What’s New in Nordic Sports

June 27, 2003

If a love of outdoor activities is the hallmark of an Obsidian, then Jarl Berg is an Obsidian at heart. He brought more exuberance and way more “stuff” (boots, skis, etc.) to the Lodge than any potluck speaker in recent history, as he introduced us to what’s new in Nordic skiing.

A skier since the age of three and a half, Jarl’s personal passion is Telemark skiing, invented by Norway’s Sondre Norheim, who also invented the stem Christy turn used by Alpine skiers. Among the sample skis Jarl showed us was a sturdy, weather-beaten wooden ski similar to the kind used by Norheim, with a single leather strap as binding and a long strip of real sealskin that attaches to the bottom for uphill climbs. Since then, technology has transformed the world of Nordic skiing, and Jarl showed us a variety of boots and skis, each designed for a different kind of skiing (from skating to Telemarking to bushwhacking to skiing in prepared tracks).

We were surprised to learn that all skis — even supposedly “no wax” skis — benefit from an annual waxing, tip to tail, which prevents them from drying out and sticking to the snow. Maxiglide should be applied only to the patterned part of the ski. Berg’s Ski Shop will wax your skis for free, so take them in.

For snowshoers, Jarl had two new ideas: a lightweight, teardrop-shaped snowshoe that’s easier for women (Jarl claims you can even jog in it), and a short, wide ski designed to be used as a snowshoe. Jarl also showed us three pieces of safety gear: a lightweight folding shovel that fits in a backpack, a 10-foot probe that collapses like a tent pole, and a pair of locater beacons. With this gear you could dig yourself out of a (small) avalanche, improvise a snow shelter, find a lost Obsidian, and more! Finally, Jarl modeled a sturdy helmet similar to the one he always skis in.

Jarl’s slides of skiing in Norway last summer featured him, his cousin, and four sled dogs on a snowy mountainside above what he called “the family farm” (I guess they have a short growing season). Skiing at the farm consisted of a long, slow climb uphill, then a quick descent, dodging the dogs, and flying over a small jump the men had constructed. It looked as if they were on top of the world, in every imaginable way.

Beth Kodama

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