The office is not exactly downhill

Mushing: Cross- country skier has one complaint: shoveled- clean sidewalks.

January 27, 2000|By Scott Shane | Scott Shane,SUN STAFF

For a person who recently traded a Corolla for a Taurus, there is no sight more heartwarming than an SUV stuck in the snow, however briefly. So my thanks to the driver of that shiny black monster -- a Ford beginning with Ex-, Expedition or Excursion or maybe Excessive -- trying to muscle his way out of a Rodgers Forge snowdrift yesterday morning.

I was feeling extra smug, because I'd left the Taurus in my own snowdrift, clipped on my 27-year-old cross- country skis and charged off in the general direction of The Sun at Calvert and Centre streets.

A colleague not known to suffer from any delusional disorder had mentioned Tuesday that he had skied to work during the blizzards of '79 and '83. And I thought: Why not take advantage of Baltimore's famously sluggish snow removal? Why not combine my commute with a little exercise?

The sun shone. The neighbors stared. And some 2 1/2 hours later, I knocked the gray slush off my skis, nearly smashed a fluorescent light getting in the elevator, and reached my desk.

I was ready to call it a day.

For those who have not sampled the joys of urban skiing, some tips:

Forget about wax. If you are the kind of cross-country connoisseur who likes to apply the perfect wax for temperature and snow conditions, remember this: They don't make a wax for cat litter and sand.

Use 27-year-old wooden skis that are fast approaching firewood status. That way you won't worry about tramping across roads where the salt crunches under-ski.

Avoid the margins of St. Paul Street, where passing buses will cheerily drench you with a tidal wave of filthy slush.

Ski gingerly around major drug corners, which do brisk business even after a blizzard. If there's trouble, even the sharpest ski pole is little defense against a Glock.

Dress lightly. About 500 yards into my trip, the temperature seemed inexplicably to rise from 25 degrees to about 80. From there on, I wore my down coat tied around my waist.

The sight of a bearded man apparently wearing a green hoop skirt may explain why so many battle-hardened Baltimoreans dropped their shovels and grinned. But it seemed to be the skis, too.

"That's the way to do it!" yelled a woman in a red stocking cap just south of Northern Parkway. "Go, man, go!" called a young shoveler-for-hire, walking up Calvert Street with the tool of his trade over his shoulder.

"Rocky Mountains!" cried a fellow idling at a light, evidently a victim of too many Coors commercials. "You've got to be kidding," said a guffawing driver, watching me slide down a 4-foot mogul plowed up at the edge of North Avenue.

Only once, at 28th Street, did I meet some nut on skis.

"Another happy person," he said.

"Don't you hate people who scrape their sidewalks clean?" I asked.

"It's a very, very nasty habit," he said, and we poled off in different directions.

Of course, there is the return trip still ahead -- five miles or so, most of it uphill. And yet, come to think of it, the run downtown had seemed, mysteriously, mostly uphill. I'm thinking: Maybe one way is enough.

Now, which of my colleagues owns an SUV big enough to hold cross-country skis?

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