My buddy Jason returned a week or so ago from Alaska, where for the past couple of summer climbing seasons he’s been a mountain guide in the Wrangell-St Elias Range. We’ve now spent some quality time catching up from each other’s summer activities and it’s been great to hear all about climbing in Alaska and his newest projects related to his return to grad school to pursue a master’s degree in art. But most exciting was when he said he had a strong desire to spend more time in the backcountry this winter…on teles! I think I may have actually teared up when he said it. Sniff, sniff.
With the seeds of potential adventures blossoming before they’d even been properly planted and watered, we got to the business of researching gear and getting him outfitted. No, there’s not enough snow to ski just yet, but that’s beside the point — it was cold, there was talk of backcountry tele turns, there was beer, there was more talk of gear — ample reason enough to start daydreaming.
The plan was he would look for some good used gear for this season so he could make sure he would like it before investing a ton of money. I appreciate his logical and responsible thought process, but I know from my own telemark addict point of view that that’s like saying, “Yes, I would like a sample of chocolate ice cream served on that impossibly miniature spoon and I will make a responsible and well thought out caloric minded decision later whether to buy the three gallon tub and a ladle with which to eat it”. In my world, getting a free sample is essentially a cheap way to get EXTRA ice cream before the commitment you know is coming forthwith. Same with getting six or eight “tasters” at the local pub before making a decision on the 16oz size, Just sayin….but I digress. Basically this would be Jason’s first sip of the Telemark Kool-Aid.
One afternoon shortly after this big news from Jason, we scoured Craigslist and a few other local telemark forums looking for just the right deal. Being Colorado and being full of good skiers with good gear, there are generally always a lot of options out there. However, after exhausting every ad post in a three state region, nothing eye-popping was jumping out.
Disappointed but not deterred, we quit looking for a while and decided to watch some ski porn (Flakes by Powderwhore Productions) to keep the stoke up and the spirits high. Just as the movie ended and we’d decided to go over to Big Choice Brewing http://www.bigchoicebrewing.com/ for a sample of their newly tapped Double IPA, we checked Craiglist one more time and viola!, there was a brand new listing with a lot of promise to be just what Jason was looking for. We knew it must be a good sign given that the skis were aptly named Work Stynx AND given the universal understanding that the worst day on skis is better than the best day at work. But again, I digress.
Jason shot the guy a response as we left for Big Choice. Within one sip, he got a text back from the guy who was selling the skis and we agreed to meet within the hour to take a look. Long story short, the skis worked out, the deal was done and we had them (along with climbing skins included!) in my truck in short order.
The skis were indeed used and showed a little wear, especially given the fact that last season was miserably awful and most everyone’s skis took a beating on the thin snowpack. Still, there was nothing overwhelmingly tragic about the scratches on the bases or nicks on the edges. The Black Diamond O2 bindings looked relatively new so that was a bonus. I swear, the feeling of getting that first pair of teles is equivalent to getting your first, elementary school kiss from the popular girl. I still have my first tele setup (K2 Public Enemy skis mounted with the classic red G3 Targa bindings) and love them just as much as I did when I brought them home. They too were used when I acquired them but are still in the quiver as my marginal snow condition skis (read:rock skis) — and still going strong.
Anyhow, during a chilly mountain bike ride yesterday morning, where I thought about skiing constantly as I looked out over the snowcapped high peaks, I decided when I got back home I’d take a closer look at Jason’s newly purchased skis and form a plan of action for getting them in top form and ready for the season.
As I mentioned before, they were a little scratched and well used but nothing too serious at all. Well, before I knew it, I’d poured myself a travel mug full of strong coffee and had my entire tuning system set up in the garage.
I spent the next couple of hours in heaven. I love having gear and love knowing how to properly take care of it even more. You get personally invested when you can build and/or take care of your own stuff. Just like building my mountain bike last winter. I’ve never had so much fun riding until I actually built my own bike. Its part of me and every pedal stroke is personal. I turned every bolt and tightened every nut so it’s now part of my soul. Same with my skis. I tune them and take care of them with the same care I would a Bonsai Tree, carefully minding every detail. I’ve always had a long standing agreement with my gear — I take care of them, they take care of me.
I know the original plan was to wait until Jason came over in the next couple of weeks so he could start the process of learning all the fun stuff about ski maintenance and start to build his relationship with his new skis, but I got caught up in the moment and subsequently got carried away. I wound up doing it all.
Again, I love this first rush of ski stoke in the fall. Perhaps when he comes over we can strip off all the wax and start over. Maybe it can be like the process Mr. Miyagi developed in Karate Kid…wax on, wax off, wax on, wax off. Perfection through mindful repetition and visualisation. Zen skiing.
What may have been the best thing about getting in that first ski tuning sesh of the year was when I walked out into the garage this morning and got in my truck. It still smelled of melted ski wax! It still smelled that way when I got to work! I love it! I’ll rank that sensation right up there with smelling freshly roasted green chiles in my truck for days after we buy three or four bushels from our local chile vendor and transport them home.
Ah yes, the 2012-2013 winter season is loading and I simply cannot wait. I can’t wait for the first day I turn up at a car park somewhere in the backcountry and feel that stinging bite of cold on my cheeks and hear that first crunch of snow under my skis as we set off to climb our way up some ridge.
But alas, for now there’s still some dry singletrack to be ridden and some travel to faraway places to be done.
Wax on, wax off……..free your heel, free your mind.
Climb high. Ski fast. Pedal Hard. Travel far. Live big.