Humility on Sam’s Swoop

By Jamie Redman

In high school, I raced with the Spokane Nordic Ski Team. One afternoon, about twelve years ago, I was particularly confident in my skiing prowess and challenged my teammate to a friendly five kilometer race from the top of the Shadow Mountain Trail back to Selkirk Lodge.

The mountain air was clear and cold; perfect for two sixteen-year-olds to duke it out on a winter afternoon. We bobbed and weaved down the hairpin turns of Wild Moose. Neck and neck, we double-poled over the easy grade of Lodgepole. Together, we raced down Sam’s Swoop, a roller-coaster trail of moderate downhill pitches and sweeping turns. The pink tassel on my hat flew out behind me as I raced toward the lodge. As we neared Junction 1, I could see that it was bustling with skiers. In my sixteen-year-old mind, I could imagine the awe and admiration of the onlookers as I blazed past them in a flash of bright Lycra. I looked good, I felt good, and in the classic tradition of teenage girls, I decided to let everyone know.

So I put on my most intense racing face, assumed my fastest-looking skiing position and that’s when disaster struck. In my efforts to impress my audience, I failed to obey the cardinal rule of winter sports: watch where you’re going. I caught a ski tip on the edge of the trail, skidded out of the tracks and proceeded to execute a flying face plant directly in front of the five-year-olds in a Nordic Kids lesson group.

There was a collective groan from the surrounding witnesses, a burst of laughter, and even some sporadic clapping. The entire situation was worsened when my backstabbing teammate collapsed into hysterical laughter at my unintentional Nordic acrobatics. Shamefaced, I extracted myself from the snowbank, brushed the powder from my eyes (and mouth, nose and ears), and tried to sneak discreetly away.

As I scurried back to Selkirk Lodge, I could hear the ski instructor counseling the kindergartners: “You see, kids, any idiot can go fast. The best skiers know how to stop.” //

Relax over the bumps, bend your knees. Photo courtesy of Spokane Nordic Ski Association

Relax over the bumps, bend your knees. Photo courtesy of Spokane Nordic Ski Association

Flying with My Best Friend

By Diana Roberts

It’s a cold, windy Sunday afternoon at the Selkirk Lodge. But my dog, Murungu (Big Chief), is excited to skijor. We head over to Linder Road. Dog harness, tug line, skijor belt, skis, poles. Yes, that’s all our gear.

Our friends are waiting, but Murungu, my 90 pound Shelter Treasure, fidgets as I hurry to put on his harness. “Help me, please,” I plead. The temperature is 16 degrees Fahrenheit. Yep, that’s cold! I pull out booties and Murungu relaxes as I fasten them on his paws. Finally, I step into my skis and we’re off.

Fifty yards down the trail Murungu stops abruptly. “What’re you doing?” I ask. Silly question. Time to pick up dog poop, of course. That done, we fly along the strait, Murungu kicking up snow clods into my face. Brrr, the wind on my cheeks is freeeeezing. Skiers ahead! “Murungu, stay right!” We flash by, catching a glimpse of envious grins.

We chase our skijoring friends down the broad trail, Murungu pulling hard with a happy, lolloping gait. “Relax over the bumps, bend your knees,” I remind myself as we swing round a corner, only the tug line attached at my waist preventing me from sailing over the edge of the bank. Murungu’s drive is all social, and he slams to a halt where the others are waiting.

We glide on gently as the trail levels and take another break at the Brickel Creek Bridge. Murungu cocks his head, anticipating a treat, and chews snow beside the trail. We begin the climb up the Mica Road Trail. “Murungu, mush,” I say. “Skijoring’s a team sport. You lead on the uphill,” he counters, sniffing something fascinating in the snow.

Eventually, the trail crests and clouds part to reveal the valley below. I breathe deeply, energized to be out with my adventure buddy. Our friends go on to the turnaround at the end of Mica Road, but Murungu and I rest briefly before heading homewards. We’ve been skijoring together more than ten years, and I don’t want him exhausted.

Dusk falls fast, and soon we’re in darkness with cedar trees looming over the trail. The mist swirls around us, lights from the alpine runs flickering eerily in the gloom. Murungu moves at a slow trot, barely keeping the tug line taut, but it’s enough. We work in silent unison along the last stretch until we see the warm lights of the lodge ahead. “That was grand! I love you, Murungu!” He tucks his head under my chin.

For information on skijoring and skijor clinics, email Diana at skijorspokane@yahoo.com. //