Doug Lewandowski column: First ski of the season

Dragging out the wicking underwear, I chose the heavier variety as the temperatures and wind outside were nippy.

Doug Lewandowski mug.jpg
Doug Lewandowski

The initial cross-country ski excursion of the season was welcomed. I avoided weekend crowds and went the Monday after Christmas when the weather settled down. At my tender age and level of competence, it's nice to enjoy the woods when there are fewer people around. I go to the forest for solitude. It wasn’t warm, but who needs warm? It’s skiing!

The first time out for the year requires patience and self-restraint, especially not grousing about where I put my skiing stuff from last year. I decided this time to take it slow. What’s the rush?

The skis were easy to locate. They were right there in the corner of the “far-away” basement where I put them early last spring after the snow melted. I had to fight my way to them through window screens and left-over carpet from some remodeling, all the while trying to avoid tripping over an air conditioner, a concession to warm-weather in Duluth. The skis were in good shape with both glide and multi-temperature kick waxes still functional.

Next came clothes, which were retrieved from different parts of the house, and then the boots. I got rid of the trendy laces a couple years ago after they wore out. The boots now have industrial-grade laces straight from Fleet — function over form.

Dragging out the wicking underwear, I chose the heavier variety as the temperatures and wind outside were nippy. Slipping them on reminded me of the time one of my offspring commented on my appearance when wearing them and threatened to take my picture. “Dad, you look kind of like a Stormtrooper!” Sorry, no helmet and laser rifle.


Other parts of the skiing ensemble include a reversible jacket with a Jameson logo displayed on both sides. It’s warm — that’s what counts — and I do like the whiskey.

Next was a pair of heated gloves, a birthday present from one of my kids. First time out in any kind of cold weather with new equipment is always an experiment. The batteries had to be charged and then tucked into little pockets on top of the gloves. As is typical for someone who thinks he knows most of the time how things work, I didn’t read the instructions. The end result was one hand cooking and the other one never thawing out. When I got home, I read the directions.

I went out to the Boulder Lake trails early. I was the first one in the parking lot. The usual cussing trying to make one of the bindings fit didn’t happen this time. I was skiing within minutes.

The trails hadn’t been groomed for classic, but were rolled and in decent shape. The hard-packed snow from the blizzard would have to wait for track setting after the next snow dump.

It was quiet, with a westerly wind that swayed the aspen tops and soughed through the pines. Along the trail, debris was sprinkled underneath a balsam where a porcupine had parked himself in the treetop. He didn’t stir. Chickadees, as they always do, were zipping around from branch to branch, and a raven called in the distance. I stopped and listened. I have been skiing for almost 50 years. I can’t think of a better way to spend a morning in winter. And this time, it didn’t take an hour to find all my stuff.

Doug Lewandowski is a retired counselor, educator and psychologist. Write to him at

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