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Cross-country skiingJim Licklider prepares to try out cross-country skiing in Columbia.
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cross country ski Jim
I had to suppress the smile that was starting to form across my face.
“I am not very good at cross-country skiing,” he said.
Well of course you aren’t, I thought to myself.
That’s when he held up the boot. The very old, and now very broken, boot. Part of me was relieved that we hadn’t found any ski boots my size, but I was also curious to know exactly how hard cross country skiing was. Jim’s first attempt was a bit lackluster. He came back, face red and sweating. Something had clicked, though— he actually liked it. Jim insisted we purchase shoe adhesive and fix the boot immediately so he could try again the next day.
For those brave enough to try something most Missourians never attempt, consider cross-country skiing.
But first, you’ll have to scrounge around for the equipment. Because cross-country skiing isn’t as popular in our state as it is in more northern states, most stores don’t carry the equipment. Don’t let this discourage you. With a little persistence (and hopefully no shoe glue) finding used and even new cross country equipment can be a relatively simple task.
What you’ll need are special ski boots, bindings, ski poles, and of course, skis. The bindings hold or clip the toe of the ski boot onto the ski. The poles, which are shoulder height, are then used for balance and to propel forward. If we lived in Minnesota or another snowy state, it would be easy to find cross-country ski kits suited for gender and age, but since we do not, I was left piecing together the equipment. I had a pair of women’s skis and poles borrowed from a friend, but no boots or bindings.
After an afternoon scrambling around Columbia searching for cross-country shoes, I came up short. I had hoped local outdoors shops might have them, but they didn’t. Because Missouri’s snowfall is meager compared to northern states, sporting goods stores don’t keep anything cross-country ski related in stock. I was beginning to lose faith in my endeavor at this classic North Country sport when I turned to Jim’s parents’ house.
My husband’s parents have random things in their house—they collect antiques and very rarely get rid of things. They have a 150-year old horse saddle just sitting in their attic and still have a metal toy dump truck from when Jim was a kid. It only made sense that they just might have some cross-country equipment lying around, especially since two of Jim’s aunts live in Minnesota.
My hunch was confirmed when we found a pair of men’s skis and poles along with a pair of men’s ski boots. They were a throwback to the 1970s, of course, but they would still work. As we pulled out of his parent’s driveway, the snow continued falling on the windshield and our excitement rose.
Unbeknownst to me, Jim tried cross-country skiing that night, when the night sky was bright from the reflection of the white snow. And that’s when he broke the shoes. I probably would have broken them too after listening to what it was like: “It’s kind of like rollerblading with really long roller blades, only more awkward,” he told me. “But once I got the hang of it, it was really fun.”
After watching him ski the next day, I could see what he meant. Despite the fact he looked like a newborn giraffe learning to stand, I hopped on the Internet in search of women’s equipment for myself. Cross-country ski equipment may not be in Missouri stores, but Missourians do have them. A source for couches and apartment sublets, Craigslist is a catchall when it comes to used goods. Kansas City, St. Louis, Columbia, and St. Joseph all had some sort of cross-country gear. What is listed is random, though, so skiers searching for this type of gear will have to search diligently and frequently. But, the used prices can’t be beat for any beginner wishing to try their luck at cross-country skiing.
For those wanting to spend a little more on this winter sport, the REI store in St. Louis is the best bet. Skiers in the St. Louis area can order cross-country ski gear online and choose the store location as the shipment destination for free shipping. Customers that don’t live in the area can order them online and pay extra to ship it directly home. Other big-box sporting stores in the state either did not offer this kind of equipment or had stringent policies about returns. Either way, used or new, cross-country skiing is a challenge worth the tackle for adventurers around Missouri. That’s why I’ll keep searching.
You never know, I may need them to go to the grocery store during Missouri’s next blizzard.
-By Lauren Licklider