I’ve been pretty focused on my ski training in preparation for my virtual Korteloppet in a month (*gulp*).
(Future Ashley here — I started this blog post a month ago. The virtual Korte is actually tomorrow Friday, Feb. 26th — *double gulp!*)
I look at skiing the same way that I looked at biking when I was first starting out. Two and a half years ago, biking six miles on a rail trail was hard for me. I sometimes got discouraged but I pushed through the negative self-talk, I pushed through the discomfort and the pain, and those six miles became 10 then 14 then 20 then 32 and then 50!
I am using that same mentality for skiing.
My first day of skiing for this season was December 30th and I went 4.5 kilometers and I was beat. I did think, “Uh oh. How am I going to ski 26k at the end of February? What if I don’t hit the cutoff time? What if I quit? Is that what I am? A quitter?
After my mini panic spiral, I knew that I had to buckle down and focus. So I’ve been trying to ski at least three days per week, and I try to go about 10 or 15% father each week.
So here’s some of the places that I’ve been skiing.
Balsam Branch in Balsam Lake, Wi
Balsam Branch is a voulenteer-run ski trail about 20 minutes from home and 10 minutes from my school. The trail has 6k of lighted loops with some moderate, shorter climbs.
Coming from Hayward, Wi and having access to all segments of the Birkie Trail, I am spoiled in terms of ski trails. The trails at Balsam Branch are a bit narrow but the trail has a nice intimacy about the trails. Because everything is in a loop, I know that I’ll never get lost.
The trails are well-marked there are several cut across trails to get you back to your car if you just need to tap out early. The people who ski here have a nice camaraderie with each other and there are a ton of new skiiers who take advantage of these trails. I try to avoid going on Saturday afternoons because the new skiers are using the trail and it can get a bit congested, but skiing here is always a good time.
OO in Seeley, Wi
Ah OO! (pronounced “double-O”).
This is my home turf. When I was in an extracurricular club for cross country skiing in high school, we’d all travel to OO with the high school XC ski team who competed (a team which my sister was on) and we all skied together. I really appreciated that. Although I didn’t compete, I was still included in with my peers and we did the same training they did, just without the intensity and focus for racing.
Looking back, I kinda wish I took more advantage of the cross country ski club by having a growth mindset. I often got down on myself because I struggled with v-1 skiing up hills. I still struggle now at 29 years old, but I am slowly and surely getting better. (Biking actually helped a lot and it gave my legs the power to push and glide better on hills).
OO is the half-way point for the Birkie and it is the starting point for the Kortelopet.
There’s some huge climbs and steep downhills on this trail. Going south, about 1k out, is a hill called “The Wall” because it is short but steep. I fell on The Wall once and got the wind knocked out of me. I still remember sliding down the entire hill on my butt/back as my classmate and her father, who are both elite skiers, stopped to see if I was okay. (I was)
That’s just how skiers are. We look out for each other.
After The Wall, the trail south of 00 is a nice set of rolling hills with a pretty big climb about 7ks in. At 9.25K the trail hits a rest station called Gravel Pit which has a small parking lot and a warming building. If you continue that farther south, you hit Mosquito Brook and then you have a series of climbs to the Fish Hatchery. At some point, I’ll devote an entire post to the infamous hill between Mosquito Brook and Fish Hatchery called “Bitch Hill.”
Needless to say, skiing on The Birkie Trail is both a joy and a pain. The climbs are intense, the downhills are intimidating, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
ABR (Active Backwoods Retreat) in Ironwood, Michigan
I’ve only been here twice and once was when I was in middle school or maybe high school. I didn’t have a good time because I didn’t have a good mindset, so I don’t remember much about the trip.
My second time around, however, was just last weekend and it is amazing how your mind builds up things in your head over time.
For the past 15 or so years, I used to think that ABR was some massive ski resort complete with a chalet and mountainous terrain — like I’m skiing in Colorado or something. I think I conflated my idea of ABR with another place up in the Iron Range part of Northern Minnesota because my arrival at ABR was like someone pulled my imagination down from a hot air baloon.
Don’t get me wrong! ABR is a fantastic place to ski. I just built the place up to mythic proportions so when I arrived last weekend I kinda went … “huh?” The parking lot is in the middle of a farm. There was a lovely chestnut horse standing in a pen near our SUV. The starting area is just downhill from another farm and the trials intersect through land that clearly is/was someone’s backyard.
Hey, I mean, have snow will ski right?
I plan to come back here and do my virtual Kortelopet distance and I’ll report back about how it goes.