Sunday, October 31, 2021

I won't hafta chop no wood

By Eino Holm

I was 21 when I started wearing contacts. I got tired of foggy glasses under goggles, yes, but the kicker was a ridiculous crash I had at the bottom of Green Valley. One won't be surprised, as one should never be, that there was a woman involved. I wasn't quite 21. Crystal had stayed open (or reopened, but that isn't important) that year, a big winter and an interesting spring that was largely cool, even most of the way to Memorial Day. Snow to the water in Vancouver after Mother's Day.

Chair 3 had good coverage.  Moguls, slop, sun, what you'd expect for June.  I was trying to learn a 193 Völkl P40 with a Voilé 3-pin cable I'd modified into a hardwire. I ripped the base off that ski the Bad Winter a few years later. I felt I was on top of things, sending it, really. Confidence makes confidence. To be clear, this woman plays an incredibly fleeting role in the scroll of things that make up my life. She wasn't a good skier. I know that doesn't matter. I was 20 and didn't have the best of social skills, so when I say we made some runs together, it was really just that I was much faster and waited at the bottom. She invited me to make après turns up at Chinook, which I of course interpreted as something other than just filling the conversational space during the ride up.  A+B=EVERYTHING, or something like that.  One run she threw a shoe at the top of the Valley. When we hit the top of 3 that round, my old boss stopped me to chat, thinking that I had been the one who crashed. I laughed, I think, probably said something along the lines of "I don't crash," and then skied off. This lady--I never learned her name, as those who know me could expect--was at the bottom of the first pitch already. I simply straightlined through the moguls, almost comfortably, thinking I'd catch up.
The bottom of the first pitch has a compression followed closely by a rollover and then another compression. I've tucked this sequence successfully likely hundreds of times since I was a wee kid. It only takes once, though. I had to have been doing over 40, maybe pushing 50. The compression threw me off, the rollover sent me into the back seat, skis starting to meander. The second compression tackled me flat out, head through the skis. My memory is a blur of white then blue. I think, with fair certainty, that I flipped three times, and spun at least once. I know for sure that I lost my hat and my goggles and my glasses, the glasses permanently. I know I hit my face hard enough to break my nose. I was on my feet again surprisingly quickly; the world was the fog near-sighted folks will know from waking each morning before grabbing their glasses. I can't and couldn't then see even arm's length clearly without corrective lenses. You'll understand when I say that I had no reason to grasp why the snow was rapidly turning pink. Snow disperses blood efficiently, so there's that, but I was bleeding like the simile of your choosing, as well. I had finished my EMT the previous fall and worked the Heather Meadows aid room at Baker all winter, so had recently seen my share of bloody noses. Snow is effective. It mops and it ices at the same time. I'm sure my face was a mess, but I got the bleeding stopped.

I borrowed some paper towels from the liftie at the bottom of 3, and stood near-blindly wiping what I couldn't see regardless off my face. Two folks passed that I remember. The first was a volunteer patroller who said "Hey! That was you?! Nice crash!" The second was the woman I'd been skiing in front of, who said, "Oh! Hi!" and then motored off, into an appropriate never-to-be-seen-again. If I am not mistaken, Rex didn't have coverage down to 5280', so I hiked across the ridge and downloaded.  I couldn't have seen anyway, so it was better that way.  I toured the rest of that spring with glasses, but since 9 July '02, I have not worn glasses while skiing. 

This crash was violent. My neck was stiff and sore for the entire summer. I don't remember when it finally let up. I am still dealing with it in the form of periodic headaches from a stiff neck; it is rarely aligned correctly when I visit the chiropractor. I remember the feeling still: the dull thump each time my face hit the snow, the spinning and the rapid alternation of sky and snow. The complete panic. It could have been worse, and for many it is.

