Montreal·Something New

Gliding into my new winter hobby wasn't as easy as it looked

Trying out cross country skiing seemed like the ideal way to get outside this winter, but the reality is it’s much harder than it looks!

Trying out cross-country skiing seemed like the ideal way to get outside this winter

Aislinn May was looking for ways to get some exercise, so she decided to head to the ski trails for the first time this winter. (Submitted by Aislinn May)

I thought it would be easy, but after I strapped on my cross-country skis and took my first strides, I quickly realized that it was going to be a long day. 

"How hard can it be?" I thought to myself as I entered Cap-Saint-Jacques Nature Park on a chilly Sunday afternoon with my partner. 

I wanted to try something new and get some exercise outdoors. I figured, with the City of Montreal offering $15 cross-country ski rentals at all of its major parks, I might as well give it a shot. 

We drove to the West Island, to Cap-Saint-Jacques Nature Park, on the advice of a friend who promised us quiet trails and silent woods. I was hoping to disconnect from the city — even just for the afternoon.

But, when we arrived, we saw we weren't the only ones trying to escape the city. The parking lot was overflowing with cars and the trails were so packed with skiers they looked like the Décarie Expressway at rush hour. 

I strode toward the rental chalet and got my gear. My skis looked sleek and new. I donned my boots and watched a family struggle to maintain their balance as someone tried to give them tips. I was confident I would fare better. 

I consider myself relatively "sporty." I enjoy running, even in the winter, and figured cross-country skiing was sure to be a breeze. 

I snapped my boots into my skis without help, grabbed my poles and was off. 

At first, I tried to keep up with my partner, who was encouraging me to glide with every step and to use my poles to keep my momentum going. 

It seemed like it was going well. My heart rate climbed as I slid along the tracks, watching the frozen river to my right.

Watching other skiers zoom past her on the trail, May realized she's going to need regular practice. (Submitted by Aislinn May)

Then my partner said, "Aislinn, we have to get out of the way."

I looked behind me. 

A line of skiers wearing skin-tight spandex was waiting. I moved into a different track and they began flying past. 

Behind them, was the family I had seen at the rental chalet. They, too, passed me. I looked at my partner.

"What am I doing wrong?" I asked.

"You just have to glide," he said. "It takes practice."

Sure. I continued on, but before long, a woman walking a corgi who looked like he had had a few too many dog treats started to pass me too. 

And then, as I rounded a bend, I found myself at the top of a hill. In front of me, a father-son duo had stopped for a snack. I began to slide, lost my balance and ended up landing — hard — on my butt. The impact stung my tailbone and bruised my ego, but I got up and acted as if nothing had happened. The little boy pretended not to notice.

The rental chalet was still five kilometres away and I was miserable. But, after a quick break, I looked around.

We were in the woods. A few snowflakes fell from the silver clouds above and I could no longer hear the buzz of the distant highway.

I began to relax and enjoy the scenery. I forgot I was still on the Island of Montreal, and, as the rental chalet came back into view, I forgot about the pain in my legs and my throbbing tailbone. 

I might have bitten off more than I could chew by choosing to ski 10 kilometres on a busy Sunday, but in the end, I was proud of myself and ready to do it again. 

Next Sunday, I'll be back. 

We are sharing stories of people trying new things during the pandemic as part of our special CBC Quebec project Out of the Dark: Real Talk on Mental Health. If you are having a hard time coping, here are some resources that could help.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aislinn May

Researcher

Aislinn May is a researcher in Montreal. You can contact her by sending an email at aislinn.may@cbc.ca.

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