I went night skiing with a friend for the second time last night. There's a park near here that has several kilometers of trails lit until 10pm every night during the winter, and with the light from the snow reflecting the moon and such, and the nicely groomed trails, it's pretty much wonderful.
The last time I was here doing night skiing was my first time trying to skate ski. I was totally awkward, to say the least. I managed no glide whatsoever. None.
But I've improved pretty significantly. I still struggle awkwardly, but for moments at a time on a flat or slight downhill, I hit a rhythm and float along pretty darned well.
So last night my friend and I were skiing along, and near the beginning was a hill, and it was fun. With skate skis, hills seem way more fun. I think this is partly that the skis have a different edge and so more control, and partly that I'm in a wider groomed area (not the grooves), and partly that I've gotten used to picking up one foot and moving it and them picking up the other (with skis) and so I can actually change direction slightly. Whatever it is, it's way fun.
I was getting tired, and so we decided to go to this one last hill. It was a pretty big hill for me, probably up to bunny slope difficulty for downhillers. So up we went. If you haven't cross country skied, you should know that there are a couple ways to go uphill. Really good skiers fly up the hills, using basically the same gliding that they do on flats, except with a bit more effort and a bit less glide. People like me do this V thing, a sort of reverse snowplow and step up the hill. It's awkward, especially for me, since being heavy for my weight, I need skis that are longer than they would be if I weren't heavy, so I tend to get the backs crossed sometimes.
I fell going up the hill. Happily, I fell forward, and since it was pretty steep, getting up just involved making my skis into a V and pushing up a bit. That was good.
And then I made it to the top finally, and caught my breath. It looked STEEP going down.
And then we went down. And I yelled something about the thrill of it all.
Of course, if this were a good fiction, there'd be some big happening along the way or at the bottom: I'd fall spectacularly, crash into a tree, end up in the hospital, and learn a life lesson. Or I'd hit a deer that decided to cross at just that moment, and end up in a hospital with a side of venison, and learn a life lesson.
But this isn't good fiction, thank goodness. So, I skied happily down the hill, contemplated climbing back up to do it again, decided against it and skied back toward the warming hut.
I practiced the going without poles for a bit near the warming hut, and then we went home. (I need to learn to push off more effectively with my skis, and then I'll depend less on pushing with my poles, and I'll have an easier time floating along. But it's hard and tiring to practice without poles, so I've started to do it a bit, just on flat areas. IF I were dedicated to getting really good, or getting good faster, I'd probably go poleless more and longer. But it's not as fun, so...)
And that was that. I'm beginning to wonder how much fun I'd have downhill skiing. I gather that downhill skis are even better at giving you a sense of control. And not having to V my way up a hill would probably add to the fun, too.
In conclusion, last night, I V'd up and skied down a hill that would have been too difficult for me a year ago. And it was good. Better than good, in fact.