Friday, April 4, 2014

6. Try Nordic Skating

It seems like this winter has stretched on forever, which is my new official excuse for why it has taken me so long to write about the New Things I tackled during the winter of 2014.  But as the snow is rapidly disintegrating, so are my excuses, so here, with no further procrastination, is a report on something everyone needs to try -- Nordic skating.  I've spent most of the winter forcing all those who are close to me to hear, in minute detail, about my ever-so-incremental progress as a figure skater and ice dancer.  Lots of people have humored me, but they've been less enthusiastic about joining me, with a key issue being that it feels artificial: they want to skate outside. So my new answer to that one is Nordic skating.  Next year when I head up to Lake Morey everyone is coming with me. 

Next year, everyone's going.  This year it was Lynn, me, Jon and Liz.  My sweetie Jon and friend Lynn have been extraordinary good sports in this round of 52 thus far. My friend Liz is one of my figure skating role models, though on our day at Lake Morey she wore hockey skates.

So what's the deal with Nordic skating?  It's kind of a cross between ice skating and cross country skiing.  The skater wears a cross country ski boot and attaches a Nordic skating blade to the top binding, where a cross country ski would attach.  The skating blade is longer than a regular skating one, and is free on the heel end.
In case anyone was wondering, this is what a Nordic skate looks like, up close and personal.

 It just so happens that the longest outdoor track for ice skating sits on Lake Morey in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. And the only shop selling Nordic skates in the US rents equipment there.  And the horrible cold that dragged on and on in Vermont this year froze Lake Morey good and solid so that there was no danger in using all of the track around the lake. So on the first Saturday in March all the stars aligned and it was time to try it out. 
Jon, Lynn and Liz getting ready to head out onto the ice.

The cool thing about Nordic skates is that they can handle imperfect ice.  I wouldn't say they glide right over everything, but they definitely handle some cracks and bumps pretty well, and it's not hard to work up a bit of speed, especially when you're on a 4.5 mile loop.  Of course, one thing about being on a lake that is very frozen in winter in Vermont is that there are others who want to take advantage of that as well, mainly people ice fishing.  So what is considering a skating track by Nordic skaters in considered a road by ice fishers in pickup trucks, and it's not too hard to figure out who common sense dictates has the right of way.
Lynn demonstrating the share-the-crowded-road concept with one of the friendly neighborhood trucks that were also using the lengthy loop we were skating.

Everyone we talked to said that this was the perfect year for outdoor ice skating -- lots of consistent cold weather meant that the ice on Lake Morey, and Lake Champlain for that matter, was more solidly frozen than it had been in years.  It may not be as strong next year, but if it's frozen again enough for the ice fishermen, I definitely want to go again, and everyone else should come along too!
Contrary to the dire predictions of many, there were no dramatic spills on the ice, so Jon thoughtfully volunteered to do a dramatic interpretation for the record.

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