Snow is a powerful narcotic.
Most of us spend all summer complaining about precipitation and unseasonably low temperatures, and then winter begins to tease.
It’s as though the wrapping on a gift sitting under the Christmas tree has torn just a bit to reveal that the present juuuussstttt miiiight just be....
Like children following reports on Santa, an anxious segment of the population starts scrutinizing long-range forecasts for rain of the frozen variety. Some of us see blue on the national weather maps and start begging Mother Nature to settle in, below-freezing with a comforting blanket of snow.
Last year, the allure of snow drew me out in early September, on roller skis, in preparation for the American Birkebeiner in late February.
Then, my cross-country season on the verge ended with a cracked patella (knee cap) and I spent the build-up phase on the couch. After a year of recovery, undeterred by the implements of suffering, I dragged out the roller skis once again, this time in mid-August, and began dreaming of the shoveling season.
The first couple strides on the roller skis had me wobbling along as cautious as a toddler taking his first steps. Now, four months into the season, and 500 miles later, I’m ready to audition for Dancing with the Stars Ski Edition. Strength is coming back, allowing longer glides, and less anxiety. When it’s going well, the joys inherent in the rhythmic skating technique transfer well to the asphalt and agitate the dreams of snow.
The addiction plays with the mind.
Skiing up the Oak Leaf Trail on a recent night with two Café Hollander teammates, the darkness transformed the path into what would pass for a nicely groomed ski trail at Lapham Peak. As we skated in a relatively synchronized conga line, sounds of the woods came alive in inky surroundings. Critters rustled in the leaves; even the rapids of the Milwaukee River delivered a faint, if not steady, wave of applause as we made our way down the trail.
Talk ranged from the icy nip in the air to "necessary" upgrades to equipment. New team ski kits had to be procured, along with glide wax. Spending money makes the snow-addled heart grow fonder.
I’m not the only one going bonkers. The Birkiebeiner is now full: a record number registered at a record pace. During a visit to the Bicycle Doctor ski and bike shop, dozens of recently tuned skis hung from the rafters. It was clear that many similar addicts are spending a little green to pass the time until a little white falls from the sky.
Now, with the season half over, the heart quickens with every bit of encouraging news. Snow in the UP! The Friends of Lapham Peak added a fourth snow gun to cover the man-made loop! In only three short months, it will likely be over but now is the time to dream big white fluffy dreams!
Steve Smith lives in Wauwatosa and works in communications for Rockwell Automation. In previous contributions to Off the Couch, he has written tales of the Chequamegon Fat Tire 40, the American Birkebeiner and the Leadville 100.
More appealing than visions of sugar plums - snow-covered trails at Greenbush. Photo by Tom Held