Thank you NSB and V2 versus paddling

12 Jan

Everyone whines about the Norwegian State Railway (NSB). It’s true that they’re notoriously unreliable and that investment in this country’s rail network remains about the lowest in Europe.

But since I’m not a social skier, I always look for ways of getting away from the crowd. And the train helps by taking me to quieter places beyond most Oslo dwellers’ first stop for skiing. However, on the downside, getting stuck in the middle of nowhere waiting for a late or (even better) cancelled train sucks.

But past regrets aside, the day before yesterday they were brilliant to me. After coming back down to the rail station from a nice skate training, I prepared to take the train. I noticed a maxi-taxi, like the above but less stylish, waiting in the station parking lot. Then the announcement came over the P.A. that the train was cancelled and replaced by taxi. Putting two and two together I wandered over to the princely vehicle, asked the driver if he was the train tonight, got an affirmative response and hopped into the cosy warm space.

I was the lone traveller for a trip that the meter indicated cost 2195 NOK. I paid nothing, though it will surely come out of my taxes. Still, it was a fine way to go for one exceptional evening. And the route back to my departure station passed near my house, so it was almost station-to-door.

The only negative part of my evening came later when I looked at my ski times. That evening I had gone up all but the steepest hills in V2 (dobbeldans). I love V2 because it’s graceful and feels like flying. So the taxi was just a lovely cap on an trip where I’d experienced profound joy in the motion of skiing. But glancing back at my first climb on the same route a week earlier, where I’d used V1 and even the lowly paddle gear almost the whole time, I realised that I’d actually been faster then.

Maybe it was the snow that was icy and therefore fast. But maybe it was technique. Paddling is like double-poling: ugly but effective. Ski Norway also loves double-poling (staking) because it’s boring and masochistic. And curiously this year the local ski press actually started promoting paddling, probably motivated by the same subterranean reasons rooted deep in the Norwegian ski-psyche.

So now I don’t know what to do. Maybe still privilege aesthetics over effectiveness. As an antidote to the dark pull of paddling, ski Norway has the images dancing in its head of Bjørndalen and, now just last week, Johaug, majestically floating up the steepest of hills in lovely V2.

But it could also be that I’m getting bad glide and that paddling works better with that. Lots to look into in time for the big Transjurassienne race next month.

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