Ski to Sea
Solace on the slopes
What: Ski to Sea
When: 7 am Sun., May. 26
Where: Mt. Baker to Bellingham Bay
Wednesday, May 22, 2019
For lord knows how many years, my longtime snowboarding partner, P.T. Crinkle, has relished basking in the glow that comes from playing a starring role on a local team of outwardly mellow but secretively competitive Ski to Sea racers.
This situation appeared unchanged as recently as a couple of months ago when, during a late-night stargazing session at a remote backwoods location, he started griping about how his teammates had “coerced” him into doing the cross-country ski leg so that their primary sponsor’s freshly minted son-in-law from Vermont could take over the downhill this year.
Prone to perpetrating all manner of bamboozlement, neither I nor anyone else on our expedition could reasonably be expected to guess that maybe, for once in his life, Crinkle might actually be telling the truth.
Soon—barely discernible through the flickering glow of our lantern—I saw a protracted grimace wilt across his face and he heaved a sigh so tangibly loathsome that it made everyone within earshot feel like the sky was about to fall.
But still, we doubted.
If listening to decades of Crinkle’s tall tales had taught us anything, it’s that once he pulls you into his narrative it’s only a matter of time before he finally lets the cat out of the bag.
Only on this go-round, the bag never opened because the cat was already out. For the first time in 25 years, the joke was on him, not us.
“I’m supposed to be the downhiller,” Crinkle blubbered, shaking his fists in righteous fury. “I was born to downhill and I’ve been downhilling my whole life. Downhilling is all I know. Slap the skinny skis on me and I’m lost! Slap the skinny skis on me and I’m going to humiliate myself.”
Inevitably, being the only current practitioner of cross-country ski techniques in his immediate circle, it fell on me to hook him up with the necessary gear and dish out a few lessons.
By that late juncture in the season—with the Mt. Baker Ski Area about to close and Memorial Day weekend zooming in fast—a tangible sense of urgency pervaded the proceedings.
Concentrating on laying down a foundation of basic kick-and-glide fundamentals, I moved to instill proper braking/turning/striding methodology before ushering him into more advanced skating/racing/poling paradigms.
As could only be expected from a dedicated North Cascadian pow shredder, Crinkle proved to be a pensive but pliable pupil.
Last Saturday, after training hard the previous few weekends up at Heather Meadows, he finally felt confident enough to shadow me out to Artist Point, where spring sun melt turned the top few inches of snow into velvet carpet and sooty grouse drummed so amorously from treetops that we could feel the slopes vibrate beneath our backs as we laid luxuriously upon our outstretched jackets and napped.
Not only is my cross-country neophyte fired up to compete in the opening leg of Sunday’s race, but he also looks forward to finishing it with newfound style, integrity and precarious grace.
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