Skiing is famous, or infamous, for being dangerous. Folks die all the time, so the story goes, or have gory injuries and do broken bones. Unfortunately, I could make a long list of names to back that up, but either you already know their stories or they'll mean nothing to you at all. In practice, skiing is just another activity. There are studies and clickbait discussing our sport, and the numbers aren't really convincing. There are obvious dangers, such as slides and collisions and simple falls, that correctly or incorrectly convince people that folks like me are crazy and out for death just by getting up in the morning. A frank discussion of "exploits" like knowing for sure that I've hit at least 70 outside of a racecourse with zero protection of any kind, or of teleing a pitch that overtops 52 degrees while aiming directly for a 100 foot granite wall coming in hot from skiers' left as the last run of a 7 hour tour-and-lift day, or skiing the King in four turns, or, you get the idea, might not dissuade them. This isn't bragging, and not even in the "it ain't bragging if it's true" sense. When one possesses specific skills, things that to most are difficult or impossible can seem mundane. I won't claim that turning left off lower Nose Dive on the marbles of a two week drought didn't raise my BP a good bit, but I truly wasn't scared. The trees came up quick, dern near to my feet, but beyond that nothing happened. Maybe that last pitch before the hard left was where I topped 70, I don't know. I sub-audibly giggled, though. As well, that huge right-hand sweeper out of the Toaster, knee to the ski, is euphoria. Especially if it's deep, especially if one is on the rivet, especially if the choke isn't filled in yet and one must straightline a bit.

I won't claim to conquer fear, or that fear makes me feel alive. It doesn't. It makes me scared. Sad. Apathetic. If I am scared, I listen. I stay home. I didn't tour in Utah because I didn't know the snowpack. I don't mean I didn't study it and read up on it and hear what the UAC had to say, because I did all those things. I mean I didn't know the snowpack like a Chilean puma doesn't know the terrain around Smithers, BC. Snowpack is one of those things that can surprise damn near anyone, given the chance. Little pockets, microclimate effects that are only visible when one travels through on a regular basis. For a good bit of time, I knew the snowpack really well around Crystal, and just the same I would tread quite lightly. Storm skiing is best on well traveled pitches. Skier compaction. For the big stuff, the adventurey bits, letting the new snow settle and dispassionately studying the results is called for, and still shit can go sideways.

This is macabre, but true: I know more people who have died in tree wells than have been murdered. I don't really know what to make of that except to repeat, over and over and over and over, the tree skier's mantra. Look where you want to go. Look where you want to go. Look where you want to go. Look where you want to go.

One afternoon, some random pitch out North--alone, natch--I ended up cantilevered on the uphill side of a tree with a surprisingly deep and obvious well. I don't remember which winter, but I'm pretty sure I was working for Brad. I got stuck with my weight balanced between my right, downhill foot, and my right hand, which was on the trunk of a midsized conifer of vague recollection. I was in this predicament, as I every so often am, from being adventurey. I remember it as lower on the hill, down toward the new chair, though more than that I can't remember. I know it had been snowing like it does in the Cascades, and the tree wells were starting to get deep.  These little sandtraps are legendary and terrifying and easy to miss. I describe some snowpack as spooky, but nothing compares to a tree well.

I somehow managed to transfer my weight around and get resituated below the tree, and all was well. I skied out, and I'm now twelve plus years older and hopefully much the wiser. Wiser doesn't keep your airway clear when you are upside down and panicking, though. Wiser doesn't convince nature, or Ullr, or God, or whomever, to cut you some slack. There's a reason why so many backcountry deaths are reported with "experienced" somewhere in the copy. (Yes, the MSM doesn't understand skiing and a writer may add adjectives simply to sound expert, but I do hope that's not the common motif here.) Snow Immersion Suffocation gets more of us "experts" than any other group.

I am thinking of all of this because recently I was reminded of a woman I knew tangentially who passed away in a tree well. She was a good, strong skier, many days on snow every year for many decades. No one is sure quite how it happened. Every story is like this, just us survivors standing around scratching our heads and wondering, a, how, and b, why, and c, why not me? I don't want to die in any such manner, nor does anyone I have ever met, but still the thought is there. What have we done, or not done? Do we deserve our respite, or is the other shoe just out of sight above our heads?

