For twenty four years in a row we have maintained our tradition. Without fail. There have been years of sickness, but we overcame it. We had small children at home – five between us – but still we escaped. Snow failed to materialize, but we went anyway. Jobs were stressful and demanding, but we left them behind. A lot has changed over the years, but Susan and I still get away for our annual cross-country ski weekend every year.
This year’s venue was Golden Eagle Lodge, on the north side of Bearskin Lake on the wonderful Central Gunflint Trail Ski System. We stayed in a lovely cabin aptly named “Trailside” and took full advantage of our proximity to the 70k of XC ski trails at our door.
It wasn’t long before the weekend’s unique qualities began to reveal themselves. And as each new challenge presented itself, we coined a new term. It seemed better than complaining, and far more fun.
Adaptability It’s the characteristic needed when things don’t turn out as expected. Like the gas fireplace that ceases blazing after the office closes at night. And your figure out it’s the only source of heat in the cabin. Or when the enormous clumps of snow that once graced the tops of the pine trees melt enough to fall, creating tree avalanches that obliterate the ski trail with icy mounds. Or topple weakened trees across the trail. It’s the turn-on-a-dime trait that comes in handy for revising ski plans to take advantage of trails that have been groomed in favor of those still coated in refrozen snow. It’s figuring out how to use a percolator when you’ve only ever made drip coffee.
Lurch This is what happens when the snow gets warm and wet, and ices up the bottom of your skis. It creates a huge snowball underneath your foot, which effectively stops all forward progress. Your body lurches forward with the momentum of your former glide, while your ski remains firmly planted in the ski track. And an inane sound escapes your lips as you try to regain some sense of balance (and lose all hope of retaining any dignity).
Perseverance It keeps you going when you realize you have chosen an overly ambitious distance to ski given the sticky snow conditions. It makes you move when you fear you will be finishing your ski in the dark, and your headlamp is still back at the cabin. It becomes your strength when you are dead tired after dragging your snow-bound skis across the snow (and lurching). Its mantra sounds something like “think of crisp, chilled Chardonnay waiting for you.”
Yet for each challenge the rewards were many. Skiing at sunrise, watching it paint the sky with orange stripes. Baking in the heat of the sauna, letting our aches drip away. Sunny days, warm temperatures. Talking, sharing, laughing caring. Sipping that Chardonnay.
It’s a rare friendship that endures this long. Perhaps it’s even more rare to keep up a tradition this long. But we’re unlikely to miss next year’s milestone – 25 years of skiing together. And so much more.