Saturday, March 19, 2022

Top 3 Best Skis Ever*

I finally redrilled the one-eight-six Monster for the third time, and for whatever reason, let's say that at 40 I'm better at the skeenings than I was at 28, or whatever, or maybe the handful of gray hairs give me strength, I don't care, the spark is back.  That ski, even in what I thought was too long a, um, length, just skis like a ski should.  Reminds me of an FIS GS board, except that when there's snow to push, it's still comfortable.  Herewith, what I thought of on Chair 3 while looking down at them beauties.

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17.  Igneous Mid-fat Fall Line.  Somewhere around the turn of this century, some drunks in a shed somewhere near J-Hole made some skis.  They didn't have metal, so far as I know.  They did have maple, and muchly so.  That's almost as good.  Mid-fat was not the truth.  Skinny was the truth, but it didn't really matter.  If you know, you probly knew then.  If you don't, you probly don't care, didn't care and won't care.  I teled this ski in a 196/197 combo with slightly different core construction foot to foot (see above comment about boozahol) and then put some purple magenta aubergine S914s on there.  I was never as good as this ski needed me to be, but I and that ski made some sweeeeeet turns when I could handle it.  Also, too, as well, a giant head print in the rained-on cream under Chair 5. - EWH

16.  '01 Völkl P40.  Step up to the plate.  This one is a four seamer, about 97, 98 mph.  Probly a little high, definitely inside, but so inviting you can't help but swing.  If you're out in front, you don't even have to try.  Just inside the foul pole in left, upper deck, a beauty.  If you're a little behind, you may even foul it off your face.  It'll bite ya.  But if you get it right...  I'm pretty sure the colour mattered with this one.  Neither my red version, nor my white, blue, and red version skied as well as the orange I borrowed from that one guy in the Baker Demo Joint, which blew my shoes off.  Also, the white one didn't handle well after I ripped a third of the base off on a sneaky shark fin rock on skiers' right of Green Valley the Bad Winter of '04-'05.  Not sure why.  Also, the lady at the old Sturtevant's in South Hill told me they weren't repairable, but Kenny Tataku told me later that he wished he'd been there cos he figure he coulda.  I still haven't forgiven her.

15.  '00-'01 Salomon Supermountain.  Soft, flexible, forgiving, and if you pointed it and didn't care, dense enough to hang.  Slarve that right footer over the knuckle at the top of Gabl's and then send it.  It shared a few things with many good skis over the years: it had yellow (though not in the most copious quantity), it was ugly, it surprised people while flying under the radar as a second-tier model, and made friends with unlikely company.  According to at least 2 Baker Lokes from back then, it teled like a Tua and actually got imported to the states, which Tua did for a while and then did not forever.  Which was sad, cos I wanted them Tuas like some people want cheese or a Lamborghini. 

14.  '99 Salomon X-Scream Series.  Fast, tons of metal, funk, yellow, weirdness, random things stuck on the topsheet, everything.  Also '99.  That was a good year.  Did I say yellow?  That was a theme then, the Turn Of The CENTURYYYYYY.  Salomon was tryna polish its image, or change it, or refine, or, heck, I don't know.  They green-lit (green-lighted?) some pretty wacky idears, like a ski that would go forward AND backward.  Or the two sets of parallel bars glued to the topsheet.  ProLink arms, they called 'em.  Not sure what they did, but they caught yer attention.  Funny thing is, Rossi and Atomic have stuff like that on their race rigs right now.  (And no, that twin-tip Olin Mark IV from '74 totally didn't pre-date the TenEighty by a quarter century years.  Not at all.)  Anyway, a part of the mystique of the Scream Series was just how damn fast it felt if you screwed up.  People still had bumper stickers with goofy slogans like "SHORT SKIS SUCK, BRATI!!"  You had to rock a 195 instead of a more rational 177.  And if you tried to slide around that one Abies lasiocarpa atoll skiers' left of Hamburger, and, well, didn't really actually slide the tails cos you were 19 and not that good a skier, and you got shot out into the chunder at Mach 2.37, the ski kinda giggled and said "I'm good at this! What else ya got?!"  I drilled a few of 'em when I was workin for Brad, and if I remember correctly, they had two plates of metal, but not a metal topsheet.  A base sheet and a mid-core sheet, with two cores and a cap.  So, like, a macaron with a thick schmear of cream cheese frosting and some sprinkles.  Except these macarons ate alligator teeth for brefixt and pooped out gold bullion.

13.  '03 Rossi XXX.  Don't try to tele it in a 195.  Not that you would.  I did, some days well, others pretty poorly.  I also splatted on my face on Highway 542 while skating to work cos, well, sometimes highways aren't covered in snow. Even with some S914s and my Salomon Axe 9 boot with ProLink Spine--through-line is what I think the kids are calling it--it was a handful, but holy crap, was that a smooth ride.  It's top 3 ever in the smoothness department, astride the same line as the Legend and the Stormrider.  It had something called "freeride V.A.S." which was "visco-elastic" (I should start a marketing firm so I could also get paid to make $#!@ up) and a tapered metal topsheet and like, velvet stringers.  It was also very powerful, and looked pretty ridiculous cool in the gondy at Whistler next to Dan Treadway and those over-the-head Oakleys.  I just wish I had the stones to remount mine that are still in the sauna in Enumclaw.  I think I even have an 900S that would go right in those old S914 holes.  Hmm...

Uff da.

12.  The old Nordica Enforcer from whenever that was, I don't know.  The last two years have been the longest decade.  Anyway, the one with the ugly wizard topsheet.  (Or was that that one "big mountain twin" Vōlkl from like '03?)  Anyway, ugly.  Still, it was metal, had no rocker, had a nice round tip like so many good skis around '09 or '010 or '011, and was 100ish mm of awesome like the Mantra to be noted later.  Climbs like a gelada baboon and descends like a snake in a waterslide with rockets on its tail.  Oh wait, that's bikes.  O Great Nordica in the Sky, why did you not just bring that one back exactly the same except with a different but still weird and ugly topsheet graphic?  Why?  The current "Enforcer" is not the original.  It is a pretender to the throne, like Peter the Meh, after Peter the Great and before Catherine the Great.  (Why were so many folks we refer to as "Great" basically just murderous villains?)

Uncle Vlad may be just as crazy and as murderous and evil, but his sartorial flair leaves something to be desired.

11.  Vølkl Mantra, Mark II, somewhere like '09.  A customer brought a brand new pair in to the shop.  I don't know if I or LB drilled it.  Duder came back like thirteen seconds later, fairly nonplussed.  He said it skied like hot garbage mixed with a wolverine.  We drilled it down to needing some detuning.  I did some, to no avail.  LB did some more, much aggressive, to no avail.  I asked duder what his boot sole was, and coincidentally, it was the same as mine.  We headed out, me on his new set, him on his old set.  Midway down Iceberg Gulch, I was in love with the ski.  We traded at the bottom of Rex, and skied the same run.  I almost skied off into oblivion.  Turns out his old Tyrolia FreeFlex 14s had developed some Tyrolia Twist, and made an otherwise real-dern-quick-for-almost-100mm ski into a wet hen.  The mark II Mantra was one of a handful of skis in that 95-100 range that just get it.

