Modern Jackass: XC Ski Edition

I have always loved the outdoors.

But I have to admit (and anyone who has known me for more than a year has caught on to this already), that I’ve taken my love for the outdoors to a whole ‘nother level this year. Annnnd, as much as I had always wanted and intended to spend more of my time in the great outdoors prior to this year, I’ll admit that this change is most definitely related to the fact that I began dating someone who doesn’t merely love the outdoors… he needs the outdoors. Like, he needs it in the same way a fish needs water. It’s a life or death thing.

Anyway, this post is about stereotypes. I hope I don’t offend anyone in the process, but since Sam’s from the Northwoods (Or, excuse me: “the Hub of the Northwoods”) and I’m from Minneapolis, I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about stereotypes and different types of people and the certain social classifications they fall into pertaining to what they like to do for fun. (In other words, am I “outdoorsy” now that I do things outdoorsy people do? What does “being outdoorsy” really mean? Do I have to sign something somewhere? Am I still allowed to wear high heels and nail polish if I sign?)

There’s this great episode of NPR’s This American Life entitled, A Little Bit of Knowledge. The episode discusses “stories about the pitfalls of knowing just a little bit too little.” It basically stipulates that when you talk at length about a topic in which you know just a little bit too little, you become the modern jackass. (This analogy isn’t great for anyone who hasn’t heard the episode, so if you’re interested, you can download it at the link above.)

Although I previously fell into “modern jackass” classification for many of the activities I now frequently partake in, this post is supposed to be about skiing.

This year is the first I’ve ever stepped into a pair of skis (aside from the family Colorado downhill ski trip once every 5 years or so). Naturally, I learned many lessons about skiing that I would never have known before:

I learned the difference between backcountry, nordic, skate, and downhill skiing (think: snowshoe hiking-type trails, versus groomed tracks, versus speedy Olympic race people, versus down hills, respectively). I learned that ‘cross country,’ ‘nordic’ and ‘XC’ all mean pretty much the same thing. I learned that you can’t just go skiing, you have to have different types of wax to put on your skis depending on the weather and trail conditions. Ok, I’m going to stop now before I leave jackass territory and enter idiot territory.

Anyway, I previously had many stereotypes about cross-country skiing that I have now had some time to investigate. Many actually ended up being true. Some include:

1. XC Skiers have no sense of style.
How could you if you’re willing to be seen in public wearing neon spandex onsies? No, I’m not sure that this is true when it comes to them in real life, but on the trails, style is the last (and I mean LAST) thing on anyone’s mind. Today we saw a guy wearing spandex pants that had this orange, blue, red, yellow and black swirly design. Did you know those colors were ever all found on the same single item of clothing? I didn’t.

2. XC Skiers are intimidating. I always thought this, but it’s false. They just always look intense. I don’t think we’ve come across a single person that didn’t greet both of us. Some have even said supportive things like, “you’re doing great” (obviously being able to tell that I had originally come with Sam and they’d just passed him up trail about 10 minutes ago taking a nap while waiting for me).

3. XC Skiers are freakishly tall and skinny. This one is largely (but not always) true. Although, I will say that most anyone willing to brace the cold for hours “for fun,” when the rest of the world is curled on the couch drinking hot chocolate just tends to be skinny by default. Good for them. Well, increasingly, good for me. (Well, actually, good for Sam for convincing me to get off the couch…)

You get the idea. Overall, skiing has been awesome, and a wonderful addition into my pointless ongoing investigation of what it means to be outdoorsy.

Not to mention, it has made a HUGE impact on the major blues I’m usually feeling right about this time of year (pertaining both to the fact that I usually wouldn’t have been outside at any one time longer than the amount of time it took me to walk to class, AND that I usually barely fit into any of my clothes by the time March 1 rolls around…).

Anyway, sorry for the long blogging hiatus, and stay tuned for Modern Jackass: mountain biking, trail running, road riding, canoeing, and fly fishing editions. 🙂

– J

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One thought on “Modern Jackass: XC Ski Edition

  1. Dad says:

    Nice post, Jen. I’d like to think your appreciation for the outdoors started early from your Dad’s love for the outdoors. My first “letter” in high school came from cross country skiing. I was just 2 years removed from living in Kansas, and found XC skiing an easy sport to learn and love. Especially for a XC runner. XC skiing has evolved into a science as well; by having to determine which types of ski’s pertain to which type of terrain, and workout objective. I agree it’s a great way to beat the winter blues – “just do it”.

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