Altitude Sickness

The joys of the cold snap

By Brady Crain

I do love the cold. I don’t have much more to say about it, but I really like cold snaps. I look at it like an endurance contest. How much cold can I stand to wear flip flops? How long can I work outside in my shirtsleeves?

I just love it when 10 degrees feels like t-shirt weather, and when zero doesn’t require a coat to go out, climb in your car, and drive away, and be fine with it by the time your car heats up.

I also really love the January thaws. Statistically, Vermont has two periods a year where the temperature goes above freezing for twelve hours or more. They happen every year, so there’s no use complaining about them, right? Plus, the freeze-thaw cycles build the blue plate ice base that keeps you from shredding your skis in the woods, and keeps the spring skiing season nice and long. We’ve been over this, at length.

My back is still improving, which is funny, because I keep feeling like there is no room for my back to improve. But it does. My lifts are getting stronger, I am now in a low-rep high-weight cycle, and I am gaining strength injury free. I am even doing higher weight leg and back lifts (something I haven’t done much of since my surgery), and they are going well, seemingly reducing pain rather than causing it.

Daily time on the cycle trainer virtually eliminates ambient pain to the point where I am having to resist going for a run, which I sincerely believe would be a mistake, since there is only pavement to run on. I will just have to start hitting the uphill sports soon, get out the snowshoes and the skins, and start using my legs for power instead of just control.

Though I have a little trouble with my back if I am on my feet for more than four or five hours without sitting down, and eight hours on my feet is downright painful, it’s easier than it used to be to stand on my feet for a half an hour. I feel that I have no right to complain.

The skiing this week has been spectacular, with eminently rippable groomers and occasional pockets of powder, until the thaw. I have been going out far longer than I ever have, between two and four hours instead of my usual one to two hours, and then lifting when I get home. It is exciting to have my body fire on all cylinders, and it is exciting that I have lately been skiing with friends instead of skiing solo.

One friend I ski with a couple of days a week is a solid intermediate skier, and we mostly take it easy. We occasionally do a few expert runs, so I have short bursts of tearing it up, but it is worthy of note that skiing slowly has an entirely different leg exertion than going fast, and it is a good workout. I enjoy it. It also increases the percentage of ski time that I spend on my feet versus sitting on a chair, which is good for me.

The other friend I have been skiing with is, to put it simply, a world better than I am. He is younger, more energetic, stronger, and more skilled with skis than I will ever be. But it is great fun following him around, slashing up the mountain, doing my best to copy his technique. I keep up with him, and I do it on what are currently dull, unwaxed Telly skis (there is something to be said for being slightly overweight, I guess … nice high terminal velocity).

I have to say I am proud of how I am skiing. If you are out skiing, and you smell smoke, don’t worry. It’s just me. I’m on fire. I’ve put in about 664 days in the last four winters.

I should get a cookie for that!

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