We have likely all had near-misses, like my face-smash of June '02, where different forces would have yielded far more disastrous results. We stand around at bars, or end-of-season bonfires, or on this new-fangled technology stuff, and wonder at where we are and how we got here. The human factor is huge in most skiing accidents. Sometimes it's a cycle of hubris regarding our own abilities. Sometimes we're just skiing alone in a place where it'd be better to have a buddy. Sometimes it's a collision. At that fireside, it's easy to dismiss these misfortunes as things we would all avoid because, well, haven't we done so forever? We're all here, after all. I wear a helmet, so that means I can't die from a head injury. I have been skiing for 39 years, basically my entire life, so I can't misjudge the pitch and roll over a 50 footer skier's right of Pinball. In the dying light of a passing season, this is comfort. Melby, though, was 100 or so feet skier's left of Iceberg Gulch, a main, regularly groomed run at Crystal, when Kristin--"Ten"--found him the summer after he disappeared. The guy back in '03 or '04, he was just below the top of 9, near Patrol's Dyno AP cache. Had he a clean airway, he could have been heard by a patroller sitting bump or me when I was out shoveling. These things can, and do, happen to us all. Jim Jack was an incredible skier, very intelligent, and unfortunately he now watches over Tunnel Creek from wherever he is instead of making another run off 7th Heaven. Slides, tree wells, simple mistakes, they spook us all. Each accident causes introspection and resolution. Some time passes, it happens again. We can limit our exposure, we can make the right choices, follow our guts when they say to stay away. Then one of us catches an edge and another light blinks out.

I haven't been hit too closely by these deaths, but that doesn't change anything and doesn't make me special. The snow still falls. The trees still abide, and the Mountain will win any contest we take to it. Some folks are pushing that boundary every damn day, either getting lucky or just good at timing. Some folks make a living doing things none of us understand, but through courage, a good bit of skill, and--no offense Jaime--some luck, keep pushing on, only to get hosed in bounds at Alta in the early season, and another light blinks out. There are always ghosts about.

In a sense, skiing chose me. I didn't chose skiing. I started the lifelong process in '82-'83, somewhere around 18 months old. One cannot make the argument that I was learning actively at that age, but with repetition and exposure I eventually got to where I am, somewhere along the long road to wherever it is I am going. I have balance on my skis that is hard to learn beyond childhood. Not metaphorical balance, as I routinely stare blankly at folks who might ask what else I do besides ski and work. I mean edge-to-edge, core-over-feet sort of balance. I can make mistakes and still bring it right 'round. I fell three times in '019, three more than my average winter. I do not ski with only a mind to not fall. I ski to ski. Angrily, with patience, with and without purpose, happily, sadly, I ski. I do not avoid falling, but still I rarely fall. Even so, there are always ghosts about. I will always think of my Grandfather, gone these sixty years. He skied, taught Pa to ski. He is always around me, as I hope Pa will be someday when he moves on as we living things tend to do.

There are so many others. I don't pretend they are watching me, or looking out for me, even though I think maybe they really are watching us all. This thing, this turn, skiing, it isn't necessary. It doesn't fix things that clear eyes and full hearts and a good mind for problem solving can't. The raven, though, and the marten, and the gray jay, they can keep tabs on a good few folks. In my more metaphysical moments, I feel their presence. I am not arrogant enough to think anyone is around specifically to keep me out of the creek under Chair 6. I don't think that is what they need to do. If I die on the hill, though, I hope Grandpa or Sarah or someone who's gone before is there to walk with me, just as I hope Hans Saari or Sondre Norheim or some to-us nameless legend from the Altai was around for Jaime Pierre. To show us how they make turns on the other side.


Title from Emmylou Harris's "One of These Days", written by Earl Montgomery.

An incomplete compendium of snow safety resources:

Sunday, October 24, 2021

What the heck is a "quiver?" And how to build one.

By Amy Post

This is a quiver.

Or, if you prefer girl power...

A quiver is the thing that Robin Hood, Katniss, or any other archer put their arrows in.  They are either worn or carried, and made of leather, wood, metal or plastic.  Here's a beautiful one from Turkey from the 1620s.

By Unknown author - LSH 91418 (lm_dig7763), Public Domain,

Whether you are robbing the rich to feed the poor, overthrowing the Capital, hunting for dinner, or doing target practice, you will need a different arrow for each of those pursuits.  Arrows vary widely in length, weight, stiffness (which affects its bendiness), and balance.  The different parts of the arrow all vary in shape and material, and thus function.  The different designs have their strengths and weaknesses, and choosing the right one is about finding the right tool for the job.  An archer's choice of arrow will depend on all the following variables: price, durability, personal preference, accuracy, penetration depth, aerodynamics, and the specific game a hunter or fisher is seeking. (1)

A skier's "quiver" is their collection of skis, each ski serving a different purpose.  The first time I heard the term "one-ski quiver" or the question "What's in your quiver?" I found this confusing.  The analogy is: a skier's quiver features several different types of skis for different purposes, much like an archer's quiver would cary different kinds of arrows for different pursuits.

