Saturday, September 2, 2023

I know you were probly just acting polite.

Dwight Yoakam tells a story about mayonnaise, that ends with him offending his aunt.  It's harmless, and best told by Dwight himself, who is a master storyteller if you can follow his tangents. He has a show on the satellite radio thingie in my car. I'm sure it's archived somewhere on the magic internet rectangle, should you want to find it.  The gist is that he grew up thinking Miracle Whip was mayonnaise, and when he finally had actual mayonnaise, he got uppity like little kids do and may or may not have spit it out in disgust.

Supposedly yer not skiin' if yer not draggin yer hands and stuff. Credit Daniele Molineris, Storyteller Labs.

A parallel story would be about my uncle Eddie.  (I have two Uncle Eds, one of whom was married to my oldest aunt, Jerrilyn.  Sadly, we lost him a couple years ago.  This is about Eddie, who may have some day wanted to be called Ed, but he likely could not make that choice cos he is 19 years younger than Jerrilyn, enough that by the time he was in school, give or take, she was already married to Ed, and a logger in his 20s with a big beard and a patch of land and a truck ain't changin his name for a 1st grader.)  Anyway, when Eddie was young, his ma, my grandmother, would cut the crust of his pasty.  Or rather, scoop the guts out of the pastry shell.  Now, pasty--rhymes with past and ee, not paste and ee--is a Cornish meat pie that miners would take to work.  Allegedly, it was a nice size to heat on a shovel over a coal fire.  If this is true, one hopes fervently that they were not in an underground shaft while sitting around this mythical coal fire, or any fire, at the time.  At any rate, while I don't know the exact travel of the pasty recipe from Cornish miners in the UP to my grandmother in Puget Sound, I do know that like any good Lutheran, when she made pasty it was in a casserole dish and was not a small hand pie.  Coincidentally, my paternal grandmother did grow up in the UP, and she likely had contact with Suomalainen miners who knew the Cornish miners, but this is my other grandma we're talking about.

Anyway, you got me distracted.  So, one day, Eddie is at some other family's house and they're servin mad pasty, and when he gets his plate, he gets all pouty and looks at my grandmother and says "THIS AIN'T PASTY" cos the crust is still on.  Cut to now, and gosh darn if I don't want me some real Cornish pasty, the hand pie sort.  I don't need that coal fire or a shovel for authenticity, but neither do I want Beef Wellington "pan gravy" like our old neighbour Christine used to make.  I want a Cornish pasty.  Ketchup, Heinz 57, Tobasco, whatever is at hand.  Must be dinner time.


So, you're probly wondering, "just what in the heck does this have to do with skiing?" I'll tell you in a minute.  One further important thing, though, is that pasty is, in what I believe to be its purest form, a dense, but flaky pastry shell stuffed with leftover hamburger, potatoes, and whatever root vegetables you have on hand.  Ma always used carrots, but one could in theory throw in a rutabaga, or celery root, or parsnip, whatever's in the crisper.  Since we're talkin roots, some folks get confused about potatoes since the food part is underground and sort of on a root, but science hippies argue that they aren't roots at all; they're tubers.  Like, I've heard that some folks call a potato a modified stem, but really, it doesn't matter.  It's a tomato, which is a fruit, and that's that.  Or an eggplant.  Kinda like Joshua trees are asparagus.  The science hippies said so, so it must be true.  At any rate, it's hearty, mild, easily digestible, and an absolutely gorgeous receptacle for sauces.  Pasty, I mean.

Alright, I'll tell you what.  Perspective, that's what.  I'm always goin on and on and on about how people don't have enough.  Too many little bubbles, like this silly city we live in, and especially the people who grew up here.  They think that whatever experience they have is all there is to, um, experience.  Truth is, and I'll quote the legendary Satchel Pooch here, things mean different things to different people.  What one person, say, a racer, thinks of as an "all-mountain ski", is to another, say, a marketing elf for a ski publication, a skinny ski that's probly only good at banging gates and looking cute in PSIA photo shoots.  They're both wrong, of course, and I brought them up to be diametrically opposed for illustrational purposes.

