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Charles Hodgson: 100 Days of skiing - Come Hell or High Water.
By:  Karl Saidla   (2004/04/05)


Over the past winter, Charles Hodgson came up with his personal and unique cross-country skiing challenge. He also used his challenge to support Amnesty International.

Name: Charles Hodgson
Age: 46
Family Status: married w kids
Hometown: Ottawa, born in Montreal

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Please tell us a little bit about your 100 days for Joy cross-country skiing challenge.

I guess your readers will sympathize with the idea that someone would love skiing so much that they would want to do it more than every weekend or two. I've been lucky enough to be able to indulge that over the last few winters and get out many many times. So deciding to try and ski 100 days in a row was actually pretty self-indulgent and although I like being self-indulgent I don't like looking like I'm self-indulgent, so I had to find a way to turn that into a good cause. I have been active environmentally for many years but I've supported Amnesty International even longer so I chose them as the good cause. Also, I am an aspiring author and I figured that if I started writing about my skiing it might build up some sort of reservoir of text and ideas that I could use. That's why I tried to combine those three elements, skiing, the fight against torture and writing.

Tell us a little about one or two of the most challenging days of your endeavour.

I don't know if there are any days that stand out as the most challenging. What is so challenging about doing something you love? I did find it challenging to put aside the time to actually do it and I suppose the days that were so cold that my glasses were constantly frosted over made things a little tougher. With respect to time, I figured out after a while that the best thing to do was just to get on with it and dedicate the time whether I thought I had enough time or not. Once I actually got a good ski in I always felt that it was worth it and my mood was up for the rest of the day, regardless of the conditions. As far as my frosted glasses go, I don't think its worth going for contact lenses just for those few days a year and I can still ski when I take my glasses off, but it makes the steep downhills more dangerous.

What did you find most difficult about skiing for over 100 days in row?

Definitely the toughest thing was confidence in the whole idea. Who would care if I didn't do it that day when I was supposed to get something else done? During January and some of February before I got many friends coming along with me and before anyone pinged to the idea of donating to Amnesty International I was really questioning whether it was a good idea to have made the goal. I still loved going, but I wasn't really sure if going EVERY day was a little over the top.

How did you choose Amnesty International as the charity which your project would benefit?

I have been an Amnesty International supporter for something like 25 years. These days I don't often do letter writing but I have always been pretty generous in giving money. Around the beginning of the ski season the Mahar Arar case resurfaced in the media. I think we had all heard about it before and it had certainly rankled when I first thought about the fact that it was possible that a Canadian citizen could be snatched out of an American airport and deported to a mid-east country. When he got home, the things he said seemed to imply that, worse than the US disregarding the rights of a Canadian, it seemed possible that the Canadian government could have been an active participant in what they call "rendition"; sending him to a place where torture is practiced so information could be gotten out of him. WRONG! Torture is always wrong! It made it easy for me to choose a charity.

What have been a couple of the most positive outcomes of your challenge?

Raising money for AI is good, getting a bunch of writing done is good, getting in good shape is good, but I think the most unexpected positive outcome has been that it has done my marriage good as well. This despite the fact that many of the people I skied with day to day were women I really liked. My wife was part of a panel discussion on International Women's Day and one of the points they discussed was factors for success. She included me and my support of her in whatever she wanted to do as one of her success factors and I can now return the complement. Lots of couples could find friction when one person single-mindedly grabs onto an idea like the one I did. It certainly meant that I didn't get to do a number of things she wanted me to, yet she still was completely supportive and seems in the end to have liked the outcome.

Do you or have you ever participated in races, loppets or organized ski tours? If not, do they appeal to you at all?

Very occasionally I have, but a couple of the things I like most about skiing seem to get lost at the races. I don't much like crowds and big races can get pretty crowded, also the social aspect of skiing with friends seems to get diluted with everyone focusing on their time or whatever. Of course I get caught up in the idea of going as fast as possible but I don't like the angst I feel if I think I need to stop to take off a layer or something. I guess your readers are mostly racers so all I can say is that I guess I am not a very competitive skier. I certainly do like pushing it and zipping over a trail really fast and getting a good workout always feels good, but its more the joy of doing it for its own sake than comparing my performance against others. In fact I really don't like comparing. I feel bad when I do worse and I feel bad when someone else does worse too.

Where and when did you first learn to ski?

My parents are still skiing several times a week and my dad will be 80 in a few years so that tells you something. I think I was four or something when I first actually remember skiing and mostly it is a memory of arguing with my dad that he should help me up from a fall and him saying I would never learn to get up if I didn't get up myself. I figured it out I guess and I have forced my kids to get up themselves too. I actually remember the exact spot up at the cottage where that argument took place. There isn't really a ski trail there so we must have just been puttering around, me being so little and all.

What is your favorite place to ski?

It isn't so much a favorite place to ski as a favorite style of skiing. Lots of up and down, narrow trails that are never trackset, that's what I like best. In Gatineau Park trails #8, #17 and #11 are great examples. When conditions allow of course. I have tried these trails too early and finished a downhill run bouncing over fallen logs, so I am also very grateful to be able to retreat to the groomed parkways when its too rough in the woods. Up at the cottage we are also lucky to have a community supported trail all around the lake.

Where, and using what style of skiing did you complete most of your challenge?

Most of the time was spent in Gatineau Park, less was spent at the cottage and a very few days I puttered around in the woods near the Ottawa River Parkway, skiing while walking my dog. As I said, my favorite style is more in the backcountry line but I also spent many days skating. I have some backcountry skis with good sidecut and steel edges and so I really enjoy the control and the times when I can get some good telemarking in as well. When I got my skate-skiing gear a few years ago, I almost coughed up my lungs the first time I tried it out, the degree of aerobic intensity was more than I was ready for. But I found that going out again and again made things easier...must be erosion. Skate-skiing eats up a lot of ground. The NCC claims 190km of trails so when a half-day skiing adds up to 40km the Gatineau Park suddenly doesn't seem all that huge.

Do you anticipate taking on similar challenges in the future?

Yes and no. I don't think I will do exactly the same thing again but I hope I will be able to get out for plenty of "every-days". I have inquired with the Ottawa school board to see if something like this (fundraising pledges, not necessarily 100 days) would be of interest to students needing to satisfy their required Community Service hours as well as Phys-Ed. I am getting some interest and of course from Amnesty International. If it has legs I will be helping to act as some sort of coordinator, but I won't push the idea if no one is interested.

For more information, go to www.100days4joy.com. Charles Hodgson is still accepting pledges for Amnesty International through this web site.

Interesting Reading. . .
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