We spread our eyes and open our month while we turn around looking at the ceiling. We are in Carl's basement and start laughing. The ceiling is completely covered with skis. All kind of skis. So many skis we don't even know the name of. Nordic skis, backcountry skis, classic skis, skate skis, downhill skis, freestyle skis and many more skis. As a rookie, not born in a cold and winter climate, and not knowing more than alpine skiing, all those skis are a little overwhelming. A rough calculation makes us believe he must have over a hundred skis! He shows all the different skis for all the different activities and our brains start to explode. “if you're lucky, we will get snow early this year and yo can go out and practice”. We stay in Fort Kent for the month, we arrived by canoe and never left.
Fort Kent is based on the very North Eastern tip of Maine, US. We just need to cross the bridge and we would be in Canada. We stay with a Pat and Carl, both very active members of the Fort Kent community. Especially in winter. They live on top of the hill and littlerly have a playground of outdoor activities in their back yard. Carl is one of the founders of the Fort Kent Outdoor Center and commits his time to make all kind of sports available on the hill. Within a half a minute we are on mountainbike trails, a roller-ski loop and a disk-golf parcours. When snow arrives this all will turn into a ski paradise. The prognostics predict a few centimeters of snow for the day. Before daylight arrives Zoë jumps out of the bed. Olivier is already fixed to the window. "WAUW" yells Zoë. Fort Kent turned into Christmas.
Pat and Carl aren't home and texted us that we can open all the closets and drawers to find clothes we need. We run upstairs and take out backcountry skis, skis that don't need a groomed trail and that fit all kind of conditions. Whitin ten minutes we are out with skis under the feet and poles in the hands. We have absolutely no experience but head out, being the first in town to break the white surface. Moving one foot after the other and slide our feet trough the thick soft snow. We have a smile from ear to ear. The trees are full of snow and sometimes a little wind drops a pack of snow right on our head. We stay out all day, that day and will not miss one single day of skiing after. Carl make us master the sport. "Now you're ready for the next step" Carl says. "We go skijoring" he continues. "Ski-what?" Olivier asks.
"You will see." he grins. We meet Sarah and Jarret, the owners of a sled dog team. "We will be skiing with a dog pulling us forward, it is called skijoring" Jarret explains. "But first we need to make the dogs a little more tired, they are too excited. So let's go out with the sled?"
We can't believe what is happening! Are we going to do dog sledding? And the we will combine skiing with dogs, it can't get any better! The sled can carry one person and it's pulled by six dogs. Jerret explains how we will be leading the dogs.
"Oke, it is very simple, but you need to be clear. You say gee to make the dogs go right, say haw to make them go left. You always want to keep the line tight" Jerret says.
Oliviers goes first. There is not much needed and the dogs take off. The dogs run at full speed. Snow drops down on him and white trees pass by. Almost unreal we slide trough the landscape. It is all silence around us and it is just the energy of the dogs that fils the air. What a magic feeling. We feel like kings, or better, like explorers in the arctic north. When we both had a round the dogs are obviously less ADHD. They are a little calmer and we can go on skis. We all get our own dog. De dog is connected to us with a bungee line. Olivier has the lead dog. The little dog, a fast runner. The lead dog is smart and can make decisions. Zoë is riding a 'wheel dog', the strong dogs right in front of the sled. His job is to pull, it doesn't need to be a smart, it mostly needs to be a hard worker and a follower.
We are probably as excited as the dogs. Ready to make a face plant. When Jerret gives the sign the dogs take off, with all their power they pull us forward. For a slight second we think we can just hang on and follow, like water skiing. Soon we learn we need to work as hard as the dog and become a team. He is just there to make the game faster, not to make you lazy. We are happy we have been out everyday to practice our ski techniques, because theire is no moment for a break. We go and go and go. Left right, left right, we push our legs up the hill. The poles support our force and help to push in a glide. Meanwhile we are not only responsible for ourselves but also for the dog. This sport is great! "Now there is no way back" Olivier says, we will need to go and live in Scandinavia. 'Maybe in Lapland' Zoë suggests.