Day 2 of being in Montana involved a slightly terrifying excursion on skis, that was apparently not quite terrifying enough to prevent me from going out a second time.
Mark had me convinced to try skiing, following our snowshoeing tour the day prior. “It’s easier,” he said. “You don’t have to use as much energy to lift your legs up.”
Well, that may very well be true, but the amount of mental energy that’s required to continuously convince your body that yes, it’s okay to be sliding faster and faster down hills of snow is absolutely more exhausting than walking around in snowshoes for an hour. Despite getting off to a late start for the lesson, Mark was a good teacher and was able to teach me the technique required for cross-country skiing (keeping your weight properly centered over your ankles and sliding) and get me going with two skis on over flat and not-quite-flat snow. We also learned how to fall, and how to get up. Yes, there is actually a technique for both of those things, and it is not easy to stand up when you have 6-foot sliding sticks strapped to your shoes. It’d be easy to hurt your ankle or smack yourself with a ski if you don’t stand up properly, so that was a lesson I was glad for. The only thing I missed out on learning was how to stop properly (apparently, that’s lesson #2), so I was told to just intentionally fall over if I needed to stop. One of my biggest fears in life is falling so this wasn’t my favorite thing to hear, but I soon realized that at least if you are planning to fall, you can control, to an extent, when and where you do. Then you just have to get up properly…hence that being a critical part of lesson #1.
I headed back inside not long after my lesson was over because I hadn’t packed waterproof gloves, so my fingers were numb from the snow. (Wearing fabric gloves= bad idea!) The timing was right for taking a break for lunch, anyway, and I enjoyed a cheeseburger and sweet potato fries in the dining car after changing into new clothes so that I could dry off and warm up. I spent the early afternoon taking a nap (there’s a theme here!) and writing, and then around 5:00 decided to head outside for skiing, round 2: solo adventure.
It was, actually, about as successful as I thought it would be, if not as much as I hoped. I had been given directions to a completely flat trail that it was recommended I ski on, but after weighing by confidence in navigating with my confidence in skiing, I ultimately bet on skiing better and headed for a closer, but hillier, trail for the evening.
Well…I was able to get my skis on by myself without falling down! And I was able to get from the nearby bridge to the trail and onto the trail and partially down the hill, even, before my subconscious brain kicked in and started screaming “YOU’RE FALLING!!!” causing me to involuntarily lean backwards even when I knew I should be leaning forward (center your weight over your ankles). It was a battle between what I knew I should be doing and what my brain wanted my body to do. And I was picking up speed (of course) since I was headed downhill without stopping. So I fell. I picked myself up from that and started down the hill again… As soon as I accepted that I got the thrill of skiing properly for a few seconds, I fell again- intentionally, this time- and took my skis off and climbed back up the hill. I wasn’t putting myself through that for an entire kilometer!
My one accomplishment was that when I got back to level ground, I got some speed going and then was able to stop properly instead of stopping by falling. And with that, my time skiing was done. I took the skis off and walked back to the inn for dinner.
The dining car was packed for dinner, and I hadn’t made a reservation, so I ended up getting my dinner (gnocchi with beef tenderloin tips) for takeout, and going to eat it downstairs at the bar with a local beer. While I was waiting for my food to be made, the westbound Amtrak train passed by the inn. It’s a tradition to stand outside on the back porch and wave to the train as it passes- that’s the photo above. Some people ventured down onto the snow, but I was wearing a T-shirt and no shoes, so I stayed as close to the door as possible! It’s a fun tradition of camaraderie, and everyone who was around the lobby area was anxiously tracking the train so that we all made it outside in time.
I hung around the bar/lounge area for a while- in the next room, there are a lot of huge, comfy leather couches, so I curled up there to read some travel stores from a book I’d picked up in Portland. (A lot of families staying at the inn had taken over the room to exchange Christmas gifts the day before, so this was the first opportunity I had to go in there.) It was relaxing and comforting to enjoy a quiet evening in a place like that.
At the end of the night, I headed back to my room to finish packing and get some rest before starting my mega-long eastbound journey the next morning!