I usually go cross country skiing on groomed trails at Soldier Hollow
or Sundance Resort
. But when my sister-in-law Chelsea invited me for a ladies Nordic ski trip up South Fork Canyon I thought it would be fun to try it out on the untamed snow. I didn’t quite know what to expect since I’m accustomed to just moving into the ski tracks if the trail gets too tricky.
Chelsea and I got to the meeting place first (Vivian Park in Provo Canyon) so we got out our gear to practice a bit before the other ladies arrived. The snow was falling thick all around and several powdery inches covered the path. All the powder slowed the skis down, even with the fresh coat of wax on our skis, but the slower pace was fine by me since I was still unsure of what to expect from the trail.
Soon Chelsea’s old college roommates, Hannah and Liz, arrived and we all piled into Hannah’s SUV to make our way up to the trail head. Big Springs trail head is up South Fork Canyon, an off shoot of Provo Canyon and a beautiful area. All around were pine trees and aspens, everything covered with thick fresh snow. We unloaded in the parking lot and headed toward the gate that crossed the road. The trail follows the unplowed road for a while then loops to the left, through a large meadow and down some steep switchbacks until you’re back at the trailhead.
Here Liz and Chelsea are all ready to go, but once they get going it doesn’t go so well for Chelsea.
I have quite a bit of experience on the snow. Usually it’s downhill snowboarding which is quite different than cross country skiing but I assumed some of the skills would cross over. On the beginning incline we all did quite well, although the snow conditions didn’t allow for great kick and glide technique. The uphill route was an aerobic experience leaving all of us sweaty under our snow layers. Chelsea, who was the least experienced skier in the group, fell quite a bit, but she wasn’t alone.
Halfway through the trail, we made it to a meadow with enough slope to try a little downhill skills. Liz, Hannah and I hiked up a little bit and staying in single file slid down the meadow, each of gaining more speed than the last. Since the snow was soft it took several trips to pack it down enough to pick up real speed. I went third and the speed I got was enough for me to know that I didn’t want to go again. The problem with cross country skis is that they are skinny and long which makes them awkward when you try to slow down via snowplow. Not to mention that once your skis are in the tracks of someone else the grooves make it difficult to move into a snowplow. My attempt at downhill skiing left me feeling out of control with my speed and although I didn’t fall, I didn’t want to try it again.
Once we moved on from the meadow we began the descent back to base. This part of the trail had more twists and some steep side drop offs that made cross country skiing a little tricky. I was grateful for the powder to slow me down because once I got going fast there wasn’t a lot I could do to stop myself. I snowplowed, tried going in the power, even pointed my skis toward the mountainside so that I would stop without falling. All of these tricks helped some but it did not prevent me from spending some time sitting in the snow. The worst part about falling isn’t suddenly finding yourself flat on your back or spitting snow out of your face. It’s trying to coordinate the huge sticks strapped to your feet so that you can stand back up without tripping over yourself again. Liz, who had taught Nordic skiing before, suggested the following for standing up with skis on.
- Place the skis parallel to each other and on the ground.
- Curl yourself into a ball with your weight over your feet.
- Plant your ski poles on each side of your skis and push yourself to standing.
These tips were definitely helpful, especially to curl into a ball and put your weight over your feet. I would’ve spent a lot more time on the ground if not for that.
The trail passed through trees, meadows and even some old farm equipment until finally we made the last turn toward the parking lot. Hannah, Liz and Chelsea all headed toward the car as I attempted to ski under the gate. After a day on the trail with fairly little problems I was surprised to suddenly find myself sprawled on the ground. I had tripped while crossing through the gate and with no grace whatsoever I was rolling on the snow covered parking lot, skis and poles splayed out in every direction. To make it worse another car was parked right by me with people loading in, watching me make a fool of myself. With as much dignity as I could muster I unlatched my skis, gathered my equipment and headed back to the truck, my face red with embarrassment. It’s one thing to fall while trying a difficult section of trail and quite another to fall in the completely flat parking lot.
Bruised ego aside, it was a fun trip and I would definitely try it again. Now that I’ve gone on an ungroomed trail I’m excited for next time. Hopefully I can make it without falling on my face.