Just before Christmas, sitting in the relative comfort of my Los Angeles apartment, I decided to train in earnest for the 2013 American Birkebeiner.
All it took was some good-natured ribbing from an ex-colleague who told me I would get fat from a non-stop diet of tacos and chips and no cross-country skiing to burn all those all those yummy calories.
I moved to California less than a month ago for a job at the LA ,after more than five years at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. I knew I would miss my friends, colleagues and, of course, the easy access to good snow and multiple trails. I learned how to ski in the 2010-2011 season and have skied the Kortelopet the last two years in Cable. Earlier this year, I figured I was ready for the big one and registered for the Birkie.
After taking the job in L.A., I wasn’t sure if I would have the time or inclination to train, but I really need a fitness goal. Without one, I just kind of go on auto-pilot, aimlessly doing the stair climber at the gym.
So on a Sunday morning, I headed out to Rim Nordic Ski Area, nestled in the San Bernardino Mountains, about 90 minutes east of L.A. I’m told Rim Nordic offers the only groomed trails in Southern California, but there’s a lot of back-country skiing to be had, so I might buy some used classic skis to supplement my obsession.
It’s a scenic drive once you get out of San Bernardino Valley. After you get off the highway, State Route 330 winds through the foothills, then you are in the misty mountains. Eventually, you pass through Running Springs, with plenty of restaurants, gas stations and liquor stores (there are several downhill ski resorts in the area).
Rim Nordic has 10 miles of trails groomed for skating and classic — all on old fire service roads. That means no loops, just out and backs, which is a bummer. It’s all two-way skiing and the trails aren’t that wide, so I can just imagine colliding with another skier or diving out of the way. For that reason, I plan on getting there early every time.
One big bonus – your base elevation is 6,750 feet so there are great views of peaks to the south, including Slide Peak and Keller Peak as well as the Snow Valley Mountain Resort. Also, that elevation should give me a leg up on the competition at the Birkie.
I skied for about three hours and was gassed from the elevation and from not being in any kind of good ski shape and easily five pounds overweight (those damn tacos). I’m hoping to make it back there again soon.
In the meantime, I’ll be doing road rides in Griffith Park in L.A., which has a lot of steep climbs to max out your cardio.
I hope to write occasional posts on my training. See you at the Birkie!
Ben Poston learned to Nordic Ski during his five-year stint as a reporter and editor with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Ohio native recently took his database skills and his skis to Los Angeles, where he plans to train for the 2013 American Birkebeiner.