Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Skiing at Crystal Valley

skier at Crystal Valley
Ellen breaks trail on the level Loop 1
by Joan H. Young

Ellen and I had planned to meet and ski on Saturday, but Mother Nature decided that we needed more snow, so we all stayed home and played blizzard instead.

Sunday we ventured to the Crystal Valley Ski Trails, not so very far south of Scottville. I’m always surprised at how close this is... only 15 miles... closer to me than even Ludington State Park or Pentwater Pathways.

When we arrived there were two other gals there, also members of the Oceana Cross Country Ski Association (they built and maintain these trails). So we all decided to ski together. Two of the fellows were out on snowmobiles. The snow was so deep and fluffy that they decided they had to knock it down a bit before they would even be able to run the groomer.

The four of us on skis headed out on Loop 1, the easy one. But these ladies were headed straight for their newly opened intermediate Loop 3. When we arrived at the turnoff we all headed into the brand new, unbroken snow. Did I mention blizzard? There was over a foot of new fluff, but just a little heavier... like powdered sugar.

“Let’s just go to the top of the ridge,” said Marijo. Now, the word ridge worried me right off. I am definitely not a great skier. Ellen keeps telling me that I have to stop calling myself a novice. But the truth is that I only started this skiing thing a few years ago, and even advanced intermediate trails turn me into a nail biter. (Except it’s harder through the mittens.) Some of the intermediate slopes at Big M almost make me wet my pants just thinking about seeing them on skis. But with the deep snow I figured no one would be making any fast descents. Or ascents.

We started climbing with Ellen in the lead. Pretty soon I took a turn, then Donna, then Marijo, and then we just kept trading off whenever the lead person got too tired. It’s kind of weird plowing through snow up to your knees, but sliding while you do it. The skis were completely invisible down there somewhere. When you were leader the going was tough... and we were climbing, and climbing, and climbing! When you were second it was noticeably easier, and when you were last you were skiing rather than shuffling.

I was the only one who managed to fall down... and I wasn’t even actually skiing. I was standing still trying to get out the camera and, PLOP, suddenly I was lying on my side. Darned ankles.

After we each had three turns at being leader we arrived at the top. And that top is about 100 feet higher than the easy loop. The consensus was that we’d cut out to the ubiquitous “Fire Tower Road,” to ski down. It had been traveled by a snowmobile or two, making it pretty good for the ski down. It wasn’t steep, and I was happy.

groomed trail through pines
freshly groomed trail on Loop 1
When we got back to the main trail, Marijo and Donna who are better skiers quickly disappeared ahead. Ellen stayed with me. But by then the guys had been down that trail with the groomer. It’s the first time I’ve ever been on pristine groomed trail, and we easily glided back to the parking area. Now I know what the fuss is all about. That was really nice!

So we were skiing for just over two hours. But of course when I got home the dog had to have a walk too. So before shedding my layers I switched boots and headed out on the snowshoes for a short walk. Whew... the emphasis is on short. Even with the snowshoes I was sinking 6 to 10 inches with each step. But we did a short loop, with Maggie leaping from tummy hole to tummy hole. She insisted on staying ahead of me rather than following in my tracks where it would have been easier.

Monday... I was a little sore, but who can complain. The snow is really beautiful. And more is coming today.

Oceana Cross Country Ski Association
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