So what is in my quiver?  I've got my all-mountain/PSIA exam skis (Head Total Joy, 85 mm underfoot) that I recently converted to my touring skis with the intent to replace, my slightly older, narrow all-mountain skis (Head Pure Joy, 73 mm underfoot) that are now my teaching/rock skis, my powder skis (Volkl Kiku, ~106 mm underfoot), and my Rossignol GS skis that are designed for a teenage boy.  And a snowboard I haven't used yet.  Then there are the old skis that I never got rid of like my slalom and GS boards from high school.  I even have two pairs of boots: the Lange RS 130 and a soft but close-fitting pair of Daleboots.  They are extremely different boots with different performances; the Langes are stiff and stable for all terrain, all conditions, but the Daleboots are comfy, easy to flex, and the ones I've been using since my injury.

For the first 10 years of my ski career I only had one pair of skis because that was all I could afford.  This is the norm for most skiers, and in truth, most skiers won't really benefit from more than one pair of skis.  The vast majority of skiers are intermediate, intermittent skier, so one pair of all-mountain skis is going to get them around the mountain almost every day that they make it to the hill.  However, if you never go off the groomed, don't mess around with a big ski; just get a front-side ski and have fun laying 'em over on the corduroy.  If you encounter a powder day, or some heavy snow that your all-mountain skis can't handle, you can rent a pair of demos from a local shop or borrow from a friend who is stuck in the office.  (If you borrow skis make sure to have a mechanic adjust your bindings.  Really.  A $25 binding adjustment is cheaper than knee surgery.)  Owning a quiver is a luxury, but it can benefit the avid skier.

How to build up your quiver:

1) Get a good pair of boots and have them fitted by an expert boot-fitter.  Boots are your connection to the ski, and if your boots don't fit or are worn out, it doesn't matter what kind of ski you're on because the movements you make inside your boots won't translate to your skis.

2) Start with an all-mountain ski.  But beware, all skis labeled "all-mountain" are not created equal; they vary in width, construction and performance.  Ask yourself two questions: what are my ideal conditions, and what are the conditions I end up skiing most of the time?  Do you hit the hill every Saturday, or do the weekends find you driving the soccer taxi and you call in sick on powder days?  If you ski all the time, regardless of conditions, you're going to want to buy a ski that can handle groomed, chopped up and/or firm snow (depending on the average conditions of your home hill).  This probably means a more narrow, stable ski.  If you select your ski days according to snow conditions, buy a wider, easy-to-turn all-mountain ski that will get you some of that float you chase.  Folks may try to tell you that you can ski anything on a fat powder ski.  They are wrong.  Powder skis suck in anything that's not powder.  Yeah, I said it.  That powder ski won't be very much fun three days after the storm when you finally get to the hill and the snow is all tracked out.  Really wide skis are harder to turn, harder to control and fatigue your feet and knees a lot faster than a more narrow ski.

3) Buy a powder ski.  Or a race ski.  Or a park ski.  Buy a ski to suit your favorite conditions or style and enjoy the benefits that a specialized tool brings to your day.

4) Buy a detuned race ski.  They're often marketed as "beer league" skis, or front side rippers.  They'll make you a better skier, make you feel like a hero, and give you something to do during the January drought.

5) Repeat step 3 until you run out of money.

6) Buy a snowboard.  They're fun, I promise!

Shop at ski swaps, end-of-the-season demo sales, second hand stores, or Craigslist (Is that still a thing?) to find affordable options, especially as you work your way down your list.  (Click here for my advice on How to Win the Ski Swap.)  Always beware the sentimental dude that wants $300 for his 30-year-old skis.

Here's another analogy.  My non-skiing friends have teased me about owning more than one pair of skis.  But skis are more like a set of screwdrivers than a hammer; you can do most things with one flathead screwdriver, but in order to accomplish all you desire, you need a range of tools.

l-r: demo, pro deal, Aunt Nancy, trash compactor, full retail, $35/bent ski, well-used internet score.
Not pictured: giant Ornj Monster from Craigslist, small GS from 2nd tracks, Völkl P40 that was a tip, Amy's High School SL, tele setups.



What should I buy?!

By Eino Holm

(Rob (the PT) asked for recs on big all-mountain skis.  Being one who is full of magnanimity, I oblige these requests.  Herewith, a email, edited a shade to be less opaque.)

