As I put the skis over my shoulder and grabbed my poles. It was as though I was in some fairy tale. Perhaps the Swiss or Austrian Alps from the movies… The sun was shining and the sky was clear. It was crisp – cold enough that the snow would be good but warm enough to not freeze out there. My walk to the ski trail took about thirty seconds. Thirty seconds and I was out on the trails. You might think that I was staying in a really nice ski cabin in the Alps but no. I was cross country skiing in the city. This was Toronto, Ontario, in February.
“Life is full of free pleasures” – some famous person once said.
As COVID had closed down all the ski trails in Muskoka and the Kawarthas, I had only one option left to enjoy the years cross country ski season – the local park.
Of course, soccer fields not meant to be ski trails – I am still quite certain that I am still the only park-goer who had the idea of skiing there. It happened that we had a huge snowstorm hit Toronto earlier that week. About fifty to seventy centimeters of snow… Once we had dug ourselves out of the house and cleared the driveway (an intense workout which took about two hours), the biggest challenge of the day came to face me. Going down to the corner store to buy eggs. Of course, this shouldn’t be a challenge, right? Well, normally not, but with this amount of snow (and knowing that many people had yet to dig themselves out), this would be a tricky affair. An idea dawned on me. Skis.
I don’t downhill ski, but I do cross country skiing instead. All gung-ho about my latest fantastic idea, I opened the garage and pulled out the skis – which came falling down along with some old boxes, three ski poles and an empty Jerry can. I put on the skis, grabbed my wallet and skied to the corner store. The neighbors reactions were, well, interesting. Some were amused by my creative way of getting around after the snow storm. Others confused at why I was skiing on the sidewalk. I got a few smiles, but mainly people pointing at me and telling their kids. I’m pretty sure that someone even took a picture.
I quickly came to realize that you really didn’t need to go out of town to ski on the trails – at least not when there was a snowstorm that week. It didn’t take long before I was hooked. Every day, as soon as I was free, I would grab my skis and poles, lace up my boots and walk just across the street to do some skiing.
This was only the beginning of my city skiing adventures…
There is an odd sense of amusement about skiing around a soccer field. Sure, you get some odd looks, but maybe there is something about having a thirty second “commute” that just felt amazing and made the whole experience worth it. The best part however, were the dog walkers.
Somewhere along the line, the dogs decided to ignore their sticks and tennis balls and agreed that my skiing endeavor was far more interesting.
I had a workout partner. Or, partners rather.
So, like some sort of Pied Piper on skis, I would make my way round the park chased by half a dozen eager dogs. To the bystander, it must have looked absolutely ridiculous, but at least the dogs and I were having fun. As odd as this tradition was, I fell in love with skiing in the city park. It taught me something valuable.
Sure, you can go out and buy the nicest skis. Ones made with carbon fiber – or whatever the latest technology is. You can buy the nicest skiing costume and the lightest poles. Even a trail pass in the Swiss Alps.
There is one thing, however, that you cannot buy – its not for sale – and that is fun. While I didn’t have the nicest skis (mine are really old and should really be retired or put in a museum as an artifact), or the nicest poles, I was having fun. To me, that was worth more than anything. The dogs that would chase me, and the dog owners would laugh as they saw Fido run along side some guy on skis. The whole element of slight ridiculousness that comes with cross country skiing in the city, but that is what made everything worth it…
Now, as I sit looking out the window at the melting snow, I can’t help but want to get back out there next winter.
By: Jonathan Kravtchenko