From Jack Frost Mtn. to Ajax with these old poles |

From Jack Frost Mtn. to Ajax with these old poles

John Colson

As is often the case with people who have moved around a lot, I have an illogical attachment to things that serve me well, that go far beyond what might be considered their useful lives as tools.

For example, I drive a 1960 F-100 pickup that, if judged by its appearance, should be a permanent lawn fixture in a farmyard somewhere.My penchant for aged equipment extends to many parts of my life, including my ski equipment. My favorite downhill ski poles are a pair of aluminum French-made Ramy poles that I bought for my very first ski trip in 1972.It was an East Coast ski experience, at the Jack Frost Mountain in southeastern Pennsylvania. I was quite new to the sport that year, having only skied sporadically as a youngster, primarily one winter in the early 1960s in Wisconsin.That initial effort was performed (and I use the term loosely) on wooden skis with leather thong bindings wrapped around heavy low-top leather boots, and with bamboo poles. It was an outfit my parents bought for me one Christmas, and which I used mainly to ski down a gently sloped but heavily wooded hill from my house to my best friend’s house. I remember only trying it a few times, often on hard-packed snow in tracks that quickly turned to ice; I recall coining the phrase “hugging a tree” long before the environmental movement could lay claim to it.

It was not until 1972 that I worked up the courage to try the sport again, mainly in an effort to impress a girlfriend who liked to ski. I spent every cent I had to outfit myself with Kneissel Blue Stars, Ramy poles and hulking Nordica boots, and to buy us a weekend of fun at Jack Frost.It was springtime, the weather was warm and the snow very fast, and it wasn’t long before Michelle, who had a few seasons of skiing behind her, abandoned me to my own devices.That first day ended disastrously late in the morning when, at a double chair on the sunny side of the mountain, I got paired up with a fat guy who apparently did not quite get the concept of sharing a chair. He plopped into the middle of the bench, leaving me barely hanging on by one skinny cheek, and refused to move despite my muttered pleas.It wasn’t long before I dropped the 8 feet or so into the mud below, surprising the fool so much that he dropped his pole, which arrowed straight at my wrist, point first. It likely would have gone in deep had it not struck my wrist bone and bounced off. Nevertheless, my hand was paralyzed for hours.

But, returning to my old poles, they have served me faithfully ever since. I yield to modernization every half-decade or so and buy some new skis (I’m a telemarker, and the styles change more slowly for us). And I have a motley assembly of outfits that vary with the weather, the terrain and the group I’m skiing with.But the Ramy poles are a mainstay, if for no other reason than their durability. I have learned to ski with those poles, and we all know what that means. Friends constantly tell me how surprised they are that the old things aren’t bent like pretzels.But the aluminum is strong, the leather straps too, and even the ancient rubber baskets and the red stripes, black enamel and gold insignia are original.My truest hope is that my skiing ability will be just as durable as my equipment, meaning I’ll be skiing long after common sense and prudence say I should give it up.

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