The ski in question.  Closing Day Poles for scale.

I saved money for over a year to buy the Blizzard Firebird HRC.  It's funny to say it that way, cos in another way, the ski was a whim.  A very expensive whim, the most expensive ski and binding combo I have ever owned, but a whim nonetheless.  Spoiler alert, it's rad.  My perspective, as a not-racer-not-freeride-jerk? It's a very skilled, very skinny all-mountain ski.

There's always argument in all sciences about everything.  The pertinent argument here is whether words mean what the dictionary and/or what some past word person said, or if they mean what is illustrated through usage alone.  Further along this line, if a given phrase can be defined prescriptively or descriptively.  Such as, does "all-mountain" mean what the word pairing suggests, that one can ski this ski all over the mountain, or what the marketing elves say, which is whatever they want at a given moment, or, like 95-115mm underfoot exactly cos "that's what it means!"?  Over the years, I have slid toward a more ecumenical, descriptive view of language.  As such, since folks who aren't industry folks tend to see "all-mountain" as a literalist term, simply a ski one can ski wherever on the hill one can ski it, well, then, so do I.  Which for me is damn near everywhere in many conditions.  I do not, say, have the skill to ski this thing on those legendary AK pitches, but then again, I don't really have the skill or stones to ski most of that stuff on any ski.  Still, I love me some underbiking, and also some underski-ing.  As such, like many a PSIA nerd, I will ski this thing in as many conditions on as many slopes as I am able.  I believe somewhat firmly in horses for courses, and then ignore it all and just jump on this very orange ski as often as possible.  Chalk moguls, slush days, hardpan, smooth and mythical groomers, steep, shallow, Riblet double or Leitner-Poma 8-place.  Well, I've never seen the latter, but still.

Okay, maybe not all the mountain.

Now, forthwith, heretofore, Important Details you probly stopped caring to look for: the Blizzard Firebird HRC is like 75 or whatever underfoot, and mad fast. 17 metre beer-league radius at 182 cms, with the requisite metal base sheet and binding sheet.  (I'd be fine if it was just two full metal sheets; more on that later.)  It's offered in other lengths, but I didn't bother to demo any so I don't know how the length changes the ski. Also, I weigh pounds and that means 182 for me.  It's got that good box section sandwich construction, the classic shape. Much camber, many oomph.  Blizzard offers it with two binding plates, one a demo whatever that's stupid cos I said so and one that is--I think, I didn't mount em, which is pretty embarrassing--pre-drilled for the old Comp pattern.  Don't waste time on the demo plate.  Get the real one, it's got a piston, which is like, hashtag Marker History Tee Em.  Also, you can snag a 16 or 18 or 20 din XComp binding if you don't have a classic Comp 18.0, which is nice cos otherwise you'd be Markering out all over the mountain.  All my anti-Marker hubris to the side, the Comp race binding they've made in a couple iterations over the decades is actually damn solid once you get up into the nosebleed dins like 18 or 45.

The base slides like it's some sorta race-room material, and the edges are a claimed somewhere around 1 by 2 degrees.  This is not super important, cos obvs you should get em ground flat when it's time for your first tune and hand file em to hashtag half by four and moonstone that shit to a polish.  I imagine you'll be waxing them, but I forgot this year and the base burn didn't hold me back none.  Don't hate.

