Marolt: Here’s to never having to compare a bad day of skiing to a good day of work
It happened Saturday afternoon. The kids were off doing their things, the chores had been considered, and we were in that sweet spot of the weekend where last week’s work was neatly put into perspective and next week’s hadn’t yet become impatient.
“We’ve got a couple hours,” my wife said without needing to and thus, by doing so, made it obvious she had something in mind.
I knew what it was and hurried upstairs and whipped off my jeans. I got into my ski pants and headed to the garage to load our skis into the car. We were heading to the bowl!
I nearly lost a toe shooting from the hip. I had left all my gear at the office. What to do, what to do, what to do? It would take an extra 20 minutes to drive into Aspen and get my stuff. It would have been time well-spent.
But where the fire of determination is hot, ingenuity is forged. I looked around the garage and spied a pair of brand-new ski boots my brother had brought over for me to try back in December. New racing boots right out of the box? That’s not a good idea. You have to at least put orthotics in them, and even then you’re not going to be happy without molding the liner, canting the ankle and adjusting the flex and forward lean.
I put them on anyway, just to see. What do you know? They felt fine — in the 60-degree temperature my garage must have been that sunny spring afternoon. What the heck? It’s just going to be one run. There’s not that much walking up the bowl left if we take the snowcat. Sure, it’ll be a little uncomfortable, but how bad could it be? Man up! If you haven’t recognized them, these are all variations of very famous last thoughts of people who ended up in great peril.
Then there was the problem about skis: too many choices of pairs that are on the “before” side of the ski-evolution diagram. About that time, Susan came out — “We should hurry.” OK, so I grabbed a pair that wasn’t new because who takes new skis out in March when the snow is melting faster than witches in a hot tub?
During the drive to Highlands, my boots sat in the sun in the back and got so gushy that they felt great when I buckled them tight in the parking lot. I pulled out our skis. I pulled out … my wife’s poles. I forgot poles for myself!
I am a man who lives happily in well-established ruts. At this point, I was mentally heading out through the desert of options, finding my way by following jackrabbit tracks.
The nice people at Four Mountain Sports easily recognized my look of involuntary cerebral abandonment and gave me a pair of poles to use for the afternoon. I don’t even remember asking for them.
My kind and understanding wife led me to the lift. Once on it, my legs dangled with what seemed like very skinny skis with pointier-than-normal tips. Oh well, there we were, going skiing, after all!
Susan asked, “You have the bowl straps, right?”
At least our timing was perfect so that we caught a ride on the snowcat without any waiting for it, so I didn’t have to carry both pairs of skis all the way up the bowl. Many of my brain cells may be dearly departed, but chivalry is not. If I forget the bowl straps, the lady’s skis fly up with me for free. OK, “fly” is a bit of an exaggeration.
Especially if those new boots that felt so comfy when the plastic was hot start to cool rapidly when you set them on snow and start walking and they stiffen up as quickly as they are shrinking. Within five minutes of hiking, my feet felt as if they had broken through Earth’s mantle and were soaking in magma.
The good news is that I was in so much pain heading down the bowl that I hardly noticed that the edges on my skis were about as sharp as marbles. On the way home, my feet coming back from their near-death experience, I had an answer for the age-old saw. That day of skiing might have been marginally better than a great day at the office, but sitting at my desk would have been far more sustainable.
Roger Marolt hopes it’s a long time before he has to compare another day of skiing with work. Contact him at email@example.com.
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A six mile cross-country ski race brought 168 skiers to the trails between Snowmass and Buttermilk in 1971.