Amy said you need skis.  95mm? I have opinions.  People need to hear my opinions. I've spent the last 40 years gathering intel. And, to quote a lady from The Place That Shall Not be Named I don't know but who was rad, yeah, I'm pretty good.  (Also, I have a hard time being fully serious at any point in the time. If any of this sounds scolding, I promise that it isn't.  I just have lots and lots of opinions and thankfully much, much time on snow and six winters over the stone to back them up. Also I have a bio on  I'm sure that's like, something, or something.)

Amy says you might not read the whole diatribe, so, tl;dr is at bottom.

Where does this ski slot in your mind?  If it's a Bogus Basin 2-8" day or some day-old and some cut-up and maybe a groomer or two or some thick spring slush, then good, that's what these skis are designed for exactly, go for it.  If it's a "quiver killer" (whatever that is), then hell yeah, go for it.  These can all handle that. If this is "skinny", then stop reading ski blogs and go skinnier.  Skinny is 75mm and below. I'd also suggest some 88mm skis as well, but option paralysis is real.

Anyway. I agree that the Enforcer is not a good ski.  I bet it'll last through the apocalypse cos it weighs eleventy tons and is made by Blizzard, aka one of the top 3 factories in skiing.  It feels like it is made for people who don't know what a powerful ski is and will settle for a dead one.  All that tip rocker, so much weight, early taper, no thank you.  I and Grady (the Bullrider) Pilkington from Huntsville, UT agreed when it was first reissued winter of '016 that it was disappointing.  Then Nordica had a ridiculous pro deal and Grady (the Bullrider) bought it anyway.  I laughed.  It is boring, dead, and not worth the press time in Mittersill.  Nordica can do better, and has, lots and lots of times.  Look no further than their race program.  Or the Original Enforcer.

Also, 95mm has been a bit of a not-quite zone for me.  Not big, but not small, either.  I prefer 88mm skis, cos the float is roughly the same, but the hard snow performance is that much better.

That said, here's my take:
Best 95 mm ski of the moment is the Stöckli Stormrider 95.  Contrary to all the breathy internet prose vomited into the æther by folks who get paid to vomit breathy prose into the æther, it isn't really worth $1159 after Idaho state sales tax.  It is, however, really damn good.  Surprising, even to this cynical Sámi.  It is the best 90-100mm ski I have skied in a really long time.  The previous best was the original Bonafide.

(Quick aside, I know the parents of the guy (Arne Backstrom) who designed the original Bodacious line back in '010, which included at the time the Cochise and the Bonafide.  I mounted the first pair of Bodacious that came off the line in Mittersill.  Well, I was at Crystal, but the ski came from Mittersill.  Arne's Pa got the first pair in memoriam and had me drill them cos he trusted me--I think--and also knew me from my days bumping chairs and also from knowing my Pa since '92.  I was grateful our binding bench faced the wall, so he didn't see me cry.)  

Anyway, that ski was both powerful and lively, something missing from the current crop of skis.  Before that, it was the Bandit XXX, circa '03.  Anyway, I have also really liked the Élan Ripstick and the Head Kore.  I think the Kore comes in a 98.  Élan is also top three factory.  Stöckli von Der Schweiz, Mittersill aus Österreich, and Élan, in Begunje na Gorenjskem, Slovenia.  (I looked that up.)  Head's shop in Vorarlberg is a close fourth.  One time I drilled and mounted 16 pairs of Élans in about a half hour, no pulls.  That's rare for me at that speed.  I've pulled screws outa Stöckli (no joke, it was Scott Schmidt's; he'd given them to his cameraman who needed them remounted for a bigger boot), Head, Rossi more times than I can count, K2, Atomic, all sorta skis both good and otherwise, but for me, that 256 screw run says a lotta good about that factory. Anyway, the Ripstick is goods.  Two other good skis in that 94-98 mm range are the Rustler 9 (94mm) and the Ranger 98 (98mm). I don't love either, but I think for their design purpose they are solid.  The Fischer's too techy for me with all that carbon, but carbon is frustratingly inescapable at the moment.  I skied the Rustler 9 for four days at Silver Mt up North Idaho in '019 and, while I found the speed limit, liked it a lot and found much good turn with it.  It is definitely aimed at lighter riders than myself; at the same time it is not undergunned for most folks.  I could almost keep up with Jackson Hogen (goooooogle if you're bored) and Mark Elling on it, and I doubt another ski would have made me any faster.  It has some metal, some carbon, a mostly race-style sandwich, and most importantly, looks good with a Look or Salomon or Tyrolia binding. 

