Breaking Trail


I got on my skis today. The past couple of days have been filled with freezing fog, but we escaped up valley this morning and emerged into a blue sky world. The trees on the ridgetops are frosted with rime ice–the coating that comes from the frozen moisture in the air. We had snow ranger work to do out of the truck, but at the end of the plowed road we needed another mode of travel.

Skis float over the snow. The amount of flotation depends on the size of the skis and the density of the snow. The snow is fairly dry and powdery and unconsolidated. It’s about 18″ deep, and a person walking sinks. A skier in untracked snow has to break trail. As I skied, I sank down with each step-slide, then lifted my leg back up and forward. Step-sink-slide. That’s the rhythm. I was the first one through the Salmon la Sac ski route, and I was looking for trees that had come down in the last windstorm. I found three that will need to be sawed out before the trail can be smoothed and groomed. I broke trail for maybe a mile. After awhile, it starts to feel like heavy work.

When you ski where the trail has been broken, you don’t sink as much. The track has already been made. It’s much less of a slog, and the skis glide better. I feel like I am remembering that I can fly after a long time of walking on uneven ground.

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