10.  '011 Nordica Fire Arrow.  Amy says a lot of women's skis are wet seagull dirt.  I believe her, cos, a, and most importantly, she knows her $#!@, and b, also most importantly, she skis real dern well and knows lots about skiing and turns and the four fundamentals and, like, flex patterns and stuff, and if she says there've been pretty much 3 or 4 good women's skis ever, then there've been pretty much 3 or 4 good women's skis ever.  This was not a women's ski.  Amy skied it with one of her Level-3-aspiring friends the winter before the spring we moved to Ashland, and she and Laura both said it was giggles.  Like a good long-slalom ski, reboundy, damp, reboundy, turny, stable, held the edge longer than Jimi's guitar cable, and like, many more things.  Also, the topsheet was ugly, there was all sorta tech, it was pressed in Mittersill, which is like Valhalla except for skis, may have even had a not-Marker system binding (system bindings are always a knock, but if they ain't Marker, they are 75% less of a knock) by Vist, which is like saying you have an EXT shock on your otherwise very Trek-ish downcountry sled.  Those who know will nod knowingly and those who don't will try to pretend that they don't. . .um. . .don't. - EWH/AEP

09.  Rossignol 9S 10.2 RC.  I think.  Sometime around '001.  It's damp, boingy, manageable, turny, and, most importantly, it gots that 90s slalom gate deflector tip.  With the race plate, it was a powerplant ski for a college gate basher, without, it's a ski to get back into the swing of things after a minor knee surgery you made into a major turning point in your mind.  Amy skied it with the plate, both bashing gates in college and progressing up the PSIA ladder.  I skied it without the plate, but with that one Salomon riser that had a stiffener thingie that really totally kinda did something, I think.  Poweraxe, if I ain't mistooken.  Anyway, that ski was worth chasing after.  Real live.  Yeah, yeah, putting race skis on here is a little weird, who cares.  It was a good ski, and both Amy and I dug it for different reasons, and both as designed and as not designed.  That speaks well.  Also, it were yellow, and yellow skis from the turn of the century were tops.  See the X-Scream Series, the inaugural AK Rocket, and the ever mooned-over Ten-Eighty. - EWH/AEP

Gimmicky bat-wing tips

08.  '010 Vølkl Kendo/Kenja.  Kendo/Kenja the First.  Much metal, much 88 mm.  Too lively to float in more than about 6 or 7, but then, who cares.  That's what ski swaps and demo sales are for.  Where it fell slightly for us is it is not as damp as the Monster or the MX88, but for anyone who wants more snap and pop, that is probly a good thing.  And I can still steal some Instabro's line below the Olympic Start Shack in the sun at 7 or 8 new while he's yelling that he's filming and have way more fun the he ever would cos he thinks you hafta film your line for it to matter and I don't. - EWH/AEP

07.  '08 Vòlkl Katana.  I met one of my best friends while skiing this thing.  "Well, Mister Confident.  Where are you gonna ski?"  Holy Jerbus Toads, it was good.  Tibial-plateau-deep out in O Meadows, chalk in Sasquatch, groomers even.  All the ski mediums all lamented the breakable and maybe a little ill-conceived translucent UHMW (or whatever) plastic swallow-tail giblet, but I think it just added funk to an otherwise workaday sorta ski.  Oh, no rocker, so there's that.  111 mms of givin' 'er.  Much metal.  Named after a sword.

06a. Head Joy line.  Turns out I don't need as burly a ski as I thought.  I actually kinda like having light ski.  Makes hauling children around the mountain easier.  Like any ski that isn't all the metal, it doesn't hold an edge as well as it could on an ice rink.  But damn, they struck a vein with graphene, so much so that they put it in a lot of variations on the theme, including the men's frontside skis.  Ted sold me my first pair.  He handed them to me and said, "Do you want to ski 'em?"  So I did, and when I got back to the lodge, he said, "Do you want to buy 'em?" and the only possible response was yes.  They railed--I couldn't overpower them--and busted through crud, despite being 70-somethin underfoot.  Ted gave me a good price, and it was a few years later before I realized they were the intermediate ski.  Honestly, I couldn't even tell.  I bought the Total Joy a few years ago.  It's the only new ski I've ever bought for myself, which is why it made this list.  It can't do everything, but it does just about everything else. - AEP

06.  '012 Kästle MX88.  Some jackass at Unofficial said it was the ski for rippin' Grandmas.  He's right, cos a rippin lady in her 50s or 60s would definitely ski the shit outa this thing, but he's also wrong, and that's one hell of a backhanded compliment.  Condescension and ascension all at once.  Swipe that away, and yes, a rippin' Grandma could have a riot of a good time on it, and so can anyone with some technique and a little strength.  Two (2!) plates of metal, a nice, dense wood core, some sorta special JuJu we're not allowed to understand, an ugly topsheet and that weird cutout in the tip that used to be orange but isn't anymore; this is the slightly more accessible version of the Monster.  It was even built in Vorarlberg.  (Or somebody stole Head's serial number stamp.)  If you think it was only for discerning women in their late 50s, you are doing a disservice to the ski and to the women in their late 50s who unquestionably ski better than you, Barclay, and with more strength, and for longer.  This is a Good Ski, full stop, and those women to whom you condescend are Good Skiers, full stop.  Not "for a Grandma".  Good Skiers, full stop.  The knock on this ski is it isn't as quick to or as confident on the edges as I'd like.  At 88mm, I'd hope for a bit (tiny bit) more firepower.  So, no top 5. - EWH

05.  '011 Blizzard Bodacious.  (And Bonafide, but, I don't know, you knew that.)  That ski was huge.  At 117, it cannot be top 5, because it just won't be versatile enough, but that's okay.  It's top 5.  This is The Horse for The Course.  Unless you're his sister, Ingrid, or Betsy, his Ma, Arne Backstrom skied with better technique than you and waaaaay more harder than you, and he designed it, including the then-new construction.   He left us far too early.  I never met him, but his father gave me the unmatchable and unmatched honour of mounting the bindings on the first board out of Mittersill in Arne's memory.  I still cry when I tell the story.  I cried when I drilled those beautiful skis, grateful for Brad putting the binding bench in the corner, facing the wall, with the Done Rack between me and the customers.  I'm crying right now.  That ski lived up to the hype.  Even all the hipness surrounding it couldn't thin its legend.  The only thing that could was the bean counters and marketing hacks who asked for, as always, a more friendly ski to sell to a broader audience.  I do not agree with that.  At all.  That first ski did not back down, and did not let you down.  Only you could let you down, and you probably did.  I just wish the fairly strong Brahma skied as well, cos 88 mm is the best mm.

