In my Junior and Senior year, in addition to downhill, we were required to x-country ski. So, I learned. We set up tracks around the Evergreen Cemetery, across the street from Juneau’s schools. Sometimes we would be driven ‘out the road’ about 12 miles to the Mendenhall Glacier where we set a three-mile loop over frozen glacial ponds and gravel hill remnants from the constantly moving glacier. We wore head lamps because, by 3:00 when school got out, it was already dark.
In those days Nordic ski gear consisted of bindings with three metal pins that slid into matching holes in the soles of our leather ski boots. Our skis were all wood, with bases we had previously painted at wax parties with sticky pine tar. Ahhh, the sweet, acrid smell of smoking-hot pine tar. Our attire consisted of lots of wool. Wool knickers, warm wool knee socks and heavy wool sweaters, topped by a wool hat; all red and black, our school colors. Poly-pro fabrics were not invented yet. Nor were skate skis. It was all diagonal stride and double poling.
The first season was a testing ground. There are few sports that require as much strength and endurance as x-country ski racing. Somehow I survived and by my senior year we were competing with the Anchorage skiers. I kept improving, and at the end of the season was chosen as an alternate for the first-ever US Women’s Olympic Cross Country Team. Fortunately for the team, no one was injured. So unfortunately for me, I never got to race with them.
So much of life flies by with hardly a notice, but the tough stuff stays with you. My passion for skiing and the outdoors pushed me through almost 20 years as a ski instructor at Juneau’s much improved ski area, Eaglecrest, founded in 1976 by a group that included my brother-in-law Craig Lindh. His daughter, Olympic downhill ski racer Hilary Lindh, learned to snowplow there. Now, at 68 I’m still skiing, both downhill and Nordic, every chance I get and loving it just as much as I did all those years ago.