Feb 2, 2010

Weepy Sendoff

On my way to Whistler/Blackcomb one year, I stopped in Seattle and found a pair of ski boots on sale. Lange Zero X9s. After a half day of skiing, my roomies were making bets on how long my big toenails would last. (Six months was the winning answer – dead black toenails fall off not with a bang, but with a whimper).

For a brief moment, I thought I had made a mistake leaving my old ski boots (Koflachs) at Sea-Tac, next to a trashcan in one of those cold dark parking structures.

A gent at Blackcomb Surefoot fitted the boots and manufactured a pair of custom orthotics, footbeds that are shaped like my feet. On the next turn of the day there was so much power from the new fitted boots that I turned uphill. My toes were saved if not some toenails. I love those boots.

I skied those boots for seven seasons at Alta, often times starting in November and ending in April, skiing five and six days a week. How many times did I hop around in the Alta parking lot, cursing the tight fit while my hands went numb, the temperature around ten degrees fahrenheit, the wind blowing twenty miles per hour, and finally, oh glory, when the boots were on and I could put my gloves on.

In Europe, those boots stood by me on Chamonix’s Vallee Blanche (pas La wussique Route Classique - that's my Langes and me in the Vallee Blanche upper left picture), where my guide called me un skier exceptionnel and then took his vengence on me in the trees of the Baraque forest. (The lesson learned: Let your French ski guide have as many cigarettes as he wants on a descent).

Last year I was lured way, way, way off-piste from Avoriaz. It is part of the massive network of skiing in Portes du Soleil, which straddles France and Switzerland. The lure was thousands of feet of untracked powder. About five hundred feet into my descent, this was roughly the monologue/eulogy that was running through my head: “Not a good idea without a transceiver. You should have brought a beacon. But why, David? You are skiing alone. If it slides now, you’ll be lucky if they find you in the spring. Oh, yeah. Should I call someone and just let them know roughly where I am? I’m sure as hell not calling my wife. She would not understand. Nah, just ski fast and diagonal.” By the time I reached the valley floor and found a bus stop, the natives were staring at me - drenched and elated - like I had escaped a madhouse. That was the last serious action the boots had.

These were the boots that evolved my skiing from hop turns in Taos to smooth lines off Alta’s East Greeley. The boot warmers came somewhere in the middle of the Alta paradise after I realized my feet were not supposed to be tingly frostbitten every time I drove down the canyon. The boots also saw time in Colorado (backcountry off Loveland Pass, Berthoud Pass, A-Basin, Telluride, etc.) and I’m sure a few other places I cannot remember.They’ve also been replaced. I hate to see those boots go, but I wore them way past their expiration date because they had done me so well. The other day Jules at The Boot Room in Chamonix (pictured above right, getting ready to blow out the toe on my new left boot) set me up with a new pair of Langes, as similar as he could get them to the Zero X9s. I thought those X9s needed a weepy sendoff.