04. '021 Stôcklį Stormrider 95, the recent one before the now one.  A bootfitter I know here in town who works at a ski shop, let's call it Grünewald's cos I don't know if I'm allowed to divulge trade info, says they sold all sorta Stóckli this year.  I asked about who bought 'em and he said "Let's just say they've read about 'em and had the money." He was circumspect and did not disparage, and I respect his tact.  I do not have as much of my own tact when not on the clock, so I will say that there are a decent amount of folks on these skis that really don't know what they have, and don't care, much like most of the folks who demoed my MX88 before I saved them from the trash compacter.  This ski, as I was reminded this morning while skiing and avoiding work, is about as versatile as it gets.  Better on hardpack than skis 15mm narrower, easier to manœuver auf der Wald than skis with less firepower and more slarvy profiles, and so far no speed limit.  Also, much metal, as always.  

03.  '014 Võlkl Kiku.  Floats, turns, slarves, carves, even.  Rocker, yes, but like, the whole thingie, so it doesn't ski confused or anything.  Elongated Low Profile, I think die Deutschen called it.  All the things but none of the bad things except coulda had a little metal cos every good ski deserves metal cos metal makes #1.  Not metal is #5.  Also, made in Straubing, which is nice, so #3. - EWH/AEP

02.  '06-'08 Head Monster 88.  It went by slightly different names over the years, and before this iteration was kinda techy and had a funky cap instead of a sandwich, but this was and still is the real damn deal.  Race sandwich, metal (LIQUIDMETAL sung in the voice of Bruce Dickinson) topsheet, funky-shaped tip, full-length edge contact, a speed limit I have never found despite trying with two lengths and four skis with 6 different binding setups, and some real confidence in dang near anything.  Even teleing in 6 inches of day old consolidated Copper Mountain cream.  Yeah, yeah, LB broke a core just loading the ski on Cattle Crossing, but that's LB for you. - EWH

YOU FORGOT YOUR SLEEVES, BRUCE!!

001.  Blizzard Firebird HRC.  Current, in case you think we're just crotchety jerks.  If you can't ski it, I suggest you seek out a lesson or two cos we all can benefit from another person's input; this thing is what a ski should be, so you should want to ski it, like yesterday.  (Except for how spendy it is.  That's a little annoying.)  Fast, slow, steering, laying railroad tracks like you were Enore tryna impress Mimi in the winter of '09-'010 [Ed: he did], if you have the power and the edge pressure regulation and the rotary and the cuff pressure and the tactical smarts and the technique (wow, I sound arrogant) and the 130 flex boot (or more) and a willingness to ignore the fact that certain people in certain circles will think you're preening for a very specific audience, this is the best that has ever been.  Except in dreams.  And if you complain that it doesn't float, well, maybe you don't get it.  Whatever "it" is.  Blizzard has names I don't care about for their technology and whatnot, but it has a full metal base sheet and a metal binding sheet, so that's two boxes ticked.  The original Bodacious had that plus a full metal topsheet for a total of three sheets under foot, and the fact that this ski doesn't have as much metal keeps the HRC from being better than number one.

post script:  There's a special place in my heart (and quiver) for true race skis, but they are not really all that accessible to the skiers who ski less than many days a week or who did not bang gates in college or chase the thirteenth level of PSIA mastery.  It doesn't matter that most aging bums will claim they skied everything on race-stock GS and Super G boards back in '88, race skis just require technique and attention that isn't easy to come by or maintain.  If I jump on the FIS-compliant slalom or GS skis, it takes me a run or two to catch up.  I absolutely love how they ski, but I gotta be on my game, smashing that cuff.  Not everyone wants or can handle that, nor is there any requirement of such; the ski is then less universal.

Alright.  Time to go ski.

 *According to me and Amy who knows lots.  You're welcome.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Dancing in the Sun

Long-term review, Stöckli Stormrider 95

Skier: Eino Holm, age 27, 39, 40

109 kg, 176 cm, Type 3+ skier, 308 boot sole. (N-9.5, if you were doing the binding chart in your head, which I know you were.)

Locations tested: Bogus Basin, ID; Crystal Mtn, WA, back in the day, when this was the Stormrider DP Pro, and was, like, waaaaaaaaaay stiffer.

Length skied: 184 and 185 (I think.  Advent of '008 is like, I don't know, 27 years ago.)

Bindungen: Flat.  (Mounted with STH 16 today, some random demo binding back then.  Let's say it was a 14 din Tyrolia demo binding.  If you were there and you remember what binding was present, let me know.  Write to us at I'm Somehow a Bigger Nerd Than Enore; The Small House with the Two Subarus, North End, BoyCee, Idaho, 837--)


As is my prerogative, I'll address the various elephants and giraffes and capybara in the room; if you are actually interested in this ski, you are one of maybe three things as a skier and as a person: foolish, bougie, and/or discerning.  Stóckli is one of those brands, like Kjus and Arc'Teryx and Mercedes, where performance is at the forefront, and yet the most common denumericator* is a willingness to outspend other people because in the right circumstances, those who know, know, and those who don't are people upon (pinkie up!) whom you've already chosen to look down.

Stôckli skis, at least at the retail level, are quite well made.  (Not impervious; in '09 or '010 I pulled a screw on a ski formerly owned by the artist still known as Scot Schmidt with his cameraman filming me.)  The hands-on feeling of the ski is that it's just, I don't know, different.  There's a satin feel to the metal (first clue to the type of skier this ski works for) topsheet, something that is not present with any other ski I have cuddled skied.  The on-snow flex feels just the same, silky and a little bit unsettling.

* That's a word cos I wrote it.

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The foolish:  If you don't have a ready and willing power plant binding just sitting about like I did, the Stòckli is an even more expensive setup.  Since it is flat and costs $1100 or more, you'll end up spending up toward $1500, depending on where and from whom you purchase.  You don't want to mount just any binding, you know.  You need an STH2 16, say, or a Pivot 15 in Forza colourway.  A Tyrolia AAAttack2 16 GripWalk (to fit those fancy new bar-mode boots of yours).  Gotta keep up appearances.  Alternately, that money could buy two or three season passes at a decent ski area, or many, many, many burritos from Taco Del Mar.

The bougie:  This Stõckli is the Audi A6 Allroad to, say, the Blizzard Rustler 9's used '015 Outback.  Same purpose, same execution, just fancier.  Anyone can get to the hill with good tyres and some patience, but the A6 will make you feel things.  And it will help you glower at the PSIA Level III lady in her '015 Outback who skis better than you, cos you can afford to pay cash for a new A6 and she is making payments on her (gasp) 8 year old, dirty, used (shudder) Subie that basically anyone has access to.

