boots, sleds, cross-country, back-country ski, ski, ski

It’s like discovering the door to Narnia in your own home.

For years, we’ve played in our beautiful little canyon from May to November: roasting marshmallows over campfires, Saturday morning hikes, road biking and mountain biking, taking photographs, and so many mornings running the trails with friends.

The toll booth is 1.9 miles from our house and we often buy two canyon passes a year because one simply isn’t enough. Whenever we buy a new pass Erik expresses shock at the price and when the unwitting toll worker apologizes for inflation, Erik says, “No, I can’t believe it’s so cheap.”

And yet, despite our love for the canyon, we’ve neglected it in the winter. My running friends and I bid a rather dramatic farewell when the trails filled with ice and snow. Ben and Sammie explored the upper canyon on cross-country skis, as did Gabe, but the rest of us rarely visited during the winter months.

I had all these hang-ups—- snow shoes are expensive, cross-country skis are expensive. We’d already invested in downhill skis and we just couldn’t justify more equipment.

Then, Covid. We didn’t dare buy ski passes and decided to invest in cross-country skis instead. The dream of cross-country skiing kept me going all summer long. I talked about the first snow, going up the canyon, packing hot chocolate, throwing snowballs… you know, the winter dream.

A few years ago, I read an article about Norwegians and how they cope with the lack of sunlight in winter. In a word, they EMBRACE the cold. They make plans, they prioritize getting outside, they dress for the weather, they stop complaining about winter and look forward to it instead.

So I looked forward. Oh my, did I look forward. My kids grew weary of my incessant talk about cross-country skiing all winter long. And here’s the benefit of cross-country– you don’t need much snow.

The morning after the first snowfall (Nov. 10th), we were up at the snow gate with mittens and hats, boots and poles and skis. The snow gate is simply a gate that reaches across the road about 5 miles up the canyon. Because no cars travel the road, the snow remains on the road and it’s a sledding, skiing, walking highway.

We didn’t need the skis at all.

On the road, we saw apple cheeked toddlers strapped to their parents backs, older couples with sturdy hiking poles, kids in puffy snowpants pulling sleds, dogs of all sizes leaping through snow drifts and the much missed sight of so many people smiling.

The canyon can get a bit crowded in the parking lots and at the gate. But within minutes everyone spreads out, masks come off and we get to witness families having fun together. I’d forgotten how much other people’s joy brings me joy.

And the skis are fun. Don’t get me wrong. I could write ballads about the swish of the skis, the exhilaration of the descent, the faith and fear… But I don’t need them to enjoy the canyon. No one does. For so many years, I’d created this limitation in my mind.

And the canyon was always right there. For me. For everyone.

So many people complain about the crowded canyons and national parks during covid. I feel differently, I love seeing so many people getting out and enjoying God’s creations.

It makes me wonder– what else have I been missing? Which corners of my life have I been neglecting? What joys and beauties have been right in front of me and I simply need to open the door or open my eyes? I’ve been telling all my friends to get up the canyon and they say the same thing, “I’m almost of ashamed of myself that I’ve been missing out on winter up here for all these years.”

Since November 10th we’ve been up in the canyon at least twice a week (usually three or four). And I meant to talk more about cross-country and back-country and downhill skiing to give you the whole rundown, comparison, cost breakdown, etc. But for today, skip the skis (or whatever you think you need), just get out there.

What have you discovered during quarantine that was right in front of you? What doors to Narnia have you opened?