(Amy may have mentioned you erroneously aren't anti-Marker.  Hopefully she misapprehended.  Marker is worst binding, unless is 14+ din (preferably 16 or 18 or 20) and also is race. Their freeride bindings have too too much plastic. Marker is only binding make Enore chase ski not once, but twice, into woods on--count em--32" new.  I set brand new Griffon to the book, tested 'em with the ol' Vermont Safety, went out first run on Upper Bull with my buddy Stina and holy crap, does a 132mm underfoot (you read that right) ski travel far on 32". Don't Marker.  Marker is like the Specialised of the ski world.)

I imagine the Mantra M6 is good, if you get a chance to ski it.  (I haven't skied any Mantra in a while, but Mark II and III were lively and solid. Mark I delammed a lot.) Metal and stuff and flat, so you can choose yer own binding adventure.  Also, Straubing.  Good factory.  I wish Völkl wasn't part of Marker.
There are probly some other skis out there, but I don't really pay attention to skis that aren't from the Alps.  Bad luck, snobbiness, blindspots, I don't care.  Life's too short to ski on not-Enore skis. If you want to try some of those cool looking boutique American skis, go ahead.  Some are super intriguing, like Shaggy's Copper Country Skis.  Even though I have family in the UP and they are certain Copper Country doesn't include the Mitten.  I haven't had any exposure and I wish they were all better at demo days so I could.  And tip-to-tail camber.  I hate how much rocker is out there.  My '012 Kästle MX88 has no rocker and no taper and it's the best dern ski I have ever skied.  Also lots metal.

top eight:
1 Stormrider 95
3 Bonafide
4 Rustler 9
5 Ripstick 96 (or whatever the new version is)
7 Kore 98
8 Ranger 98 (again, or whatever the current version is)

There's probly a Salomon or an Atomic that's decent, but I haven't been impressed historically.
Skis are fun. I like skiing. I have my pass down to a daily cost of $1.47 American. I rule.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Eddie the Eagle the Movie

By Amy Post

Michael Edwards competed in the 1988 Calgary Olympics in ski jumping, where he came in last place. He’s a charismatic dude who drew media attention for his enthusiasm and thick glasses, earning the nicknames "Eddie the Eagle" and “Mr. Magoo.” He wasn’t very good, compared to the other athletes, but since no one else in England cared about ski jumping, he got to represent his country. After Eddie competed, the IOC changed the rules, and in classic spoil-sport fashion, made the qualifications stricter for future Olympics. Eddie tried, but failed to qualify for subsequent Olympic competitions, and moved onto a career of product endorsements, reality show dance competitions, and earned a law degree. (1)

Eddie the Eagle, the 2016 biopic about the selfsame athlete, isn’t a movie about an underdog that wins. It’s a movie about an underdog that loses. Make no mistake, qualifying and competing in the Olympics is a huge accomplishment in itself. Eddie was a genuine athlete who put in the work and competed at an international level. He represents all of us who don’t look like the “typical” athlete, but do the thing regardless. Eddie is intrinsically motivated, stoked to sets personal records and didn't let the haters get him down. This is much more powerful message than the false and privileged, “Just try your best, think positive and you’ll achieve your dreams!” Not to say this movie isn’t dripping with privilege—it fails the Bechdel test, features zero non-white people, and all the women are stereotypes (nurturing, cougar, or cheerleader). But skiing itself has a privilege problem; the lack of representation and accessibility to the sport is not unique to this movie.

Eddie in Calgary, 2017
(One of two free photos of Eddie I found on the internets.) (2)

As an alpine skier who is scared of leaving the ground, my favorite part of the movie was the sequence at the dry slope ski center, something I’ve only ever seen on YouTube. As he’s learning to ski, Eddie does the classic butt-in-the-air snowplow, in the backseat with ski poles tucked under his arms, tips pointing behind, right at eye-poking height. He gets pretty good pretty quickly and does some sweet synchronized skiing with some other alpine skiers in matching sweat suits, on long skinnies, legs glued together. The later jumping scenes are comically incongruous; close up of Eddie’s face as he’s sliding down the ramp, cut to actual, modern jumping skis (that require special bindings and boots) sliding in the tracks, then cut to Eddie crash-landing on not-quite-vintage-enough green Fischers, wearing those classic red and white, rear-entry Solomon boots. I was actually impressed with Hugh Jackman’s hockey stop. It was controlled and centered enough to make me think me might actually be able to turn a ski. I even learned a few things about ski jumping progression. The 80s ski style was bellisimo, especially Eddie’s historically-accurate pink Uvex goggles. Any skier who has dressed up for closing weekend would be super jealy of the lost and found that Eddie and his coach raid to get him some gear. Oh, and there’s classic Pisten Bully snow-cats.