The discerning:  The Stœckli SR 95 is a really good ski.  Surprisingly so.  I went in thinking, "Eh, Aunt Nancy is paying, and when will I have this unbudgeted cash just laying around?"  It is much more than that.  Great edge hold for such a wide, manageably flexy ski.  Decent float for something that is leaning toward all-mountainy.  That silky ride.  I would definitely enjoy a fancy Audi if I could afford it and if it came with a proper 6 speed manual, and it is no different here.  Chop, up to 8", groomers that are harder than you expected, January chalk in the Bowl at Mt A, slush bumps at Killington in May, steering, high-angle carves, slarving through the local Intermountain willow whips, pretty much whatever you want, it is right there with you.  I haven't found a hardpack speed limit yet.  I'm certain I will, but it is much higher than the soft nose, short tail, and early taper would suggest.

Appropriate juxtaposition of bougie and venerable.  Štoćkłį and Riblet.  Chair 5, Bogus.


The overall profile of the ski will look fairly current to most folks.  Mild early rise tip, 80ish% edge contact, progressive flex.  It's physically very stout underfoot, and softens quickly around the taper.  I have found that at speed in deeper snow, this pattern is a little prone to a sort of bent-tip brake feeling, but if you ski the ski the way you should, which is with round turns and a slightly more traditional weight-unweight rhythm, the ski just keeps going.  The old (ancient, even) DP Pro that I skied all those years ago would have had none of this.  You simply would stand on the downhill ski and hold on for the ride, hoping those subalpine fir were spaced for what the ski was going to do anyway.  It was fun when I was 28, and fit, and stronger than today, and skiing 13 days a week.  I doubt I would giggle as dreamily today.

The metal topsheet of the ski might scare some folks who are actually paying attention.  It might also make stronger skiers cast an eye or three.  It's a bit like a car geek seeing an early 90s 911, noticing that it's a 5 speed manual, and then noticing that it's four wheel drive.  Støckli calls it "TITEC PRO", which is short for Titanal Technology PRO, which is jargon for the anecdotally most common metal in skis today.  Titanal, contrary to most brands' abbreviation--"Ti"--is mostly aluminium.  It's a proprietary alloy, with a splash of zinc, a skosh of copper, an soupçon of magnesium, and for skis, a final silken anodisation that helps it bond to other materials well.  It is an isotropic material, as are most metals, meaning it has the same strength in all directions for a given amount of materièl.  This in turn means if you want it stouter, make it thicker, or flexier, make it thinner.  Carbon, that other, less gilded material, must be laid up for desired attributes in multiple directions, as does fibreglass.  (The older nerds out there might remember some 80s and early 90s K2 skis proudly proclaiming they were TRIAXIAL, which just meant that K2 was doing its job on those skis.)  All this to say, METAL.  Yes, it matters.  This ski in carbon would probly break, ski like wet butt turds, and look ugly.  Instead, it's a beautiful, smooth skiing wonder like its powerful forebear, but manageable and, dare we say, playful.  I've read copy on this ski that argue with me, say it can't float, or is a plank, but let's get real, folks.  If a ski above about 90mm doesn't float, it's the pilot, not the plane.  That funky old Salomon Supermountain from back in the mists floated just fine, thanks, and it was a whopping 78 underfoot.

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I wouldn't be me without a couple complaints beyond the price of entry.  I really wish Stōckli would build this ski with the same exact everything from bootcentre forward, but add 6 more cms of length to the tail.  I also wish they would have laid up a high speed race base instead of whatever they actually used.  I've skied enough dry race skis that still glide like a bull on ice to know that this ski could be that much better.  Those quibbles aside, if you've got a spare grand or three, and want to be bougie, foolish, AND discerning, well, have I got a deal for you!

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Pros: Dominique Peret, Tina Maze, Marco Odermatt, Ilka Stuhec, Martin Cater, Scot Schmidt.

Cons: John Dillinger, Boss Tweed, Enedina Arellano Félix, Butch Cassidy.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

These old records that haunt our dreams.

By Eino Holm

Them's some hairs.


Highway 101 never really got off the ground, even though they had a handful of hits and their first vocalist, Paulette Carlson, has one of those voices.  They were decidedly neo-trad country before Clint Black and Alan Jackson really broke the dam, but after Dwight.  Not really skiing music, when you think of it, but that doesn't matter.  Given some of the $#!@ Matchstick used during the Ski Movie years, one apparently needs to listen to horrible noise with some dreadful misogynistic posturing and terrible lyrics to really send it.  I prefer to listen on the way to and fro, and then just be in my own head listening to the conifer whisper while gettin' after it.  I am sensitive, you know.  An artiste.

Long about Madras, if you grew up like me, you realise this really isn't Kansas anymore.  Nor is it the Wet Side.  That first time was the first time I'd really seen the dry side.  It's open country, sage and bunchgrass; if yer payin attention there are trailers and cheatgrass and truck stops as well.  The Cascades over Blue Box Pass aren't really all that high, yet they are effective orography.  Madras gets a little more than twelve inches of precip in the water year.  If we're feeling poetic, I'd call that a couple drops of trillium nectar north of being Desert.  If we're feeling poetic.  I don't remember Madras at all, other than the Taco Time at some intersection or other.  A popular internet mapping service (thanks, Eben!!) says it's permanently closed.  It seemed to be around dusk, or maybe later, every time we hit town all those years ago.  I still don't know how Ma and Pa could even afford to take a ski vacation, let alone one that today feels as ritzy as heading to Sugarbush on Spring Break from The New School.

From these trips, at least one or two in the old Bronco II, I remember three albums.   Dwight's Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc., Highway 101's second record, and some to-me unknown Merle Haggard collection that I think, correctly or otherwise, led off with "Rainbow Stew".  Of the three, great though they all are, it's Paulette's plaintive alto that stands out for me.  And, I mean, who can resist a country song with somebody named "Cactus" bangin on them drums?  Not me.  When those high desert lights get to stretching off to the distance, some Mojave dive-haunting honky tonk dripping with Opuntia glochids seems to fit the bill.  Paulette's midwestern roots notwithstanding.  They weren't the most authentic band around, with three quarters of the original lineup being session guys, but since when do most seven year olds even know what that means?  I did not.  Besides, Mr Tambourine Man was mostly the Wrecking Crew, save Jim McGuinn's 12-string.  I merely absorbed that heartbreak, the anxiety, the beat, and importantly, that twang.  Twang and ponderosa are like Athens and a nice Rickenbacker.

