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MARILYN HAGERTY: Cross-country skiing begins with small leap of faith

Pat White was talking about cross country skiing. So I went to listen. After all, this is Grand Forks and we are into a real winter. White, in my mind, is an extreme winter guy -- he does cross country skiing, snow shoeing, winter biking and anyt...

Marilyn Hagerty
Longtime Herald columnist Marilyn Hagerty and her review of Olive Garden going viral is the Herald's 2012 story of the year. Grand Forks Herald photo by John Stennes.

Pat White was talking about cross country skiing. So I went to listen. After all, this is Grand Forks and we are into a real winter.

White, in my mind, is an extreme winter guy -- he does cross country skiing, snow shoeing, winter biking and anything that brings him outdoors. "This is what I do," he said during a recent talk at the Senior Center.

It seems only logical that White is part owner of the Ski and Bike Shop here.

He said, "If you can walk, you can ski. You can go as fast or as slow as you want to."

White pointed out that trails have been groomed at Lincoln Park and there usually is grooming in the Greenways. There's an attendant at Lincoln Park with quite a few skis available. Many have been donated. The hours are from 3:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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There's a Greenway Ski Day scheduled for Feb. 15.

Turtle River State Park grooms trails that are a little more challenging, he said, but there is nothing at the park west of Grand Forks that is really steep. For that, some people seek out trails near Walhalla, Minn., or the Bemidji area.

White showed how skis have changed. They don't have to be so long. In days gone by, they were long and narrow.

"The ski needs to know how much people weigh," he said. "Anyone over 180 pounds needs extra long. Those 150 to 179 pounds need large, and a 120 to 149 pound person would need a medium ski.

"The ski only wants to know how much weight it will be carrying," White said. "If a person is not heavy, there is no traction."

Boots are the next thing. They have ridges on the bottom that line up with grooves on the skis.

When he was young the equipment was not so nice. The stuff today show "light years of improvement," he said. "The boots come in European sizes and are roughly about $330 for a heavy person wanting to go skiing."

The Lincoln Park trail starts at the warming house. You first learn to use poles.

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"At first," White said, "it's going to feel like all you are doing is walking. There is a small leap of faith when you extend yourself and force yourself to glide."

While skiing is a temperature driven sport, some people like White are ready any time.

"Once everyone gets through the holiday stuff, they will all be out," he predicted.

He recommends wool and nylon blend stockings.

"Your feet can sweat and cause you to lose water," he said. He wears mittens over gloves and uses them as he needs them since sweat from hands as well as sweat from the feet can cause a loss of water.

"You feel cool when you start, but you are going to generate heat," White said.

For head wear, White brings an extra hat so that he has the ability to control his body temperature.

Underwear should be nylon and of different thickness. Wool and fleece are nice to have, according to White. The outer layer just needs to be wind protection.

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There will be lessons on cross-country skiing in January through the East Grand Forks community education program.

White also showed trekking snow shoes.

"Backing up is a pain," he said. "Turning around is easier. It's less work than walking because you are not sinking in." He pointed out how they have become much easier to use with modern bindings. "You can be your own four-wheel monster. You can go up and down hills. If you carry a pole, you can use it as a probe."

Although it isn't for everyone, White is among the hardy winter souls who look forward to a 135-mile bike ride in January. The Arrowhead 135 competition begins at International Falls, Minn.

The goal is to make the bike trip in 24 hours or less. Last year, White was stopped by a storm at the first 40-mile checkpoint.

Just recently White and others joined in a 65-mile bike ride competition to Climax, Minn. It was mostly on gravel.

With all of his extreme weather sports, he doesn't deny that his wife may think he is crazy.

Reach Hagerty at mhagerty@gra.midco.net or (701) 772-1055.

Pat White

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