Bridgette Haggerty fills in for dad to pay for cross-country skis


Drive time and distance:  27 minutes; 16.2 miles

Length:  2 miles one way to the switchbacks

Hiking Time:  1-2 hours

Difficulty:  Easy to moderate

Here’s the deal: I’m home on what may or may not be my very last Christmas brea k from school.  I am officially a second semester senior in college and if all goes well, I’ll have some fabulous job/internship at this time next year and my dad may never again have the opportunity to take advantage of this extra time on my hands.

Also, I went skiing without him.

I am the proud owner of a brand spankin’ new pair of cross-country skis thanks to our friendly neighborhood ski and bike shop, Board and Buckle, my dad’s job (read: money), and some persistent begging on my part. So, because of that aforementioned job and my endearing eagerness (or lack of patience) to test out my new skis, dad got left behind.

Mom and I headed up to Liberty Cap last Sunday in what turned out to be a pretty short cross-country ski, but more importantly an epic battle of young versus (slightly) older, vintage vs. modern, hi-tech vs. less tech, my new gear vs. my mother’s gear that belongs in a museum.

If you were fortunate enough to be up and out last Sunday and passed two people struggling along, wearing a different boot/ski combo on each foot, you witnessed the ultimate gear test. Mom had been thinking about updating her gear, so we devised this ingenious way of “feeling” the differences between old and new.

Mom’s skis are waxable. Mine are not. This is really what it’s all about. Waxless skis have “fish scales” on the bottom, preventing skis from slipping backwards, especially on an incline, but allow the skis to glide forward smoothly. On the other hand, or foot in our case, waxable skis use messy waxes to prevent slippage. This is applied to the middle of the ski bottom (underneath the foot). Different waxes are applied to either end to promote smooth forward motion.

There are also different types of wax depending on temperature and snow conditions. Generally, waxables are a little faster and, according to my dad, provide a much longer “glide.”

So, the decision on purchasing new skis for classic cross-country skiing really comes down to whether or not you’re willing to deal with getting the whole waxing situation down to an art form, and how fast you want to go.

Here’s the kicker (get it?): if the wax is not dealt with properly, you could end up with one sticky mess and not a particularly enjoyable time.

So, if you’re looking to buy a pair of skis there are several options in town. As I mentioned, mine are from Board and Buckle, but you could also check out Summit Canyon Mountaineering, REI or Gene Taylor’s.

If you want waxables like Mom’s, however, you’ll have to order those and be prepared to pay a little more. No one in town carries waxable skis anymore. My waxless package was on sale for $250 for boots, bindings, poles and skis.

Waxable or waxless?  Mom and I agreed to disagree. She’s sticking with her antique waxless skis and I am definitely not turning in my fish scales for a bag of wax. However, we both agreed we should have tested some snowshoes instead.

Liberty Cap had plenty of snow last weekend, but conditions were less than ideal for either type of ski. According to Parks Service employee Janet Kelleher (an old kindergarten classmate of mine) who was on duty last weekend, the Monument hadn’t seen any fresh snow for about a week. This explained the crusty and slightly icy conditions.

We probably should have looked into that before venturing up. The people we passed on snowshoes, like Ray and Peggy Pilcher, struggled much less than us.

To reach the top Liberty Cap trail head, take Monument Road 4.4 miles to the east entrance of the National Monument where Monument Road turns into Rimrock Drive. Pay the $7 per vehicle fee, then stay on that for another 11.8 miles. You’ll come to the Black Ridge Hunter Access Road to the left (west). A couple hundred yards farther and to the right, you’ll see the Liberty Cap Trail parking area. If you’re traveling from the Fruita side or west entrance to the Monument, drive about seven miles past the visitor center.

And remember, no matter what type of gear you use, have fun and be grateful you don’t have to compete with the masses on the east (dark) side of the Continental Divide.

One more semester over there. I can make it. I can make it.


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