Mt Bachelor, the volcano, stands above the plains in the same exact way that every other Cascade volcano south of Stampede Pass does.  This part of Oregon is so crowded, though, that without the association of chairlifts and ski vacations Bachelor remains small.  The Sisters to the north, then Seekseekqua, then Wy'East, all stand taller and more massive.  Broken Top to the north is more complex in shape, and the more remote peaks south of Willamette Pass are just, well, mysterious.  I didn't even know McLaughlin existed until I was damn near 30.  From Mark and Liz' ranch out a little southeast of Bend, one sees a fun jumble of peaks, some 20 or 30, that are certainly or at least most likely all volcanic.  Bachelor, the volcano, is one among many.  To me, a six or seven year old kid, Bachelor was the biggest thing in the world.  It really doesn't matter that Tahoma loomed over Southwood Elementary at home, bigger than life, or that the Root Chakra of the World, Shasta, is even bigger than Tahoma.  Tahoma was local, and for some reason it seems most skiers equate local with somehow diminished and not, I don't know, enough.

All three of us brothers were enamored of their detaches.  At least if memory serves.  Pine Marten and Outback were quads, early Doppelmayrs.  (Pine Marten has since been updated.)  Summit was exotic.  At the time, it was a Doppelmayr triple, one of the earliest detaches out there.  Sure, sure, Byron and crew built detachable mining trams in the 19th century, but, you know, video or it didn't happen.  Summit had faded green slats for the seat back, ran at whatever speed they did then, which was slower than me when I wanted to carve power-wedge Beverly Hills at Mach 7-Year-Old.  We were comparing Pine Marten to Rex, an early Poma detach, which today seems silly cos both are just fine, but then seemed like no comparison at all.  Doppelmayr FTW.  I think the entirety of our experience was that Bachelor was new, and distant, and fancy, and like, Pole House #2 in Sunriver was tops, whereas Rex was local.  That misapprehension again, that anything local is less than anything distant.

I remember the view from that little loft bedroom, looking directly at Bachelor in the Central Oregon sunrise.  Lowland ponderosa fading to montane Tsuga.  I remember Monday night wrasslin' on the cable TV.  That old Bronco II that Ford decided to resurrect but not really.  Battleship. Spaghetti and French bread.  (Why is that a thing in the States?)  J-O dropping his glove off Rainbow and never finding it.  Sidestepping up to Summit, tryna huck all my 50 or whatever pounds off the rollers on Cliffhanger, or hitting Boomerang under the Outback chair after lunch and finally understanding moguls--I thought; I was 9.  Hot chocolate with cinnamon at the Pine Marten Lodge.  These things we build into mythology when really they're just things.  A good turn or two.

The old Summit triple and J.O., late 80s


Vince Gill's When I Call Your Name is the Snoqualmie Valley, heading up to Stevens.  The 4th movement of Brahms' 1st is Alpental.  The Desert Rose Band's True Love is the 2.30 employee bus down from Crystal in a last-gasp inversion, late February, parking lot dust on the floor and that one suicide lane by the mill, the one I'd use on tourists who were tailgating me.  I'd slow just enough that they'd get even closer, antsy to get to Enumclaw and whatever it was they NEEDED to get on to beyond that, like the Ski Inn or 169 or Renton (It's Ahead of the Curve!) or whatever, and at the last chance I'd slide left into the middle lane and all that dump truck dust from the the gravel pit would explode and when I could see them again in the rearview, they'd be a handful of car lengths back, whatever important thing they couldn't wait to get to not quite as important.

-

Axel Jaffee passed away a few years ago, I don't know, 8, 10, 12 years, somewhere in there.  He (along with my friend and co-conspirator Dustin) taught me to swear.  He also was in his 60s when we carpooled my first year bumping chairs.  Dustin and Peter and I worked with Alex over the summer, after the storied Winter of '99, and in the fall Axel and I were buddies.  He had an old, slow, two wheel drive short-bed Ford pickup in faded white, with sand bags in the bed between the wheel wells and the cab for traction.  I had my front wheel drive '81 Tercel 5 speed.  I think my snow tyres cost $25 a piece including studs.  I never did get that car stuck.  Anyway, Axel, he had maybe two records in that truck.  Don McLean's American Pie, and then his "buddy" Julio Eglesias.  No clue what that one was, but it had "To All the Girls I've Loved Before" with Willie Nelson, and I just couldn't take it.  I'd tune out and watch the Pseudotsuga and lowland Abies slide by, hoping it'd turn to snow before Silver Springs.

That winter, '000, I was pretty certain listening to female singer-songwriters would draw me closer to either of the two women I couldn't get out of my head.  (To this day, I am grateful they tolerated my utter uselessness and that I still get to call each a good friend, distance and time changing all in its path.)  Along with Jonatha Brooke and Tori Amos, I had Mary Chapin Carpenter's Stones in the Road stuck in my craw.  Axel for some reason would think the volume in his truck was petering out after the first song, even though the song had simply ended.  He'd turn the volume way up, uncomfortably high.  The second song, "House of Cards", starts with a loud kick and snare, and those tiny speakers always sounded broken.  I'd commandeer the volume knob from there, until the next time we'd listen to the record when he'd do it again.  

That winter wasn't particularly big, especially since it followed the Big Winter of '99, but we still got good snow for most of it.  Many cycles we'd get snow down to the river.  There was snow in Greenwater most of the season.  It passed like all those conifers bending under their blankets, the dark stands of timber my buddy Todd calls "killin woods".  I never knew if Axel actually liked Stones in the Road, or if he simply tolerated it cos it's a fairly straightforward record, easy for the uninterested to tune out.  I still enjoy the record, and some of those mid-90s social commentaries still resonate.  I still laugh inwardly every time those twin drum beats hit.

If I was driving, if Axel was in a talkative mood and I wasn't, I'd put Tori Amos or Jonatha Brooke on, and those soothing voices would put him to sleep.  Usually by the Sand Flats, at latest by the bottom of the Boulevard.  I know I have been driven like the snow. . .

-

The next Winter, I bumped chairs at Baker.  I'd headed to Bellingham to finish school, AA under my wing and a BA in writing on the horizon, but life gets in the way sometimes.  This one lady, Amrah, we were talking at the bottom of 5 one day, making a list of pros and cons.  It's funny to think that little list led me here, out in the desert, 21 years later, but that's definitely the way these things tend to go.  

I'd attempted to register for Winter quarter, but some compounding mistakes on the colleges' part--with some ignorance and a lack of curiosity on my part--added up to me being without actual admission credentials.  When I asked why I'd been able to register for class back in August, the dude at the registrar's office sighed in a condescending manner and, Eino-phrasing here, said, "D'uh! We give you a quarter's length grace period.  Yer sposeta figure it out."  I asked why no one had let me know that I was derelict in whatever it was, and he just said it was my job to know or find out my status.  Turns out GRCC hadn't shipped my transfer degree/AA up to Western, only a class transcript.  I'd only been admitted to Western on state transfer regs, so classes and grades (3.49 gpa) and strong SAT scores be damned, I was only accepted to University based on token agreements.  After hanging my Grandmother's old cordless landline in its cradle and gassing up the GL, I high-tailed it the 115 odd miles south, grabbed my degree, then headed back north.  In the morning, I got my admission straight, but I was at the back of the line, and missed out on every class I could have put toward this phantom writing degree.

