Canada is a cold place. As I type this, it is currently -35 degrees Celsius outside. As soon as you go outside, you cough, your cheeks turn numb and your snot freezes (I know…). My hair has frozen on several occasions, turning into little noodle-like wisps. So how should I deal with these freezing temperatures and the abundance of snow that accumulates over the 6-7 month long winter?
Join a Nordic ski team.
Why not? Montreal has a lovely big hill right bam smack in the middle of it. Similar to Arthur’s Seat, it’s a really great place to escape to when you feel like leaving the bustling streets of a city to relax. It also offers great cross-country skiing in the winter, and it is there that I have been learning to xc ski.
I joined the McGill Nordic ski team last semester for several reasons: I lived with members of the ski team, and so getting up to go to practice at 7am was less of an effort, I wanted to make the most of the snow and the cold, I wanted to ensure I did not let the cold Montreal winter stop me from going outside and not making the most of my exchange, and most importantly I wanted to try something new.
After training for a few months, the day came when I plonked myself on skinny skis and tried to move. It was hard. I’ve down-hill skied since I was little but cross country skiing is completely different. The skis are exceptionally light, skinny planks that you clip the front of your boot into. Your poles are really long. And instead of getting a lovely comfortable chair lift to the top of a mountain, you basically get there yourself, your legs and arms heaving yourself along trails.
There are two ways that you can cross country ski: you either ‘skate’, using a similar motion to ice skating, or you ‘classic’ ski, which is a running like motion in already carved out tracks. I tried classic skiing first. I went up Mount Royale at 7am one morning with a friend, strapped myself into these planks and went off. Slowly, but surely, I progressed, and as I made my way up the gradual incline I watched the sun come up between the trees. It was absolutely magical and an image I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been up Mount Royale countless times for a ski and a sunrise. A few weekends ago we went further north in Quebec to ski and we stayed in a wonderful cabin lodge. Everyone on the team is great and I have really enjoyed starting something completely anew. Albeit frustrating sometimes when I fall over and lie there in the snow in -20 conditions looking up at the moon with the fear of raccoons eating my frostbitten fingers, I absolutely love it.
I have decided to enter a few cross-country competitions over the next few months. It did take a lot of encouragement from my team members, but I’ve put my name down for several races.
Planks on, poles at the ready… Go team!