With the lack of snow lately in Southern Ontario, I thought I’d maybe entertain you with one of my own old ski trail stories.
Sit back with your favourite beverage and read on as I elaborate on the heroic tale of a ski adventure I did with a few ski buds decades ago.
Tales from the Trails
I was up for the weekend with my Nordic ski group near Haliburton, Ont. We stayed at the Wigamog Inn to enjoy the trails, some fine dining, and good times together. We were all cyclists who liked skiing in the off season from the Toronto Bicycling Network – TBN.
It was a beautiful, blue-sky, sunny kind of day, yet a cold one, I’m thinking at least -12C. A group of us were young and adventurous and planning a long cross-country ski trek for the day. We had heard about a connecting trail to Glebe Park and decided to investigate.
We had learned that behind the trails at the Inn, one could cut across the Pinestone Inn golf course trails and continue on, to the other side of Highway 21. There sure enough, when we got across the highway, we found a little-known and unused ski track that we figured would eventually connect to the Glebe Park trail network five or so km away. As a little bit of bushwhacking wasn’t a problem for us younger lads, onward we went. There were about five of us.
When we got to the back end of the Glebe trails we did a few loops. Eventually, the other lads started heading back to the inn and I was left on my own to make my way back. I cannot recall why, but it’s a safe bet I wanted to do a different loop and planned to catch up with them a little later.
At some point, one of my ski bindings broke. This is not a common occurrence, and needless to say not a good thing to happen to anyone. The trails here are very hilly, and I think I had done a silly move, fallen, brushed off the powder, and was surprised to find my ski detached.
I assessed my situation. There was no way to repair the binding, and it was going to take a long time and a lot of effort to walk out. As well, I had been skiing pretty hard all day and had worked up a sweat. I would catch a chill soon if I didn’t keep moving.
It was late in the afternoon and still sunny, but it would be dark and colder in a few hours. I had seen no one on the trails for quite some time. What to do?
Well, making my way back to the Inn was just too far on foot. I decided to head the opposite way to the Haliburton Highlands Museum at the Glebe trailhead, find a pay phone or staff working at the museum, and call the Inn to have them pick me up.
Now, these were the primitive days, back in the year 1998 BC (before cell phones.) So it was pretty normal to be a self-sufficient skier with no means of contact. No helicopter was going to pluck me out of this rather dire situation.
I was at the far end of the loop and still had to do what felt like 10 km to get to the museum. So what else could I do but ski there on one foot.
I was going to have to master a new Nordic technique: one-legged skiing!
I grabbed my broken ski. How was I to carry it back? I held it together loosely in my mit with my ski pole on the side I was skiing on as extra stability. What else could do? I would use my other pole and now skiless boot to push me along and headed off to see how this might work out.
Glebe is considered one of the more advanced ski areas in Ontario and is normally lots of fun and a good workout. I usually appreciate lots of big hills and fast descents. Not today.
The ski strategy I developed was to glide down on one ski as much as gravity would grant me. This would cover more ground than walking. To even things out, I switched the ski with the good binding from one foot to the other as I went.
It was a bit of a balancing act and of course, there was no kick involved to propel me, just a lot of pole/foot action (while holding on to my other ski).
But there was a limit to how fast going down a hill I could manage. Risking another fall that might make my situation worse would be foolish. From the top of a hill, if it looked like I might get too much speed, I had to unfortunately walk down the whole thing. I had no brakes! Going up, was all foot power. There was no way to go up those hills on one ski.
As you can imagine, my progress was slow, but I was managing, and there was no sense of panic. I had skied here before, I was experienced, and I was determined not to have the wolves find me for dinner.
What kept me going was the reward awaiting me.
The Inn had a large, hot tub in the basement. My end goal! I just had to keep going. I was driven and focused, imagining myself floating in the hot bubbles to recover from just a little bit too much adventure that day.
By the time I got to the museum, the lights had come on and twilight was in the air. I had made it! It was a relief to be warm inside the heritage museum. A call was made to the Wigamog and within half an hour I was lying in that well-deserved hot tub.
When I returned years later with a girlfriend, the Inn, regrettably, was falling into disrepair, and now it is no more. The connector trail has since disappeared. But you can still ski Glebe Park. If you do, I recommend you do it on two skis.
An Invitation to Submit Your Own Tales
If you have experienced any interesting tales from the trails, I encourage you to submit your own stories. You don’t have to be a great, established author. Just send me your proposed outline or write a short little entertaining tale about your Nordic ski or snowshoe adventures here in Ontario or elsewhere.
If you took photos to support your text, all the better, email me those, too. I am sure we all have a few campfire stories we could share on OST.
My brother tells a great story about, miscommunicating with a ski guide and trekking in a blizzard near Algonquin, with no key to get into the cabin at the end of the day. I asked him to write about it …how about you?
Send me a message from my contact page
Here is another Tail from the Trails – My Cell Phone is Lost in the Snow