On the cons side, Amrah wrote "harder to restart than continue," and she could not have been more correct.  I took Winter quarter off to ski.  Now I'm a 40-year-old English major with no actual credits toward that major and no fancy paper to back my hubris up, but with, I don't know, 1500-odd days on snow and countless turns, and the memory of Amrah rewinding Dulcinea over and over on the tape deck so she could hear "Something's Always Wrong" again, and again, and again, them killin woods slipping by in the dark.  I only had a few cassettes in that red GL wagon.  Ropin' the Wind, August and Everything After, and Dulcinea.

In among the decent snow that January, Amrah, some dude named Andy from Mount Vernon who did. like. binding repair or fry frying, and a lady from South Africa whose name is escaping me, and I had time to take the Tsawwassen ferry over to the Island.  It's an incredible ride, across the more northern/less western of the two northwestern-most corners the lower 48, through the Gulf Islands, landing at Schwartz Bay on the north end of the Saanich Peninsula.  It was cold, wet without any rain, and we huddled on the deck so we could watch those mysterious islands drift past and the gulls ride the ferry's slipstream.  We slept on the floor of a float house in Victoria's Inner Harbour, owned by I think an older woman who had at some point dated the lady from South Africa's Pa at some point in the hitherto.  Or something like that.  The gentle swells of the Inner Harbour, combined all the driving I'd been doing as the sole owner of a car, knocked me out early.  In the morning, we headed back east.  Across the water and up the Nooksack, through all that endlessly deep conifer wood, up the lower Arm to the E-Lodge, and then I don't even know where one of those kids is.  In the three days off the hill, I'd missed three days of skiing.  The next winter, I decided that wouldn't do, and by July I'd been on snow 127 days.  I only missed possible ski days if I was anærobic from too many days straight in the deep.  800" in a season is not a time to be gallivanting, and so I did none of the sort.

At the dock in Tsawwassen, there were giant screens to convey informations and entertainment.  (I will not utter that most horrific of portmanteaux.) One could tune the car radio to the correct FM station, and the audio would come alive.  Or that's what the ferry folks wanted.  That day, they just looped Our Lady Peace's "In Repair" for the entire two hour sailing wait.  It's not a bad song, and I still enjoy hearing it every year or two, but that's a lot of repeats.  Maybe that's just how the Canadians do.

-

School of Fish's Human Cannonball is driving the ol' puke-orange Tercel up Chinook in the Spring, nothing specific lyrically, just full throttle alt-rock that fit in during the Grunge era.  It was loud, a little off-kilter, much distortion.  Those hairpins and Abies lasiocarpa.  I spent my 21st up there, shuttling road shots with John John Rutherford's Pa, John Rutherford.  We got after it pretty good, skiing from morning until almost dinner time.  The last time climbing into the GL, my left hamstring locked up like I was still playing football.

Way up here, it's crystal clear.
(That one corner's hiding down there, just above the soup. Behind that one Doug fir.)

The Turnpike Troubadours' albums, all four, hit pretty hard here in the desert.  I don't care why.

Turning the corner above the new Stack Rock trail, that goofy 90 degree left, where before the trail, you'd find less expensive cars and some Fred Meyer winter clothing and $8 discs or garbage bags, you'll now see a new Defender in amongst the new Outbacks and new F250s.  The awkward, less-than-thought-out jargon for the corner was "Ghetto Sleddin'".  Today, with the addition of a trail, it's a "trailhead."

Evan Felker's plaintive voice and Kyle Nix' roughly, expertly sawn fiddle, I don't care what day it is anymore.  Sometimes it's above the capping layer, sometimes it's puking, some days it's just mare's tails and faded blue denim above.  Ponderosa mixing into the struggling, mistletoe-addled Doug fir.  The country was cold, with the sun westward sinking; it's good to be back in this place.  My hands around a Belgian-made Brownin', my mind on the lines of her face.  Experience.  Something off-handed, but still meaningful.  McMurtry's "30-year crush."

The dying fir slides past, if there's some snow I'll goose it just a bit to try and egg the engineers over in Shibuya City on a little, hope I can get sideways before the ABS stabs at the rotors and that stern voice says NO FUN FOR YOU.  "How good does it feel?!"  Sometimes I slip that CD in cos a) I'm old, now, and b) dag, it sounds good.  It hurts, too, sometimes.  Yesterday, I was droppin the knee for a third of the Throne per turn, 8-10 new and the maze at the bottom of 6 overfull, Pa laughing at me and also--hopefully--with me.  "The whole line was watching, you know."  Today, I'm 40, mysterious knees draining my youthful impudence.  I'm afraid to drop the knee at all.

The punchline to the joke is that when I hear Evan sing "you belong in these hills," I'm seeing Grass Mountain, and the Sisters, and Carbon Ridge. Corral Pass, and Suntop, the White and the West Fork, Lonesome Lake and the Dalles.  Governor's Ridge, and Yakima, and Naches, and Sheep Lake.  The upper Silver Creek drainage and the King.  Pa quoting Clint Black.  The lights are on, but nobody's home.

- -

Title from Zoë Muth's "What Did You Come Back Here For?"

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Complaining About Arthritis

By Amy Post

My first day on snow this season was delightful.  I skated to the chair with a spring in my step, felt that little bit of exhilaration as the chair scooped me off my feet, and I giggled as my skis slid along the snow, all the way to the top of Showcase.  I was even more thrilled when I was able to make turns, top to bottom, without pain in my knees!

Even though it was fun, the first few runs felt a little off, technique-wise.  But they always do, the first time back on snow each season.  And now I’m skiing with an old injury, active arthritis, and a higher level of pain.  So, I experimented with different ways to turn my skis in order to not aggravate my knees.  If I don’t bend my right knee too much, it doesn’t hurt too bad.  Meanwhile, my left knee woke up and started barking at me, reminding me that it too has arthritis.  But after a few runs, that knee settled down and worked the way it’s supposed to.  I discovered that if I muscle through my turns, my knee hurts a lot more.  But if I focus on actively releasing the opposing muscles, my body picks up the slack and engages the necessary turning muscles just enough to make the movements, without as much pain.  With some feedback from my colleagues, I was back to symmetrical, dynamic turns by lunchtime.

Catching face shots in the neighborhood.

The first hour was almost pain free.  But during the second hour, my bad knee started to ache a little, a few twinges here and there.  Before I went to the mountain that day, my plan was to make a few runs and just see how it went; stop if I hurt too much, ski a few if I felt good, and if I ended up skiing for a few hours, bonus!  So, I thought about going home at lunch time—you know, quit while you’re ahead—but I decided to stay for the afternoon session.  As we started the afternoon, I was pleased that my pain didn’t spike on the first run after lunch.  My pain often reveals itself once my muscles cool down, so taking an hour-long break can sometimes be really uncomfortable.  But my knee didn’t feel any worse than it did right before lunch, so off I went!  Skied awhile more, started to get a little more sore.  But I was skiing with other instructors, so there was lots to focus on besides my knees, and we were standing around talking a lot too, because that’s what we do.

