Login to Twitter or Yahoo and it’s very unlikely you’ll find “cross-country skiing” as a “trending now” topic. Old farts in sweaters and knickers ambling through snow covered fields isn’t exactly titillating stuff. Perceptions are hard to break.
But there is hope. Who could have predicted it would be cool to drink Pabst Blue Ribbon, after all? Maybe we just need to play up the sexy side of Nordic skiing.
In a house with three females, it was inevitable that a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey would turn up. I feel pretty comfortable assuming that the bestselling author of the book, E. L. James, has never skied the American Birkebeiner. But I suggest she expand her horizon for the inevitable fourth installment in the series.
In the first three “Grey” books, Anastasia (Ana) Steele cavorts with Christian Grey in the Seattle area. I think it is time for Ana to make her way to Hayward, Wisconsin. Here’s how an excerpt of 50K of Grey might read if E. L. James set her next erotic novel there on a particular weekend in late February.
This is my first Birkie and I’m nervous as hell. Seattle isn’t exactly primo training ground for cross-country skiing. But if I ski within myself, I should be able to finish this thing.
Surrounded by thousands of friendly folks, I still feel alone. And then I bump into him. Well, not exactly “bump.” “Trip” would be a more accurate description. I must have caught an edge on my skis. In any case, I’m suddenly on all fours at his feet. Not an auspicious start to the day.
“Let me help you,” rings the strong baritone voice of a hunky male skier as he gently lifts me back up onto my skinny skis. I am so embarrassed. I haven’t even made it to the starting line and I’ve already fallen down.
He extends a hand to me once I’m vertical. “I’m Chris Grey,” he says. “I’d save those spills for the race, if I were you.”
He’s tall and attractive. Very attractive. He is dressed in a tight Swix ski racing suit that accentuated his athletic build. As I grasp his hand, I feel an odd shiver run through my body. Maybe in the fall some snow worked its way past my waistband.
“Hi. I’m Ana Steele,” I stammer. I feel his bright gray eyes looking me over as I fumbled for words. “This is my first Birkie. Is it hard?”
“So you’re a virgin at this,” he shoots back with a wry smile. My face turns what I can only imagine is the color of the Norwegian flag. Sensing my embarrassment, he apologizes for his snarky comment and tells me “I’ve done a few of these. About 20 or so.”
I did not realize his purple race bib signified his Birchlegger status. Yet he doesn’t look a day over 35.
“What are you doing back here in Wave 10 with us rookies?” I ask.
“To enjoy the scenery,” he whispers. He cocks his head to one side and I see a ghost of a smile. “I’m too intense. A last wave start will force me to slow down and enjoy the experience.”
“Does this mean you’re going to ski with me today, Chris?” I inquire.
Holy crap. Did I just say that? His mouth drops open slightly, but he recovers quickly.
“Yes, Ana. It does,” he says. “But there are a couple things you need to know. First, I don’t just ski. I ski hard. Second, you don’t yet know what you’re in for. You could still run for the hills. Come, I want to show you my double pole.”
Read the entirety of Mark Ollinger’s risque 50K in the February 2013 print edition of Silent Sports. To order a copy, call 715/369-3331. To avoid missing any future issues, subscribe online here.