Frozen beauty of Winter
The air is gray and heavy with frost. The snow makes a crunching sound as you tread upon it. It is cold out, at five degrees below Zero. It is early morning and the sun is just peeking over the frosty tree tops, at the far edge of the eastern horizon.
We had carefully layered our clothing to trap as much body heat as possible. The outer shell of our ski clothes is a pliable gortex, that sheds moisture. It is light weight and allows maximum flexibility. Our gloves are similar products of the space age. They wick away moisture from the skin, yet retain the warmth generated by the body's furnace. I wonder how the Eskimos survived all those years with only bear grease and seal skins? Maybe they just holed up in Igloos and watched the magnificent fire of the northern lights until Spring.
The skis and poles fit snugly in the roof rack on top of the car. They looked like pointed antlers, crowning a blunt metal beast. With a turn of the key, the monster roared to life. We set out for our cross -country ski excursion at nearby Elma Meadows Park. A stop for flavored coffee, at the local Wilson Farms, revved up the body's engines. The sun was rising quickly. The pale gray of dawn was replaced with an azure blue sky and bright sunlight. Both reflected back illumination, from the snowy white ground cover, in a brilliant profusion of daylight.
In the parking lot of the ski area, there were already several vehicles awaiting the return of their charioteers. They must be hardy and intrepid souls to be about this early, on such a frigid morning. We aligned ourselves in metal array, with the other antlered behemoths, and got out of the car. After retrieving our gear from the roof rack, we walked over to the trail head.
There is very little wind. It is pretty comfortable out, for five degrees below Zero. We placed our feet in the plastic toe bindings, of the new age Norwegian skis, and snapped them into place. Then, we tested the lightweight bamboo poles, with their elastic wrist loops. This completed our equipment check. Tinted sun glasses cut down on the white glare of the snow. We stretched a few times, to limber the muscles, and readied to set out.
The snow beneath us is icy and smooth. The long shushing movements, of the glide, are effortless. The brief exertions, of the kick, are rewarded with lengthy meters of forward motion. When conditions are this good and the trail is groomed, the motion is fluid and easy.
We slide along rhythmically, swaying gently left to right, as we use the balancing poles to pierce the hard packed snow. Our skis follow the twin indentations of the groomed run. The parallel pathway continued on into the distance, like inverted railroad tracks. Our skis seem locked in their snowy embrace.
The first few hills are gentle ascents. The rigid scales, on the bottom of our "no wax " skis, serve as miniature pitons, gripping the snow underneath. We are able, with minimum effort, to walk straight up the rise in the trail.
Even the steeper ascents are easily traversable, with a vee-shaped "herringbone step" and a little shoulder muscle. The downhill portions are pure fun, knees bent leaning into the turn, with the wind rushing across your face. It must be what glider pilots feel, wafting silently through the clouds in a flowing rush of air. These are no barrel staves that carry us, but high-tech, new age wonders, that await only the coming jet pack assembly to rocket us along.
The snow around us is ablaze with a cold-fire of sparkling light. The sun appears to reflect off millions of diamond chips, that lay strewn about the snow-covered fairways. The sky is turquoise and the cold yellow of the Winter sun is brilliant overhead. Even Currier and Ives couldn't improve on this scene.
We stop to rest, catch our breath and admire the frozen beauty of Winter in Western New York. Cazenovia Creek flows swiftly by on our left. It is so quiet and still out that we can hear the gurgle of the running water from 30 yards away. The bushes and deciduous trees, along the bank, are covered in frost. They look like delicate white coral, branched in spiny profusion. The fir trees stand solidly in small groups. They are stately creatures, wrapped in thick mantles of dark green needles and adorned with garlands of pine cones. They are the royalty of the forest and command attention. The natural beauty of the surroundings is one of the great pleasures of cross country skiing. You shush quietly along, amidst a tableau that would make the famed photographer, Ansel Adams, envious.
We continue on across the frozen fairways, enjoying the rhythmic stretching of the long muscles of the legs. The body is already sending the necessary signals that will generate a massive caloric intake when we are done. The snowy trees stand as a majestic array of sentinels, as we glide quietly between them. It is time to head on in.
We come finally to the last rise that will return us to the trailhead. It is a steep incline. Even with George Jetson's skis, we work up a sweat climbing to the top. The internal bellows are pumping out great clouds of frosty breath. We are tired and glad to be done.
The metal beast sits patiently, as we reattach its' antlers. We tidy up our "hat hair" and head into the casino for some hot chocolate. It feels good to sit and look through the massive windows, out onto the snow-covered fairways.
The complex has an adjacent sled hill. Scores of brightly clad urchins careen down the icy incline. We watch them glide and tumble, laughing and shrieking in the high pitch of excited children. Periodically, they troop into the warmth of the Casino. They munch on snacks as they sit talking with parents and friends, their faces red and animated. Some few tremble with the cold, wet from rolling in the snow. As we watch them, I wonder, " Were we ever that young?"
The sweat is cooling on us now and we begin to get a chill. It is time to go. We saddle up the metal monster and head for home. It has been fun to ski through the woods and enjoy the icy beauty of Winter. Like snowflakes outlined on a frozen window pane, Winter is a symmetrical array of delicate beauty that will vanish, all too soon, with the warmth of the noonday Sun.
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Joseph Xavier Martin