About an hour into the afternoon session, I noticed that I was starting to brace against my outside ski by making my outside leg stiff.  I do this when I start to get fatigued, my knee starts to hurt a lot, or both.  Actually, it is a vicious cycle, because knee pain shuts down quadricep function and lack of quadricep strength causes knee pain—one of the many gems I’ve taken away from physical therapy.  Once I notice myself bracing, I actively work on relaxing those muscles instead, which makes better turns anyway.  At one point during the next few runs, I bent my knee in a way that made me yelp with pain.  I think I skied one more run, but was getting to the point where I couldn’t stop bracing that outside leg, so I called it a day.

Even though my knees were screaming at me on my way to the car, I forced myself not to limp and iced them immediately when I got home.  I was on a high for the rest of the day and the next from the joy I felt because I got to ski.  Plus I got to ski almost a full day without unbearable pain!

The next day, I woke up and my knee was 3 cm larger than my other knee, and it hurt like hell.  I couldn’t walk normally and spent the rest of the week icing, elevating, wearing my compression sleeve, and pouting.  Today, a month out, it’s still not back to where it was before I skied.  For two weeks, stairs were impossible, even going up.  My knees have disliked walking down stairs and hills since I first injured them 20 years ago.  But I’ve always been good at the up.  Even when I’m out of shape, I can hike up a hill like a Gelada baboon.  (As opposed to the clichéd mountain goat.)  But not right now.  By now the swelling has gone down and the pain is less, but stairs are incredibly difficult.  That’s a problem.  It’s one thing if I can’t ski; even though skiing is an important part of my identity, I know that I can have fulfilling life without skiing, even if I don’t know what that looks like right now.  But if I can’t get around because I can’t handle stairs, that’s a real problem.

Here’s a few things I’ve learned lately.  You guys, I have chronic pain!  Maybe that sounds obvious, but in the past, I have not thought of my pain as a chronic condition.  It started when I was 18, got really bad for a few years, then I learned to manage it and did OK for about ten years.  Then it came back and has steadily been getting worse for the last five years.  I don’t know what I thought it was before, but I guess I just always hoped it would get better and go away.  I always thought, if I got stronger, fitter, lost x number of pounds, ate the right food, or found some magic fairy dust and learned to fly, my knees would feel good, even though I also knew that my patellar cartilage was damaged and degenerating.

A recent episode of the podcast Ologies featured an interview with Dr. Rachel Zoffness, a pain psychologist.  (She also has a book that I ordered and haven’t started reading yet but it looks very good.  Link here and at the end of this post.)  The interview made me realize that I am dealing with chronic pain, which requires a unique approach.  She approaches pain with a three-pronged method; bio-psycho-social.  That means that pain is influenced by biological, psychological and social factors.  So, for example, when I first left Utah and was going through a mental breakdown (I believe the medical term is actually “acute stress disorder”), my knee pain came roaring back.  Intense psychological stress increases the pain signals in your brain to “danger, danger, danger!” levels all the time, even if the stress signals are from a separate, physical injury.  Alternatively, when I’m skiing with friends and colleagues, it’s easy to ignore the pain because my brain is in a happy social mode.

Most astonishing, I learned that chronic pain tells you to do three things; isolate, stay home, and don’t move.  This is a survival message in response to the pain.  Which is pretty much what I’ve wanted to do from about 6 weeks post-surgery when my physical therapy started to hit a wall.  She also said that this message our brain tells us about chronic pain is a lie, and that being social, getting out of the house and moving are the best things for chronic pain.  The thing I most appreciated about the interview with Dr. Zoffness is that she told me that the challenges I’ve faced since my big knee injury almost three years ago are, well, normal.  Sucky, but normal.

The last time I went to physical therapy, Rob said he thought it might be time for surgery.  When your physical therapist says it’s probably time for surgery, uff, he’s probably right.  I had an MRI last week, so that may give me some useful information.  (I wanted to do the MRI in October, but then I got COVID, and then it took almost three months to get it pre-approved by insurance.  Grr.)  My knee is a lot better now than it was a few days after I skied.  But I’m scared of the pain and doing anything that might cause weeks of swelling.

It’s hard to end these types of essays.  I want to end on a positive note, because that feels like the appropriate arc when writing about something disappointing.  And truthfully, I am still optimistic about my knee health and the future of my skiing life.  But I don’t have any answers yet, and right now I’m in the shit.  I haven’t skied since that first day back on snow this season.  The pain has reduced to an intermittent sharp pang in my knee cap when I bend it under load, an ache during and/or after activity, and an unsteadiness on stairs.  So, I might try going skiing later this week and really limiting myself to a couple easy runs.  This time, just for a little while and take it real easy.


Sources:

Zoffness, M.S., PhD., Rachel.  "The Pain Management Workbook: Powerful CBT and Mindfulness Skills To Take Control of Pain and Reclaim Your Life."  New Harbinger Publications, 2020.

"Dolorology (PAIN) with Dr. Rachel Zoffness."  Ologies with Alie Ward, 10 November 2021.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Grew up somewhere, far away

By Eino Holm

If I were to list the entirely subjective Best Terrains Ever To Schred and Also Do Other Skeenings, the list would go something like

1) Snowbird, 2) Crystal, 3) Alpental, 4) Bachelor, 5) A Basin, 6) Baker, 7) Solitude, 8) The Place That Shall Not Be Named, 9) Brighton, 10) Loveland, 10) Monarch, 10) Copper, 13) Sun Valley, 14) Alta (too many damn traverses to be any higher), and then a whole lot of other places.  I have not skied in the Sierra, the Tetons, Southeast Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, or like, Indiana, so my list is woefully inadequate.  The skeenings, though, I couldn't rank them based on any one thing, not even something so important as terrain.

From Silly Season through about Thanksgiving every year, media of various sorts--even as not-skiing as Business Insider--throw up breathy rankings of places one should ski, usually based on metrics like snow quality, terrain quality and variety, views, lifts, food, lodges, lodging, glitz, glamour, perceived cool factor, something called "value," and places to take the square photos.  Often, they use skier surveys of all these important and not-so-important factors and tally up the results in a nice pseudoscientific package and then run short blurbs with flattering photos and super intelligent quotes like, "My 5 year old really likes the colour of the lifties' jackets."

I definitely know that there is more to skiing than just skiing, else I would doggedly fight to live near one of my top 10 rather than here in the desert near a 501(c)3 that may or may not have exactly what I want.  What I don't understand is how the lack of nightlife at places like Alpental or Monarch or Saddleback matters one bit.  The skiing is better, subjectively at least, than Breckenridge or Sun Valley or Palisades.  All three of the former are more expansive, have bigger and more modern lift fleets, likely better food, nicer shitters, maybe paved parking and shuttles directly from airports.  What places like Black Mountain, NH, and Discovery, MT have that fancy joints don't is air to breath and room to believe.  

