. Add that to the other trail conditions, and this was going to be a slow ski.
The winds were forecast to increase all day long, and it was blustery near the lake. The thick snow on the trees was whipped through the air and it felt like skiing through bouts of blizzard. The best part of that trail was the short section where we could see the lake. It was already stirred up, and waves were crashing in on the rocks.
The more extensive trails wind around and behind the ski hill. We assumed that meant steep inclines, but were pleasantly surprised to find the trails were nicely undulating. They wove through the woods and the snow coverage was deeper there than near the lake. It was beautiful skiing.
The afternoon slipped by quickly, but the kilometers did not. Forward movement was earnestly earned by the effort required to overcome the stickiness of the snow. It felt more like walking at times. Nordic Walking with poles. But on skis. It was not Birkie training. But it was definitely an endurance workout. In beautiful surroundings.