Friday, January 18, 2008

Night Ski

I've been fortunate to night-ski twice this week at Great Brook Farm State Park in Carlisle, MA. They offer night skiing on Tues/Thur nights. How it is supposed to work is you follow the 1.4km Lantern Loop. No artificial lights are allowed. The kerosene lanterns don't really light up the path; they merely mark the way to go. Since the area is largely urban around there, ambient city lighting is often enough to ski by (some would call this light pollution).

Tuesday night was a brilliant, moon-lit night. The moon was directly overhead and completely abolished any shadow information for spacial depth processing. Skiing was by feel. A lot of people were there. Many families and large groups did not have a strong sense of trail etiquette. Apparently, the skate lane is where you stop and socialize. I was there for a good aerobic fix, so I bolted from the lantern loop. Technically, the other trails are closed after dark, but a few venture out on them. In the open fields, the bright moon and fresh snow were dazzling and no head lamp was needed. However, in the woods it was much harder to see. Some areas are canopied by thick evergreens, and they were laden with snow to block even more moonlight. I used the lamp. Skiing through the woods on a calm, sparkling moonlit night without another soul around touched into the mystical realm. Skied around 16km in 1.3hrs.

Thursday night I went back again. A snowstorm with mixed precip was threatening the area. Temps hovered right around the freezing mark. Glide was vastly improved over Tuesday night. Waxing my skis this time might have had something to do with that. The trails were less crowed. When I went in to sign for my trail pass (I have season ticket), I was reminded that lights are not allowed. I had it on my head already. I replied I wasn't using it on the lantern loop. Oops, mistake number two. I was further reminded that skiing on the other trails was also not allowed after dark. I buzzed around the lantern loop a bunch of times, quite fast, and I'm sure at the consternation of some of the leisure classic skiers there. I strayed only slightly off the lantern loop. No light was needed at all. There was mix of diffused city light reflecting off thin a cloud layer and moon light trying to poke through. There was decent shadow definition on the trail to see the many undulations. I did multiple laps on a short loop with a small hill away from the people before coming back to the lantern loop. At times, the moon poked completely through the clouds and I would lose my depth perception. Skate skiing is all about balance, and balance is surprisingly heavily dependent on visual cues. Take those away, it's almost like you had too much to drink. I skied about 19km in 1.3hrs.

Biking has taken a back seat to skiing right now. That doesn't mean I'm off the bike. I did some VOmax hill intervals Tuesday at lunch on a gravel road near work. Studs bit very nicely into the hard-packed snow surface. Then Wednesday I did about 80 minutes at lower tempo range ride. I hope to get a 3+ hr ride in on Sunday, but it sure looks like its gonna be cold.

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