Putting the kick in cross-country
What: Baker Backcountry Basics
When: 6 pm Tue., Feb. 21
Where: REI, 400 36th St.
Cost: Free; register in advance
Info: 647-8955 or http://www.rei.com
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
“It’s the perfect way to fly,” my old trail crew buddy Tryg said as he jammed his ski poles into the snow and pushed off into the night.
He was right. Even moving uphill on a pair of heirloom Madshus 210s he glided over the groomers so quickly and with such little apparent effort that I spent the next three hours struggling to keep him in sight.
Technically speaking, it wasn’t a race. But due to the fact that we were in the Mt. Baker backcountry to express our mutual Scandinavian heritage just as much as our individual athletic abilities, I felt obliged to keep my kick-and-glide at a competitive level.
As usual, by the time I came herring-boning over the top of the first big hill, Tryg was already halfway down the run and shrinking fast—a tiny black dot in the snow.
Crouching into descent mode, I mashed my skis into parallel position and launched myself, full-speed, into the desired trajectory. There was no chance for me to overtake him on the Otto-Bahn gradient, but there was still enough time for me to catch him at the bottom of Chair 8 with my sense of Nordic pride intact.
However, despite my concerted effort to execute a near-flawless series of well-rounded Telemark turns on my metal-edged sticks, this mission proved decisively inadequate.
Tryg was already bounding a fair piece up Daytona when I came snowplowing into the slow zone at the bottom of my run.
“What were you doing back there, taking a nap?” he shouted, echoing from above.
“Not quite,” I replied, kicking into high gear. “But I managed to give my boots a nice polish.”
Those were the last words either of us spoke for several grueling hours. From that point on we let our skis do the talking.
Tryg swished and swooshed while I clomped and clattered, chewing into his lead with intermittent bursts. Finally, just below the lower junction with Big-Hemi, I managed to close the gap at feasible striking distance.
To his credit, Tryg never turned to look. Even as I heaved my flailing body astride him with a groan, he kept bounding along with his head bent robotically forward flexing his legs and extending his torso with mechanical precision.
For about five minutes we continued to pace each other in a tit-for-tat dead heat until Tryg finally slipped hard enough that I squeaked ahead. I wanted to scream for joy, but was sucking so much air that my windpipe wouldn’t allow it.
Although I held the lead all the way to Easy Money—which was good enough to claim the speed trail portion of our evening—Tryg walked away with the title.
We were cruising down the final leg of Nose Dive, making tandem Stem Christy turns toward Raven Hut, when Tryg lifted his right ski to a conspicuous height and managed to grab hold of it long enough to let his momentum carry him over the next rise. He didn’t even wave goodbye.
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