Eddie the Eagle has all the essential elements of those classic 90s inspirational sports movies I loved as a kid (e.g., The Mighty Ducks, etc.): an awkward underdog; a washed up, old athlete who finds redemption and sobriety through coaching an unskilled athlete; a training montage set to upbeat 80s rock; bar fights; nasty teammates; a disapproving dad who learns to support his son; and scowling Scandinavians. Much like watching Eddie himself, I had low expectations going into this movie, but enjoyed the experience because it was cheesy, in all the right ways.

After watching this movie, I was thrilled to learn that the sequence where Eddie is practicing his tuck on the top of a moving van was based on real events. Apparently, Phil and Steve Mahre did the same atop the family station wagon. At least my dad remembered seeing a picture of it in Skiing magazine back in the day, so it must be true. In the spirit of don’t-try-this-at-home silliness, I share with you this excellent K2 commercial, starring the Mahre brothers and Glen Plake.

Have I lived through the best times?

By Eino Holm

I had to turn on my Egbert Country mix for this one.  If I drank hard A or chewed, I'd have a dip and a whiskey.  I don't, but I want you to have that image.  Also, it isn't important to know who Egbert is or what sorta country he likes.

I searched far and wide on the flappy internet box and couldn't find any current reviews of my favourite alpine binding, the Salomon 900S Equipe.  It's a 14 din binding with rotary-release, adjustable-wing toe and a cam-release heel piece on a stainless steel track.  It does everything it should, with a little forgivable fidget.  If you don't mind readjusting once or twice a winter, it is what a binding should be, what Hjalmar Hvam might have hoped his invention would become.  This particular binding is in the middle of a long line of similar bindings, all of which are interchangeable with regards to this review, starting somewhere back in the 80s around the time of the 747 when they switched from the dual-wing release toe of the 737 and finishing up around 2015 with the introduction of the STH2 and the downgraded plastic heel track.

Downgraded heel track on skiers' left.  Pumpkin for scale.

Many bindings today use a healthy dose of plastic, and the 900S is not immune.  It does, however, have that stainless steel heel track that allows for smooth rearward elastic travel.  Some modern bindings technically have more of what Cody Townshend claims is utterly important for carving (while using skis that aren't designed to carve and don't need to cos they're like 109mm or whatever underfoot and have like all the rockers); the downside is that plastic is not especially slick, so you have what feels like a mildly sticky damper on your old Fox 36 TALAS, and instead of smooth extension and rebound at the heel, you get small fits and starts.  Not so the 900S.  One dives into a turn, and the binding disappears.  Extension and rebound are smooth, nicely limited so the centre of the ski remains stiff and ready to recoil out of the turn.

At one point Fischer laid their boots up with a little bit of duck foot.  They called it "Somatec" and it seemed to me simultaneously genius and hokey.  As I age, and as I realise where my feet and joints are not aligned and where that misalignment has caused actual problems like patellar irritation and getting really out of shape and feeling fat.  Well, for sure the actual structural issues.  My fitness is another issue.  At any rate, enter again the Salomon 900S Equipe.  For a long time, I wondered as I tested the release function of customers' bindings why one would seek out or design a binding with independently adjustable toe wings.  Sounds either hokey or unnecessary, yes? Nerdy at the very least.  Being a nerd with janky feet and knees, I'd beg to differ.  Much like the later-arriving Somatec, one can set the bindings such that if you are duckfoot like most of us, or pigeon-toed, you can achieve a slightly more neutral stance.  This does make the ski left- or right-specific, but that's okay.  If one is in something truly high-last like a custom DaleBoot at, say, 112mm, there is, on narrower skis anyway, the possibility of boot-out.  Fear not, for few are called to the widest end of the spectrum; it's a concern I would be remiss in not mentioning.

