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Mt-Bikers: When It's Winter It's Time to XC SKI

January 31, 2011


Not to put too fine a point on it, but... Hey, you mt-bikers out there! When it's winter and you live in snow country it's time for you to SKI YOUR TRAILS. Your same trails. They're still yours. Don't go staying indoors thinking your trails are now closed. They've opened up again in a brand new way. Hit 'em again!

Winter is like summer only big sky, with much cleaner air. It's the same trails but all opened up. Don't neglect 'em! They'll miss you if you do.

A lot of skis these days are made for singletrack. There are whole rigs ready and waiting for you.

What ya do is get:

*a pair of touring boots with pivot cuffs

*midlength skis

* thrifty but light carbon poles (tell your shop to put big solid-face 80's-style baskets on em -- they may have to dig).

*a nice LED headlamp -- they're a dime-a-dozen now (didn't hardly exist 10 yrs ago!) and I'm sure glad they're here. Add some newstyle Lithium batteries to the mix and you're good for hours in the cold. Make your own lighted trails!

*your Camelbak MULE holds your picnic.

Did ya know that food and drink taste MUCH BETTER after an hour skiing in the cold? Try it! Twice as good as in summer! ...Alongside a flowing little river with icy banks. Rivers are crystal clear come winter. Lots of things are so clean. Don't miss out!

I recently had a table at the MMBA Expo -- the Michigan Mt-Bike Association annual get-together. It was fun presenting the singletrack message to them. Many got it already. Many didn't. Some said XC skiing was "too much work." -- That cracked me up! It sounds like a motorcycle rider talking to a mt-biker. Or they said the uphills were slow. Huh? It's all human power. The same engine that makes a mtbike fly makes skis fly.

When I'm doing the kick doublepole I feel like a leaping "Twilight" werewolf -- I get 30 feet per stride at speed, using all 4 limbs -- true allbody action. Did I say it feels good?


Another guy said if bikers want winter fun they only need a Pugsley. Sheesh! Talk about overhead. I'm sure they're sweet bikes. He also thought they'd be lots faster than skis. Well, it all depends, of course. 50km ski races run about 2 hrs -- that's a 15mph average. That's a nice bike pace no matter how ya cut it. Now that's skating. But classic-striding-diagonal only goes 10% slower when you know what you're doing. But, sure, on rolling, technical terrain a bike is faster, but skis still give TASTY GLIDE. It's all relative: as long as something seems to be giving back more than you're putting you know the magic is working for you. Whenever *I* ski that's what happens. A million snowfreaks worldwide probably agree with me.

Then there's the cheapskating, I hear. They don't want to spend another $300 for something they'll only occasionally do. But once they have skis -- or even start hitting up the park for $5 rentals -- they'll keep skiing. You don't need to garage-sale dirtbag the ski scene. Do it right and it'll pay off.

I've gotten in about 30 outings this season so far -- an average of every other day all winter. That amortizes any ski price quicklike. If you get the best stuff, it's probably $1 per outing over the life of the rig.

I only have to go as far as my local park and hiking trails. That's about 2 minutes away for me. Probably not much farther for most folks. There are lots of parks out there. Trails that are dull for bikes or closed to them still give TASTY glide. 'Course you don't need trails. Rivers and lakes and fields and golf courses all deliver the floating ski glide magic. It's water-walking, in a way.

Also, it's part of the base price-tag of living in snow-country. As a resident you're obliged to have, yes, a bike or three. A canoe. Boots, running shoes. And XC skis. That's your baseline. Do not complain! They are your tickets to paradise. You are BLESSED to have such chances as the seasons roll by. Feel free to add a sea kayak to the mix, say. Rollerblades. You know the drill. These things tend to last a good while, don't they. A small sailboat never hurts. Pump shotgun with slug barrel, fishing pole, a bow, a pellet gun. Do you like the outdoors, or what? Are there 4 seasons out there? You only go 'round once.

Anyway, XC isn't just about groomed ski areas that are an hour away. It's not just about skinny toothpicks in tracks. That's all fun. But a more versatile rig is your mt-bike of snow. It's ready for jumps, for tele-turns in the meadows.

C'mon, join the fun!

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