Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Skiing is serious business

The lone friendly skier

There are a handful of cross-country skiers who go out on a snowy Sunday morning, criss-crossing the countryside, breaking new trails, enjoying the fresh snow and the peacefulness of nature. They will wave when they see Angela and I with our sleds or just out for a hike, and they have time to stop for a chat sometimes. After all, nature is vast here, and it’s all covered with snow, making the perfect natural playground. These skiers literally number just a handful – I’ve never seen more than a couple a day, and they are usually alone, choosing solitary leisure over group accomplishment. They strap on their skis at their doorstep and go.

Cross country ski area
But there is a much larger group of serious skiers who seem to rule the town. After work they get into their big cars and drive up to the ski area to use the groomed courses. Since Angela and I always hike after work in the late afternoon, we witness this constantly. They pass us by in their warm cars, gripping the steering wheel on the slippery road with grim faces. They rarely wave, they never smile and they are always so serious. The same cars often pass us again an hour later, same grim looks on their faces. They’ve raced the clock, logged their miles, got the work done. Maybe they even improved their time by a few seconds. But did they have fun, or wind down after work, or smell the fresh air, or even chat pleasantly with a neighbor? The looks on their faces as they drive back into town indicate nothing of the sort.

Skiing around the soccer field
Now Isafjörður does indeed have some good athletes, and I’m not knocking that. And there are groups for anyone wanting to learn. Even kids are trained age-appropriately with the same gusto. One day we bumped into the kids group sledding in town when the weather was too bad to get to the ski area. A quick change of plans with sleds instead of skis, and it looked like everyone was having fun – even the two adults supervising them. But when the road was too bad one evening for the adults to get to their training, they didn’t just exchange skis for sleds and lighten up a bit. No, they took their skis to the soccer field and skied figure eights around there. 

The nicely plowed road to the ski area
Anyway, it seems these serious skiers seem to have an arrangement with the people who plow the roads, and that’s when things get interesting. Because the road to the ski area is usually plowed as one of the first, right after the main street, and the roads past the fire station and the hospital. But while many other residential areas may be sinking in snow for days, you can still get up to the ski area. And as I watched this road being plowed one Sunday, I wondered – who pays for this? In other parts of town, the residents have to park their cars a few streets away and walk up the hill to their homes because the plows haven’t been through yet. Yet someone is working on a Sunday to make sure the skiers can do their thing. To me it all seems a bit absurd, seeing that the whole earth is covered in snow and the skiers could ski just about anywhere. 

Well, I guess I’m just not a skier. Yet.