Grit Blogs > Homesteading with Mrs D

Backyard Skiing

By Robyn Dolan 


Tags: Skiing, Cross-country skiing, Snow,

Robyn has some snow in her yard

Robyn DolanWhile I sit watching the snow fall, I can’t help contemplating the last snowstorm. Near zero temps and 2 feet of snow provided a base for snow play that lasted nearly 2 weeks here in Northern Arizona.

Whereas last time my chainsaw needed parts, I had already gone through all my cut wood, and my woodstove glass was broken, this time I am sitting in front of a toasty fire with a sizeable stack of wood nearby and more outside. We are stocked up with popcorn and cocoa and have hot and cold water running through heat-taped pipes. (It’s the little things.)

With all that snow on the ground for so long, I was inspired by the cross-country skiers I spied in Flagstaff when we were snowed in there. When we got home, I discovered a frozen pipe and drove to the next town for parts. Back home again, I went into the storage shed for some insulation, and, lo and behold, there were my old downhill skis. Not just mine but also my grown childrens’ old skis, and sure enough we found a pair with boots that fit my 6-year-old son.

6-yea-old son on skis

Now, I am a convert to cross-country skiing, having first learned downhill by being taken to the top of the steepest run and left to make my way down as best I could. Ha, ha. I enjoyed many years of downhill on more sensible slopes after that. My first experience with cross-country skiing came on a ski trip in Yosemite National Park (on real cross country skis). The first day was all uphill. I can’t seem to learn anything the easy way. After that trip my downhill skis entered their second life as semi-cross-country skis. By leaving the boots unbuckled, one can achieve a fair semblance of cross country skiing. And by the way, did I mention you can also avoid paying those outrageous prices for lift tickets? I enjoyed several FREE days in the woods with my semi-cross-country skis, a thermos of hot soup, and a thermos of hot cocoa.

Skis ready and waiting for more snow

After moving to Arizona, the skis did not get much use. Either we didn't have enough snow, or I was too busy working. Now with my priorities reordered, skiing has a chance to get its fair share of time. I took out the skis, boots and poles and outfitted my son. I told him to wait there while I got my skis and boots on. He didn’t. So he spent his first 20 minutes on skis learning the most important lesson – how to get back up. After showing him how to use the ski poles to help himself, I managed to get my boots adjusted and snapped into my skis. With just a few pointers about keeping his skis straight, not crossing them, steering, stopping, and balancing with the poles, he was off skiing. We skied all around the property every day until the snow melted, coming in to warm ourselves in front of the fire and drink hot cocoa in our own private ski lodge. Then we stored the skis away in the closet. I hear them in there now, pawing at the door, trying to get out. Just a few more inches of snow ...

robyn dolan
6/4/2011 10:13:23 AM

Reg, glad I could offer encouragement! The thing I like about x-country is you can go SLOW. You don't have to worry about sliding down the hill out of control (unless you're on a hill...). Good luck;)


reg klubeck
6/3/2011 3:39:53 PM

Congratulations! I not only live in the "snowbelt" region of Michigan, I work at a ski resort... and I don't ski! Had bad experiences trying to X-country in high school, and saw too many friends injured in downhill (my high school had the state champion ski team for YEARS). You've encouraged me to give X-country a try again this year. Thanks! Good skiing in Arizona. ;.) Reg Klubeck, Cadillac, MI


robyn dolan
1/16/2010 8:27:07 AM

Dave, Haven't gone sledding in sooo long. That will be next. Found a screaming deal on 2 pairs of cross country skis at a thrift shop a couple weeks ago. Looking forward to the incoming storms to try them out. And will definitely be finding a piece of tin and a nice hill for some sledding. We enjoy the snow, but not those subzero temps. Dunno how you all do it there in the north and midwest.


nebraska dave
1/6/2010 9:02:52 PM

Robyn, I’m more of a toboggan/sled kind of a guy or snow mobile would even be better. My skiing experience taught me quickly that it was not only safer for me but those on the slope as well if I just stayed in the lodge by the fireplace with a good book. That was just not the sport for me. Cindy and I had a conversation last February about the extreme farm sport of sliding down a hill in an over turned car hood or on a piece of corrugated tin with the front curled up. We just found what was lying around and made do. The parks would flood the low lying areas which allowed the best outside skating rinks ever. We would spend all day skating around the ice with hand warmers in our pockets. Of course there were the neighborhood hockey teams (kind of like sand lot ball) that were always fun to watch. I was never brave enough or a good enough skater to participate. We have over 35 inches of snow and counting. Subzero temperatures has kept it on the ground.


robyn dolan
1/1/2010 9:45:53 AM

Cindy, GO ME! I finally got one up before someone else did. Usually you guys are posting my ideas before I do (and usually better, hmm). Yes, I enjoyed the adrenaline of downhill for a long time. But now between the cost and the prospect of injury, I definitely prefer cross country. I'll be haunting the thrift stores and ski swaps for some real cross country skis this year! I've heard of roller skis, but never seen them in action. If it's anything like roller blading, I'd better stick to my hiking boots...


cindy murphy
12/31/2009 3:32:04 PM

Love it, Robyn! You took the blog words right outta my mouth, (though I'll probably still write on the topic anyway). I too started out with downhill...in fact, the first couple of times I cross-country skied I thought it was b-o-r-i-n-g; nothing compared to the speed of downhill to me. Ah, but I was a kid then, and didn't appreciate the quiet solitude you can get from cross-country...and the sweat; who knew you could sweat so much when it's so cold outside? Since being reintroduced about three decades later, I get out every chance I get...taking my skis to the backyard, the streets, beach, woods...wherever. Earlier in the week I had one of the most beautiful skis of the season through the cemetary. Like you, just yesterday, I introduced my eight year old to cross-country skiing. Completely different sport skiing with a child than skiing solo. Oh! What fun we had! She thought it was anything but boring, and can't wait to go again, (it's a haul...not having skis for her, we have to drive to a nature preserve that rents them). And yanno...you don't have to wait for those few inches of snow to arrive; I get my bliss the other three seasons of the year on roller-skis. Best to you in the New Year.