learning to skate ski at wolverine village first ever cross country, birkie training

I'm sorry, this is going to be a bunch of words with no pictures once again...

Just finished the first part of my "year" or "season" this year. This year I started riding December 1st of last year, if you know what I mean. I've mostly just been commuting. In fact, I've only missed a couple days. No empirical evidence or anything like that, but I like the idea of more shorter rides all the time rather than 2 or 3 long ones per week. Makes some sense that the long rides are more likely to make me sick and no more beneficial. I may have taken that idea a bit to the extreme, but I've been keeping it light and having fun.

Next up I'm going to increase the hours a bit while the temperature rises. It's conveniently about 10 more weeks to the beginning of May (half way there). Come May I plan to be starting to feel pretty organized. May and June are what it's all about for me right now. My schedule is shaping up to look very very similar to last year, something I said before I wouldn't do... but when I said that I was only thinking about my performance. I had a great time last year and this is all about THAT, so why not do it all again. Hopefully do it all a bit better too. Also, I'm not stupid and I've plans to tweak a few things in order to better prepare myself for the challenges of the wide range/mix of races I want to do. The big change from last year will be that I'll be doing some road racing over the next 10 weeks. Yes, I said road racing. I bought the bike, paid my $30 for my license, 4 races on the my schedule, start in two weeks, wish me luck!

picture stolen from google- is of the wolverine xc trails, so almost legit

I made it up to the wonderful Wolverine Village again this weekend (wolverinevillage.com if you're interested). I'd called Bob a couple of weeks ago about my bike touring trip this June, making sure I could mail myself some stuff so I could resupply at his lodge. While on the phone he convinced me that I should come up and learn to skate ski. I figured it might be fun and the chance to get world class instruction, lodging, terrain and conditions just 5 hrs from home doesn't come along all that often. For what it's worth, my Dad used to be Bob's Alpine coach and Bob still refers to him as coach even 30+ years later. Seems an odd thing to say, but it's nothing new either- Dad's got an almost cult-like following amongst his athletes. Anyways, after a short career as a "pro" skier Bob switched almost solely to cross country and had some very very good results as an athlete and as a coach. It was going to be an honor to learn from him. For good measure I also convinced Dad to come up, hit Indianhead with me in the mornings and do whatever else (we'd end up going on a long night hike with a messed up map, never finding our destination... saving some snowboarders from a huge towing bill with our ingenuity after they tried to drive their civic in 2' of snow, and learning about turn of the century Lake Superior Gillnet Tugs after seeing on in the Black River Harbor).

One time in 7th grade I'd gone classical xc skiing. This was my first time skate skiing. Bob showed me how to get into the bindings, told me he wouldn't watch me until "later", and took off to find good snow. We made about 40 laps of the same 100 yard section. Each time he would give me something to think about/watch about his technique. Always he would go in the front and not watch me, in order to let me find my own feeling without extra pressure. After that first 45 minutes we went up and down a 150 yard hill about ten times. At that point he watched me ski about 3 steps and told me I needed to better synchronize poles and skis (I could have told him that...). The key would be to plan the poles as I set my ski down to glide. We worked on that for the remainder of 2 hrs.

Day two immediately felt a lot better- conditions were incredible (groomed, soft, fast) and I was right away able to get good balanced glides and better coordination with my arms. I think I surprised him with my progress. We ended up skiing all the Wolverine Village trails after another focused 30 minutes of practice. Throughout the whole trail system he always had something for me to focus on. I think I got better every 5 minutes. It was pretty exhilarating... until we got about 3 km from the lodge and my arms just died (I actually can't lift them over my head as I write this).

Bob is learning Spanish. This means that he gave most of my lesson in both Spanish and English, first with the Spanish for him? then a translation for me. Kept me on my toes. Funny part is that it actually led to him falling. I just finished the book "Born to Run" and a researcher referenced in there found a huge link between running/balance and language learning (the roots of language in our evolutionary history). When Bob couldn't think of the right word in Spanish and fell over it pretty much confirmed that link for me, no more research necessary.

After the first day Bob had decided I didn't look "right" with my purple flannel on, so he gave me a really nice wolverine village jacket and hat to wear. Also, the equipment I had borrowed was all real good, top of the line, Atomic stuff. I'd joked with my Dad about how funny I would look with all the gear and no clue what I was doing... but we'd also both agreed that having none of the gear and not knowing what I was doing would have been just as bad... I didn't really care either way. About half way through the main loop we hit the bottom of a long uphill and paused for a bit of instruction before continuing on. Right as the trail really kicked up some guy caught up to us in full xc "kit". I immediately moved over to let him pass, but he didn't want to. 300 feet? of climbing later Bob stopped at the top to give some more instruction and the "racer guy" stopped to talk to us. He asked if we'd raced the day before... Bob said "no, we were taking it easy, just getting ready for next week (meaning birkie)". He asked me about my skis, and after a 10 second pause while I tried to figure out how to explain the situation, Bob said, "he loves them". He probably should have explained it was my 2nd day ever on xc skis and taken some glory for being a decent coach... but this was a lot funnier if you ask me.

I'm thinking about heading back up in three weeks for more... whether or not that works out I'll be up a few times earlier in the year next year and hopefully skiing around here some a couple times a week.


  1. Sounds awesome Drew, I am glad you have discovered the benefits of training in Bob's sanctuary. Maybe one day, when I'm too old to keep going downhill fast for a living, you, coach (what I call Bob), coach(what bob calls dad), and I can all ski uphill together. That sounds nice

  2. Had my first go with both skate and classic skiing this year. I don't know why I waited so long to give it a go.

    My arms had the same reaction as yours..uffda.