Wallflowers: beware the shark

I’m referencing ‘jumping the shark’ to signal that Nordic skiing’s fifteen minutes of fame may be over. The harbinger is New York Magazine, the snakier, trend-obsessed neighbor of The New Yorker, which just published a buying guide for Manhattanites (and Manhattan-adjacents) on the best gear to get started cross-country skiing.

Couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that Nordic ski clothing fits close and avoids that Michelin-man look of bulky parkas, could it?

Cast of TV show 'Sex and the City'

Several companies and organizations returned the call from New York Magazine for favorite gear this year- what skiing nerd wouldn’t want to be asked questions about their favorite activity by a mag for people who see and want to be seen? And the recommendations themselves are pretty first-rate. No problem with the items assembled.

In actuality however, the NYmag shopping guide provided an excuse for a post about two articles that are worth more notice and interest.

Not far from Craftsbury in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, Highland Center for the Arts has a sculpture exhibit that you tour using skis or snowshoes. Stemming from a desire to relieve pandemic isolation through beauty and fresh air, the sculptures are free to tour on a two-mile circuit.

We had to have a hard look at what art would be like during the winter months in Vermont

Keisha Luce, executive director, Highland Center for the Arts

“Getting outside, getting exercise, and looking at art can help shift your perspective,” said Maya McCoy, the curator of the exhibit. Read the article or watch the segment at Boston TV station NECN.

Northern Vermont feels remote compared to the New York City metro area, and isolation is an issue in rural locations as a whole. No matter where we are we’ve each had a chance over the past year to reflect on beauty as a salve to tedium. A bright and esthetically interesting scene or object puts a cherry on top of a ski tour.

But there’s no place more remote in the US than northern Alaska in winter, which leads me to the third published item for today.

For the second time in a week, the New York Times has a story that features cross-country skiers and skiing- the first was on Jessie Diggins winning the Tour de Ski, and the latest one is on Nordic skiing sports being taught to kids in native villages in Alaska. It’s a personal account by Seth Adams, the author of the article, about being a volunteer for Skiku, an organization that sends coaches out to remote villages to teach skiing.

The conditions can be extreme, and many villages are unreachable by ground transportation. Getting kids out just so they can have the pleasure of moving and testing their physical capacities in the long winter looks way more meaningful than shopping for the perfect-fitting soft shell jacket. You want rural? Alaska’s got your rural right here.

(Photo by Seth Adams)

Some of the people named in the article or on Skiku’s website will be familiar to followers of Nordic competition: Lars Flora, Brian and Caitlin Gregg, Erik Bjornsen, Rosie Brennan, Holly Brooks, and Susan Dunklee, among others.

The desire to meld sport with an enriching experience outdoors that is sharable with others isn’t unique to cross-country skiing at all, but there’s something about the dedication some people have that seems a bit more familiar in the Nordic sports.

Maybe it’s because Nordic sports are less popular, so cross-country skiers can’t afford to be too snooty about who gets to be a member of the club. Or maybe cross-country skiing in the US is more highly characterized by the places and people where it takes place, rather than holding to a ‘homologated’ standard form.

If the latter, I guess a cross-country ski community in NYC would have to ditch old boots if the accent color clashes too badly with the latest skis. There’s a price to pay for running with the popular kids.

Thanks for reading.

Author: cfski

Living in the NYC area means watching for skiable conditions.

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