Most cross-country skiers heading to Tofte to ski the Sugarbush trail system are seeking the natural beauty of those lovely wooded trails. With extensive kilometers of well groomed trails, it’s one of my favorite systems on the whole North Shore.
But this time I have other motives. Faced with yet another snow drought year, I am seriously behind in my training for the Birkie and Mora Vasaloppet. Each marathon race is over 50 kilometers, and normally by now I would be skiing longer and longer distances to prepare. But it’s hard to get inspired without snow. While I should have been out skiing, I was still pounding the pavement in my running shoes. I was seriously lacked in seasonal motivation.
The latest snowfall finally fueled my passion. At long last I could walk across the street and head into the woods on my skis. It was only then, skiing on beautiful new snow surrounded by trees and forest, that I remembered why I love the sport so much. It all came rushing back, even if my form and technique was lagging behind. It rejuvenated my soul.
But alas, it was only a taste. The warm weather and thick wet snow made skiing arduous at best, and foiled the groomers’ attempts to tame the messy snow. Emergency measures were in order. Hence the trip to Tofte.
Ignoring the allure of the scenic woodland trails, I don my skis and head up Onion River Road prepared for a good workout. Unlike the woods, it is wide, has a firm flat surface, no bushes or branches sticking up through the snow, and grooms beautifully. The air is chilly, so the freshly groomed surface has set up perfectly, delivering virgin corduroy. I delight in being the first to ski on it. My skis glide over its surface and I immediately fall into a good strong rhythm.
It is my best ski of the season to date. It feels so good to push myself, to press through the uphill stretches and work on technique. I can taste those races, and know I am getting stronger. At last.
The further up the road I go, the more snow-laden the trees. The pines tower overhead, a stark contrast against the blue sky. It is intensely quiet, with only the sound of my skis against the snow and the squelch made by my pole plants. The wind whips against my face, refreshing as I grow warm with the effort.
It is the idyllic workout. Clearly this is no Saturday ski through the park. I am there to train. To further my endurance and to ready myself for the challenge. And what a place to do it. In the perfect outdoor fitness center.