Terrain quality is such a subjective measure.  How a run or a specific line feels and skis is different person to person, storm to storm, year to year.  For a good few people--I'd venture the vast majority of folks who pay for tickets and lodging and foods and plane tickets--the quality of grooming and the mellowness of the pitch matters most, so somewhere like the Skyliner Express at Bachelor is tops.  For many bums, especially the more self-conscious among us, the appearance of radness matters most.  Places with Amphitheaters of Huck, like the Palisades at, um, Palisades, or Corbet's at Corbet's J-Hole, or the Cirque at Snowbird, or that one run under that one chair at Mad River Glen.  I tend to look for those steeps and chutes and such, and even tend to ski better with an audience, but there's just something unmatchable about a deep-day line in the The Void at Mt A.  I've forgot exactly how to get in there; if you know, you know.  I remember rolling along under those huge Abies x shastensis and Tsuga mertensiana.  Spiritual, if you're okay with me getting a little Ashlandy.  If I'm truly honest, I do not recall the exact pitch.  I'd say somewhere between partly to mostly steepish enough.  The gliding, settled turns, the accidental drop off a downed hemlock, just keep turning until you hafta push some snow over the bank to sorta ride down on into the flat landing of the back lot.

Some terrain takes imagination.

There is no Gaffney's Numerical Assessment of Radness for terrain.  It changes depending on the company, the need to impress or downplay, the conditions, time of day, or one's conditioning.  Shot 8 at Alpental, for instance, might run somewhere well north of 50 degrees up top, but depending on the company, it might just be a nice pow line.  For me, to be clear, it's the steepest $#!@ I have ever skied, at least for longer than a turn or three.  Given the handshakes, fist bumps, bro hugs, and tequila shots (no thanks) I was handed after dropping the knee in full view of the bar at closing, it is above most folks' pay grade.  I was gripped, a little disappointed in how I skied it.  Matt, Hugh, and Catherine all dropped in confidently, made solid turns, slid nothing.  I, um, got down.  Once I was in, and comfortable, I got better, especially once I had passed the pinch and the pitch mellowed a little, to like, 49 degrees, then my knees unlocked and I opened up, back to the strong tele turns I made on all other pitches at that youthful point in my life, but I still want another crack at it.  Wanna do it right.  Whichever gear is on my feet.

-

Early in the season, most seasons, I am reminded just how subjective my assessment of terrain is.  This morning, on Morningstar at Bogus, I thought "Ooh!! Ima come back here when there's more snow!!"  And then I laughed, cos Morningstar is a groomer, on a beginner chair, short in stature and long on ease of use.  This, this nugget of truth, is what we are all drooling about after three shitty beers we stole borrowed from the cooler at Sean's trailer at about 6.37 pm on closing day.  What Tyler Childers is always on about, or Annie Lennox, or Charlie Parker, or Anton Arensky--the ephemeral, the unknowable, the beatific.  The entire point (such as it is) of the timeless and timelessly overrated On The Road.  We are not meant to know the mystery.

-

Fog rolls in.  Well, as NOAA says, the stratus deck.  Anyway, the statute of limitations is probly passed here, if there is one.  We're talkin' oh-nine, or oh-ten.  At any rate, I can't see much beyond my skis, but I've studied this line a good bit.  A couple slots uphill of Banana Chute, definitely under the rope.  No one is around, and I'm hoping for good luck.  I don't know if it'll slide, or if Lisa Poncelet or Chet Mowbray (good) or some jackass first year I've never met (bad) will be making some sorta rounds underneath.  If it is someone I know and like, like Ms Poncelet, I am unsure of how to proceed.  I know the position I'd be putting her in.  Better if it's just me and some sluff.  At this remove, 12 or 13 years, I don't remember what skis I'm on.  The illicit nature of my turns gives me a giddy little shiver, I smirk a little with smugness, but really, it's just a nice, steep ramp, and then a really nice apron, and then try not to pancake on the Gap Road.

Some terrain gets skied by gnomes.

Kirkwood has some of these lines.  Crystal has some others, too.  Baker, well, you better f*##&$in' know where you're goin'; just cos it ain't closed ain't mean it really goes for us mere mortals.  Some joints (Crystal, Kirkwood) have lines management is too lazy or too inexperienced to control.  Some, like Loveland, have lines that are slide paths directly above major highways, and thus closed for the greater good by faceless folks who in this specific instance really do know better.  Rock Face, Kemper's, The Cirque, et al, they go, they ski with some oomph, don't harm no one din't wanna be harmed.  There's always some excuse, like the Forest Circus or or the Park or whatever, but really, look at J-Hole.  They opened the gates, nothing changed except Doug Coombs stopped being prosecuted for being, well, Doug Frickin Coombs.  Crystal had more than they have, and JK gave it up for a gondola and some fur coats.  Kemper's was the best pow line at Crystal.  I will never forgive, nor will I forget.

The other side of this very valuable coin is a place like Bogus.  Nothing is closed, but then, nothing is the neck-deep, triple-overhead, either.  It's up to the skier to get rad, to find that one turn hidden skiers' right of Hidden Valley, the one that doesn't go but does anyway.  Bohemia, with their "triple blacks".  I'd venture it's just some trees and rocks, à la Pixies or TLC Trees at CM, but, you know, Michigan.  Goods, but marketing jargon instead of full honesty.

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It's easy to extoll the virtues of places like Whistler.  Big, open, huge, terrain for days.  One can't hope to ski all that on one vacation.  It just doesn't matter.  I know, deep down and superficially and everywhere else in between, that I am a tin hat repeater who wants everything to be just so, while doing nothing to make it just so.  I am the cynic, that apocryphal man of Oscar Wilde's nightmares who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.  I'd venture that one cannot know value without knowing cost, but all those marketing folks and Ashlandy dreamers and God knows who else say otherwise.  Still, Whistler, big, bad Whistler, does not matter.  And yes, I have actually skied there.  The mountains, the terrain, the vert, the vista, it's all there, with bells on.  It still just doesn't matter, in the same what that Bougie Skis Magazine's Annual Top 27.8 Ski Areas To Wear Stretch Pants After 4 PM list doesn't matter.  Terrain is what is under your feet.  It can be Buck Hill, Iceland, Aoraki, Sölden, Blue Hills, MA, or wherever you lay your skis down.  Really, truly, wherever you lay your skis down.  The hype, the marketing, the measurements and pseudoscience, just ignore it.  Pull them skis off the roof, or outa the trunk, whatever, lay em down gently, step in with authority, and ski off.  However you usually do.


Title from James McMurtry's "I'm Not From Here".