I read a bunch of misguided hype before buying this ski, most of which ran to line of "you better have your will updated cos this ski kicks mortal a$$." Or "get on board the train." Or Jeff over at Greenwood's more subtle "yeah, with the Piston Plate, it's just. . .more." I'll admit that I got behind the ski a little on the first day, but once I got my mass settled into the centre of the ski's balance, aka WHERE YOU SHOULD ALWAYS BE, then things just kinda worked out.  All the reasonable platitudes apply here, carves like a gelada baboon, rebounds like a turkey on acid, changes edges quicker than a ground squirrel, has a smoother ride than a pika's hay in March in the back of the den when the only plants left in the larder are the toxic ones and hopefully Ma and Pa laid em in early enough last summer so the toxins leached.  You get it.  Ask it to make you a sandwich, and it'll eat your breakfast.  Tell it to make you a sandwich, and it'll be the best dang thing you ever et.

And it can do this!! (It's like one a them eye puzzles.  Stare long enough, you'll see it. Yeah, I'm pretty good.)

Any good race or frontside ski should hold an edge from exactly the moment you set it, and release it only when you start your transition.  The HRC does this, with aplomb, at speed, as though there is no other calling.  Some folks won't care.  If you are them, just walk on by, don't wait on the corner.  I am most definitely them, and every time I roll up on edge, wherever that may be, I smirk just a little.  Folks say a good ski should do some of the work for you, and that's true, but a great ski will reward you for doing as much work as you are able.  That same great ski may not forgive you for getting it wrong.  You should not expect it to.  Being tossed about in the back seat on a really great ski is not a knock on the ski, nor should you take it as anything other than not-so-gentle encouragement to git that centre of mass over yer base of support.  It's okay to need to be on your game, cos when you are, holy shieldbacks, you can get after it.

If I have a gripe, and I'm paid to*, it's that there's not enough orange and not quite enough metal, and that the binding plates are not blank for mounting not-Markers.  I mean, orange is fast, and metal is fast, so more is faster?!  This is the first ski I have ever skied where the carbon--in the form of "C-Spine" (two vertically lain sheets in the core's horizontal laminate) and "C-Armour" (a horizontal plate under the binding plate)--doesn't even announce itself, let alone throw its weight around.  If you told me it was a schredmetal ski in the vein of an old 90s Atomic DH sled, I'd be like, "bruh, no shit!" and anyway, did I say it's orange?  All that taken as a given, I still think this ski would be 15% better without the carbon and with the second full sheet of metal.  Other skis with carbon tend to feel a little or a lot undamped, so my theory is this could be even smoother.  I could be wrong, but there's no avenue of comparison since they don't offer an old-school version.  I'm sure some ogre in the engineering basement would push his glasses up his nose and say "well, then you'd lose the rebound," in a nasally Jeremy Clarkson voice and I'd be like "shut up, nerd, moar metal."

A moving portrait with a stunning background.

Important deets, TL;DR:
2022 Blizzard Firebird HRC
- Skier: Eino, not of the Toivo and Eino jokes, 42 years old at time of publication, 119 kgs, 175 cms, knees on the mend some of the time, but not all.
- Length, 182 cm.
- Skied the Piston Plate with the XComp 16 binding.
- Tested at Bogus, Bogus, Bogus, and Bogus.  Maybe Tamarack, but I don't remember.
- Retail was like eleventythirteen thousands. **
- By all-mountain, I mean I literally skied as much of Bogus' claimed acreage as possible, even Coach's Twelve Foot Bunny Hill and Chair 7 Extreme.  Groomers, of course, but also much steep and chalky off-piste even though this is marketed as a race ski.  Everything that isn't the more adventurey bits that tourists think aren't skiable but I think are.
- Two full seasons, likely 40 days. I woulda got more days last winter but it was too big to let friends ski groomers.

You're welcome.

- - 
Liner notes.

The new one isn't really orange.  It's black and gray.  That's a travesty.  We all know orange is the new black and gray.

Somebody at Bogus took the pic of Hiding from the Eye of Sauron near Lake Chair 2 back in May.  If I knew who, I'd credit them.

Title from Dwight Yoakam's Sorry You Asked?, from back in the day. People who know me will be surprised when I say you should check out the video, but you should.  It's kinda funny.  Conceptual, even.


** The internet says $1410, or not.

Thanks, Eben.

Told ya.