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Wanderer at Rest: A pizza and French fries update

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By Jamie Balke Explore Big Sky Columnist

In a previous column, I described my reticence about downhill skiing. Basically, I have very limited experience, and words like “tree well” and “avalanche” inspire a fetal position-inducing terror. All I have going for me in the face of mighty Western mountains are the pizza and French fry ski techniques.

In an effort to get over my fears, I’ve been making baby steps toward the ski hill.

My first few winters in Bozeman, wanting to actively participate in the season, I stuck mostly to snowshoeing. By this I mean snowshoeing in flat open fields, devoid of the topographical variation I associate with imminent avalanche death.

About once a year, I attempt cross-country skiing. Last year, I went with a friend who is patient and kind, but also very coordinated. I, in contrast, spent at least 10 minutes failing to get my rented boots and skis to click together.

Finally clicked in, I loved the first half of the trail. Cruising uphill through a beautiful snow covered pine forest, past stunning vistas and happy skiers, I thought life was pretty grand.

However, having made my way up to these vistas, I then had to navigate down, another proposition entirely. I crashed and burned frequently, leaving Wiley Coyote-esque body prints smattered about the landscape.

This year, a different friend equally terrified of avalanches and cross-country skiing down gentle slopes convinced me to take a series of cross-country skiing classes with her.

Two classes out of five into this clinic, and I’m already feeling quite a bit better. Thankfully, it turns out that my limited experience with pizza and French fries still applies.

The first class began with the instructor eyeing us skeptically as we described our lack of experience on skis. He handed out our equipment and suggested we might want to walk down to the practice area. Armed with my lucky hat, I tried not to take it personally.

Under the instructor’s tutelage, I clicked my boots into my skis on the first try. So far, this has proven a good omen, and our classes have been enjoyable, filled with what I will optimistically describe as progress. At the risk of jinxing myself, I’ve only fallen once, and now know the proper technique for picking myself up off of the ground to avoid wild flailing.

Although I’ve not yet worked up the courage for downhill skiing this season, I’m sure that working on my Nordic technique is a step in the right direction.

Balke’s boyfriend recently told her that people sometimes ski in snorkels, on account of deep powder. She is wondering if he was messing with her, or if that is in fact, a thing. If so, she thinks the possibility of breathing snow is another compelling reason to avoid this sport.

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