I wrote this on February 15 but didn’t post it until now. I hope you enjoy it.
Last night Mark and I went out skiing at 9pm, which is usually around the time he’s winding down for the evening since he’s usually up well before 5am. But there was a full moon and I really wanted to go skiing under it, so after a bit of convincing (and after we finished our tea) we headed out. It was 29˚F and we both had our headlights on…
The snow was glorious. We’d gotten a good amount in that last storm before the layer of ice, and then about 4” on top of that, so there was a good base for skiing. The layer of ice made planting our poles a challenge, but that was such a minor annoyance that we didn’t let that dampen our spirits.
I’ve cross-country skied at night only one or two other times, and it’s been down our dirt road after a storm and before the plow has gone by. I have downhill skied at night, and I have to admit that I didn’t really like it all that much. I might have felt differently if I’d had my own headlamp on instead of relying on the light poles on the hill, which didn’t illuminate the shadows on the moguls or uneven parts of the hill. And when we were in France we went snowshoeing at night with a group that either had lived in an English-speaking country or liked to hang out with other English-speakers, or were English or Americans living in Grenoble, like us. I did like the snowshoeing experience, in spite of the fact it was well below zero the night we were out!
Last night was magical. The fact that it was Valentine’s Day wasn’t lost on us, although I have to say that we don’t really observe it. To us, it’s a Hallmark holiday. Perhaps that’s too cynical of an attitude, yet that’s always been how we’ve looked at it. We would much rather spend our money traveling to see our kids or some other special thing like that. So for us, this was a perfect way to spend the evening. Being outside, doing something we both love, with no other person around. It’s burned in my brain as one of my fondest winter memories with my husband; one of my fondest winter memories period!
The light under the full moon, out in the woods, where the trees were still covered in freshly fallen snow, reminded me of a children’s storybook by Ruth Sanderson called “The Enchanted Wood.” There was an element of fantasy or even other-worldliness. At times the moon was so bright that it looked like a lantern was shining on the snow between the shadows. At other times, the trees were so thick we couldn’t really see the light from the moon. The snowmobilers had been out, which helped with the layer of crust from the ice; our own version of groomed trails.
Early in the ski, probably because the trail was dark and we weren’t used to seeing it that way, we didn’t realize exactly where we were and ended up taking a fairly steep hill rather quickly, with Mark right on my tail. Usually on that hill he gives me quite a bit of space in case one of us were to fall. At the bottom of the hill are rock sculptures (that during the winter months you wouldn’t even know were there because they’re covered by snow), and you have to turn sharply to avoid running into a tree… I moved to the right off the trail because I knew I was going too fast, and it wasn’t until Mark zoomed past me that he noticed he didn’t even have his light on because he had been following me and my light was on… it wasn’t until we reached the bottom of the hill that I observed where we actually were on the trail, at the fallen down tree! WELL! THAT was exciting!
On our way back home, we turned off our headlamps and realized that once our eyes adjusted to the low light we could ski without them. The danger was behind us, both literally and figuratively, so we let the blue-grey light mesmerize us as we headed home, tired and content and extremely joyful.
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This photo was taken from an earlier snow in December, on my favorite trail; one we skied during our moonlight ski.