Patrick Lewis and Kenzie Barnwell ski the trails in Anchorage, Alaska, on Feb. 7, 2021. (Photo by Kat Sorensen)

Patrick Lewis and Kenzie Barnwell ski the trails in Anchorage, Alaska, on Feb. 7, 2021. (Photo by Kat Sorensen)

Tangled Up in Blue: Ski season

Nordic skiing has been a great equalizer for me this winter. I often spend my days doing laps around Bear Lake in Seward or training for the Tour of Tsalteshi.

I’ve spent many lunch hours strapping on my boots and taking a break from the home office, breaking up the monotony of working from my kitchen table by spending an hour or so sweating in the cold — a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

I’ve also been able to spend more time with friends, bringing some balance back to my social life. During a year spent within my bubble, it’s been great to see people on the ski trails in full force and safely talk to anyone interested in taking a ski break and catching up.

And best of all, I’ve been able to spend more time outside with my partner, Patrick. In the past, we go separate ways for exercise, him going for a quick run and me, a fun ski. But last year, I tried to get him into skate skiing. I figured, he’s a runner and likes classic skiing, so it should be a good fit.

In a hodgepodge of borrowed gear, we started skiing around the lake. It was a typical sunny, and windy, Seward day, though, and within a mile his beginner’s form had taken a toll on his back. We turned around, wind at his now painful back, and slogged back to the car. All the borrowed equipment was returned and I continued to ski without him.

This year, though, he was excited to give it another chance. During his first ski of the season, he donned actual skate ski boots (versus his flexible classic boots) and there was no wind, so he was immediately infinitely better, and he actually enjoyed it!

Most nights at 5 p.m. after work, we would head straight to Bear Lake and do a lap, and every night he would get a little bit faster.

We would talk about conditions, and how they affected our speed, and I would critique his poling and glide, and it reminded me of my first winter skiing, futzing and fumbling around Tsalteshi.

Eventually, Patrick improved to the point where a ski with him was less of a lesson and more of a shared experience.

His speed and skill got to the point where we were able to glide around the lake with no major falls to derail our flow and conversational level of exertion.

Skate skiing has been a good equalizer for us, allowing us to move at the same pace and enjoy each other’s company. It’s not like when we run together and I’m just struggling to breathe, let alone converse, at his pace. And it’s not like a day downhill skiing, where we hang out at the bunny hill just a little too long for my liking (but for his benefit).

And it’s been such a joy, sharing such a beloved activity with someone I care about, and watching them grow as a skier.

But, let’s be honest, the competitive side of me doesn’t want him to get any better.


For the Clarion

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