January 2020

Thoughts about…

Perpetual Forward Motion

I apologize for sounding like a scrooge, but I’m grateful the holiday season is over.

As much as I love the friends, food, and festivities associated with the holidays, I happen to like my routine more than any breaks from it. Like being in the middle of a streak and not wanting to break it.

Inertia is a powerful thing. Once you stop doing whatever it is that you’re doing, it can be difficult to get started again. And it’s definitely challenging to regain any momentum you may have built while doing it.

Carve lines from skiing on a snowy mountain

Practicing Telemark turns north of Carson Pass on December 16, 2019. © Jared Manninen

Running into town for a food resupply or to take a short break from life on the trail was always uncertain when thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail (way back in 1999). All of the conveniences, entertainment, and interactions with people who weren’t thru-hiking made it difficult to stay focused. As a result, the vortex of town had the power to draw in hikers and never let them go.

I realize this sounds a bit extreme. However, we’ve all experienced the effects of a disruption to our system. We’ve all experienced inertia in one form or another.

Maybe this is why I’ve been drawn to cross-country skiing – the art is very much based on the idea of maintaining perpetual forward motion.

Skate lane at a groomed cross country ski area

I’ve been practicing skate skiing in earnest this winter. The conditions on the morning of December 22, 2019, were perfect. © Jared Manninen

If you look at the design of a cross-country ski, you’ll notice that they’re long, lightweight, and primarily straight. They beg to travel long distances in a straight line.

You can obviously turn, on the flats and downhill, while cross-country skiing. But, even then, the two main ways in which to turn are not intended to slow you down. The step turn allows you to maintain your speed while changing direction. The skate turn enables you to actually accelerate through the change in direction. No matter what, the idea is to keep moving forward.

Yes, you can stop yourself and perform skidded turns (which check your speed) while cross-country skiing. But ask any beginner cross-country skier and they’ll tell you that none of it is easy.

Those cross-country skis, again, just want to keep moving forward. So, as you might have guessed, maintaining perpetual forward motion has been my mantra of late.

Snow-flocked pine trees in a snowy forest

Cross-country skiing around the backyard in a snowstorm on December 23, 2019. © Jared Manninen

Having gone from last winter’s big ski year to my obsessive wildflower and plant life search this summer, I wasn’t planning on another big year of cross-country skiing. Alas, the snow at Lake Tahoe has been so good so far this year that it’s inevitable. As of mid-January (2020), I’ve already logged over 40 days of cross-country skiing.

What’s so exciting about this lesson in exploration (besides just having fun) is that my skills and understanding of cross-country skiing are dramatically increasing. This would seem logical based on the frequency in which I ski.

Snowy forest at at a groomed cross country ski area

Christmas arrived and, with it, beautiful snow and cross-country skiing conditions. © Jared Manninen

Performing an action repeatedly, however, doesn’t necessarily make you better at it. In fact, you could be doing yourself a disservice by not getting regular feedback during the learning process. Just like the Vince Lombardi quote, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”

I understand there are limitations to this approach to learning.

  • How do you practice perfectly if you haven’t yet embodied the skill(s) in question?
  • Whose idea of perfect are we adhering to?
  • If we try to emulate perfection every time we practice, when are we allowed to experiment and innovate?

Overall, however, I appreciate the famous coach’s belief in getting better at a thing. You have to train consistently, perform skill-specific drills, and study the details of the activity in question to truly become proficient at it. So, that’s what I’ve been doing this season.

Sunrise filtering through the forest while cross-country skiing

Chasing the sun up the mountain on December 27, 2019. © Jared Manninen

Although I do go out for the exercise and to enjoy nature, mostly I’ve been working on specific techniques. My routine has been to find an appropriate aspect of terrain, based on the technique(s) I’ll be practicing, and hammer away until I’ve run out of time. Then, I do it again during the next ski session.

Being a student of sport is what I love, but nearly as enjoyable is to share that knowledge with others. So, although I’m trying to become a better cross-country skier so that I can have more fun, I’m also doing it to bring others on-board. Because, as much as I’ve believed I’m a man on an island, life is more fulfilling when you can share your experiences.

And, I’d much rather share those experiences with others in a literal sense, such as traveling together through snow-flocked forests and over snow-capped mountains instead of just catching up at a holiday dinner party.

Mountain covered in snow and pine trees

View of Mount Tallac and Fallen Leaf Lake on January 6, 2020. © Jared Manninen

For those of you fellow Nordic nerds out there, here’s a video I recently produced about the new Swix brand line of liquid spray-on CH glide waxes.

I continue to tweak and clean up all of the articles I’ve written for Tahoe Trail Guide. However, I did manage to write a few simpler blogs this past month. The third in this list is a brief recap of the year’s success. Enjoy!

Click an image to read its article.

More designs I uploaded to my RedBubble account that feature imagery from around Lake Tahoe. I’m making it a habit to upload designs more often. However, if there’s an image you’ve seen of mine (on social media, for example) that you like but it’s not yet available on RedBubble, let me know.

Click an image to view the design and its corresponding product availability.

Thanks for being a part of my life. Until next time…

-Jared Manninen

Tahoe Trail Guide is an online magazine for sharing my knowledge about hiking, backpacking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing, as well as information about traveling to (and through) the Lake Tahoe region. I refine that information for a younger audience and produce it in a printed format under the title Wilderness Activity Books. Lastly, Tahoe Swag is a collection of art and design products I create based on my love of the outdoors and appreciation for Lake Tahoe.

Categories: Newsletters
Tags: #2020

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