Finding Real Winter

My usual routine on our ski trips is to get up early and ski before breakfast.  I love being outdoors early and “earning” the big feast always served at a B&B.  But with the winds howling, snow covering the roads and temperatures dipping below zero, it seemed prudent to modify that plan!  The acres of woods surrounding the B&B presented the optimal alternative – snowshoeing.  Susan and I bundled up in our warmest clothes, strapped on our snowshoes and trundled off through the deep soft snow.  The conditions were perfect.  Untouched fluffy snow blanketed our path and clung to the tree branches all around us.  No IMG_9494matter that we lost the trail after while and meandered in a crooked route around bushes and over logs.  We were protected from the wind and enjoyed soaking up our surroundings.  Only our noses got cold, and by the time we returned to the warmth of the B&B, we were good and ready for that hearty breakfast.

By the time afternoon rolled around, the wind had moderated and temperatures rose to a balmy 4 degrees above zero.  For our final ski of the weekend, we headed back toward Bayfield and stopped at Mt. Ashwabay Ski Area.  Because it was so cold, we chose to ski separately so we could each chose our own pace and not have to linger in the cold waiting for each other.  I eagerly chose my skate skis while Susan stuck to classic skiing for this outing, but I soon regretted my decision.  Once again, the grooming reports were on the optimistic side.  We were told that the trails were all groomed, but we neglected to ask “when?”  It soon became apparent that the answer was “before the last snowfall.”  While the classic tracks were nicely packed by earlier skiers, the skate deck was marginally used and full of fresh cold (read slow) snow.  As Susan glided along the smooth tracks, I forced my skies through the deep snow, chagrined that I was barely keeping ahead of her.

IMG_9506I can’t really hold the conditions against the ski area.  After all, we’d been praying for new snow, and boy did we get it!  And they were doing their best with limited resources.  Putting that aside, the trails were very pretty and the scenery improved even more when the sun peeked out mid-afternoon.  It was the first we’d seen of the sun all weekend, and it was a welcome addition.  As we were once again skiing around a downhill ski area, it was no surprise to encounter hills – steep ones this time.  I labored up those hills, and had to skate down them to keep my momentum going.  At one point, I reached the top of the chairlift and had no choice but to snowplow down a ski hill to reach the next section of trail – an interesting twist to the route.  Nearing the end of the day, my mind must have been as numb as my body was tired when I read the sign that said “Chalet 12k.”  I knew I didn’t have it in me to go that much farther, much less beat the impending dark.  So it was with great relief that upon closer inspection I realized it actually read “Chalet 1.2k” – whew!  Enough skiing for one weekend.

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