Roger Marolt: Hoping skis age better than fish
“What are you using these for?” my deep-web ski salesman texted.
“Not sure,” I replied.
I asked why he was selling the skis so cheap.
“Nobody wants ‘em.” He typed.
“But, they’re brand new 2016 mens’ World Cup gs skis???!”
“Yep. They’re nice to look at.”
My acquisitions were 190cm long, 65mm wide under the foot, and not a hair more than 88.9mm at the shovel. They boasted a sidecut radius of >35 meters.
“Long, straight and stiff,” he said.
A daunting undertaking on paper, indeed, but at $125 a pair for the most technologically advanced and precisely crafted skis on the planet, I decided it was a great day to take two. The guy told me he would sneak both pairs into the same box to save a few bucks on shipping.
I am a sports gear nut. There is no better scent in the world than from a new baseball glove. I love comparing running shoes. I’m in awe of a new tennis racket. I enjoy restringing lacrosse sticks. Who doesn’t want to take a few ferocious hacks with the latest miracle driver being demoed at the local charity golf event? Mountaineering gizmos and gadgets, wow! You get the picture.
So, while I fully understood that my new skis were going to be a foot-full on the slopes, I couldn’t wait to get them, if for no other reason than to savor the moment of pulling them out of the box and looking at the indecipherable hand-written specs on the sidewall providing information useful only to race circuit ski techs.
The skis are intriguing. Like I said, their engineering and construction are amazing, enabling the intended pilots to shave hundredths of a second off their times through demanding race courses. But, this particular vintage is also interestingly designed with the least curvy sidecut since the 1980s to prevent racers from skiing as fast as they’d like to.
Modern skis with radical sidecut and constructed from NASA-grade materials had allowed racers to reach increasingly higher speeds through tighter turns, generating immense torque on their knees, hips and backs. Just as modern military fighter jets are capable of literally crushing their pilots with G-force, modern skis became tools that were endangering racers.
They had to protect the athletes and they overdid it at first, in 2016 to be precise. It is sort of what they did with aluminum baseball bats. Technology allowed bats to generate incredible rebound force on contact. Fielders were getting injured and even killed by balls hit toward them at speeds they couldn’t react to quickly enough to get a glove on them. The difference with the bat and World Cup skis is that the dumb-downed bat did not make it harder to hit a baseball whereas the changes to skis made it much harder to turn them. Think of when they detuned NASCAR race cars, but instead of limiting the allowable horsepower, suppose they made the vehicles harder to steer instead.
Tinkering, tweaking and innovating with athletic equipment is constant. We change one thing and then need to change another, like when we start hitting balls so far we make older golf courses obsolete. Even bowling is way different than it was 50 years ago. We love sports. We’re fitness fanatics. Everyone involved seeks an edge following, bending and even breaking rules to get it. You want to see cool innovation? Look toward what we spend our free time with.
So, is there any point for a skier to voluntarily try skis designed to make the sport harder? I know a good golfer who plays a couple rounds a month with vintage golf clubs. He enjoys rekindling the challenge of playing the way he learned the game years ago. There are mountain bikers who take single-speeds out on the trails now and then, and not because its easier than riding modern full-suspension carbon frame versions. Ever seen a trail runner carrying weights in a backpack? Hot yoga, anyone?
Living in Aspen we get lots of ski days. I figure I can afford to spend a few experimenting. I’ve dabbled in snowboarding and tried telemarking. Why not World Cup race skis in the moguls? Maybe it will sharpen my skills. Maybe I’ll break my neck. Either way, it has already revived the kid in me wearing a Craig Morton jersey insisting on playing catch with a regulation NFL football too big for his hands. That’s not worth taking the challenge?
Roger Marolt took his new skis on their maiden flight and, yes, they are nice to look at. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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