I have skied multiple versions of this binding over the years, as Salomon hadn't until the Warden MNC built anything truly different from before, opting instead for minimal tweaks for style or fashion, such as adding independent wing adjustment, and removing it by tying the wings to a single adjustment, and adding it back again.  My first was in I think '92, a 12 DIN version that had a cool pattern like granite, a kind of gray-on-gray spackle that some designers used to offset the schreddy neons they were employing in great quantity.  My favourite so far is the 997 Equipe in a purple colourway.  My brother John found it at Copper or Cooper or some other storied Central CO joint on a ski I can't remember.  The heel tested two dins high after I mounted them, and I need about 10mm of gas pedal for even a level boot, let alone the +2 or 3 mm I prefer, but given they were built in that same early 90s timeframe, I'd say that's a win.  At any rate, PURPLE. 

Sorry.  Got a little off-radius.  There are literally squirrels in the attic of the breezeway between our house and Tom the Neighbour's.  So noisy.  The 900S, along with its predecessors and successors, is a fairly simple binding.  It has a rotary-release toe and a cam-release heel.  Release-related elastic travel on the toe and heel are middling, not as wild as a Look Forza/Pivot or PX/SPX, but enough.  Look has always touted their elastic travel as some sorta panacea, but with balance and skill, no such panacea is ever needed.  With ass emphatically over teakettle, one would hope to be sans those four giant blades of steel unless there is some sort of balletic good fortune that ends in an upright, two-point landing and with much skiing off into the sunset.  In my many years flogging this binding as THE BEST, better than the acceptable and Instagrammable Pivot, better than the great-at-first, but ultimately toe-twisty FreeFlex, better by far than the Royal Family or any other non-race Marker, I have never stayed in when I wanted out, and never lost a ski that should have stayed with me.  The same cannot be said for all things.  

The toe is the obvious touchstone for Salomon bindings, starting with that red and white 747 and continuing still with the STH2.  The heel is the sleeper agent here.  It is easy to step into and out of, much lighter in action than its French cousin over at Look.  Stepping out with your ski doesn't cause any issues with base damage like a Pivot or SPX.  I know, use your pole, whatever; I've spent enough time at joints where the best lines are reached via complex mixes of skating and booting and I long ago found efficiency to outweigh other concerns.  Step on that 900S heel, and, free of concern, you're easily out and onto other things.

Salomon, again, until the new toes and heels, used the same drill pattern from somewhere in the 80s all the way up until the current Warden and STH2.  Like the Tyrolia 92 jig, except that the 92 jig is still relevant, and I wish I liked Tyrolia bindings more just because of that.  A handful of offerings had a five hole heel, like the original STH and the old 997 I love, that also required a slightly different brake, but besides that, roughly 30 years of binding would fit without a second drilling.  This is exciting to me always as a mechanic, but especially now when I need a binding for my 186 Orange Monsters and I just happen to have that '93 997 Equipe in Purple Colourway sitting in wait on an old red P40 that just never spoke to me in '016 like the Orange one did in '000 when I was bumping chairs at Baker and skiing 13 days a week.  Ryan (the Owner) found the Monsters on Craigslist just after Christmas in '018, and they came with an STH 16 I've since moved to newer skis.  Now that my surgery knee is solid, I want to ski the Monsters again, so, PURPLE.

To some, bindings are an afterthought, an annoyance on the way to the slopes.  To me, a good binding is delightfully forgettable, like a nice glass of water or a skilled bassist in rock and roll music.  I have, strangely, had some of my only dramatic arguments with customers over bindings, usually when I'd made it clear that, no, that 1987 Marker M36, despite the word "titanium" on the toe, is not indemnified and also, most certainly is scary and dangerous.  It's a toss-up whether your now yellow Nordica 727 or that M36 will crack first.  Not if, when.  And yet, indignance and disbelief.  (Not dissimilar to some of the current anti-science rhetoric out there.)  The 900S, and its family, will not crack first.  They may need you to snug up the toe wings periodically, and Greenwood's won't mount em for you, and Salomon won't pay your medical bills if they prerelease at speed, but you won't prerelease at speed and some small shops will set them by function test and have you sign a nice waiver and BOOM, you'll be as cool as me with your vintage bindings.

The binding in question.  Pumpkin for scale.

Title from the Desert Rose Band's "In Another Lifetime"