I knew I was in over my head. My thighs were on fire and my glutes were screaming at me with equal fervor, but I wasn’t going to quit now. I’d paid for the cabin, rented the gear, and driven five hours in a blinding snowstorm to try something new. Little did I know I would soon find myself in a jumbled heap on the unforgiving tundra.

And I would be faking my first blister.

My friend Becca had been after me for years to try skate skiing. As a lifelong downhill skier who is pretty good at the occasional uphill skate (if I do say so myself), I figured this would be fun – an easily integrated activity for my winter fitness routine. I could not have been more wrong.

That’s because skate skiing is freaking hard.


You ever watch the Winter Olympics and see those biathlon people wearing Lycra and carrying a shotgun? They look so badass. That’s because they ARE so badass. The coordination it takes to move quickly with fluidity while shouldering A GUN that you then have to be calm enough to SHOOT is far beyond me. Such grace. Such poise.

Becca’s motley crew set out in the morning to ski in Withrop, Washington. The day prior had been warm and the night was cold. The welltrodden track was a frozen minefield of tree bombs and snowshoe tracks and surprise dog poops. We struggled mightily to make our way around the loop, only to bail early. This would not do.

Our group relocated to another, more “elite” area in Winthrop. We found freshly groomed trails and more friendly conditions. Looking at the map, Becca and her equally coordinated friend Kim picked a “blue square” run for us to try.

No problem, I do blue squares in my sleep.


The track started out flat and quickly became what skate skiers refer to as “rolling hills”. When I think of “rolling hills,” I picture rolling fields of glowing grain that undulate up AND down. I’m here to tell you that our little “blue square” only went up. And up and up and up.

At this point I think it’s important to point out that cross-country skis do not have edges. You can’t “push off” of them in the same way you could, say, with ice skates or downhill skis. Allegedly there’s some sort of technique that lets you float magically on the snow, but seeing as I watched my friends beautifully execute this motion while becoming smaller and smaller dots while I remained unable to move forward, I have nothing to offer you on the topic of “how to successfully skate ski”.

I can, however, tell you how to fake an injury.

First you’ll want to check in with yourself at the very beginning of any new activity: how are you feeling about said new endeavor overall? Does it seem fun? Does it seem like it could pose a challenge for you later on? If you’re feeling medium about the whole thing and are anticipating future trouble, make a throwaway comment to your buddy about how your foot/hip/shoulder is bothering you. This plants the seed of your excuse for the day, and you can choose to use it later if you want.

Next give the activity the ole’ college try. Maybe it’ll be awesome: Great, new activity for you! Maybe it’ll be medium: You had a good day with friends but wouldn’t do it again, no problem. Or maybe it’ll be awful: Good thing you made that comment about your foot/hip/shoulder earlier in the day.

If it is an activity you need to get out of, you need to move quickly. Start by slowing down. Slow down a lot. Begin expressing your discomfort with great urgency. Shout to the people ahead that you don’t think you can possibly go on, that you can’t imagine taking another step with this blister that is forming like an erupting volcano on your left heel, no your right heel, no no, your left heel.

Then fall over. Pretend like it’s related to the blister when really it’s because you are an uncoordinated buffoon. Try to get up with moderate success, then fall down again. Announce that you’ve had it, you’re going home!

Then point them downhill and try not to die. Be sure to get car keys first or you’ll be standing in the cold like an idiot. Buy your friends a beer for tolerating your obnoxiousness. Wait at least three months before admitting that you did, in fact, fake the blister.