Marolt: Old racer, new sticks
Back when I thought rock climbing might be one of my things, I went out with a group of friends to climb a pitch we had never tried. One guy claimed to be an expert, so we let him lead.
We watched him try and try again to get past the crux move without a hint of success. Now, there happened to be a tall pine tree growing tightly next to the rock face. After a few unsuccessful tries at getting past the sticking point, our friend reached a hand back against the tree to regain his balance. On the next attempt, he stuck a foot against the trunk for a little aid. As he struggled on, I lost interest and began talking with the others equally bored with the proceedings.
Finally, somebody yelled, “Hey, he’s past the hard part!”
We looked up to see the guy hugging the trunk, struggling through the limbs, actually climbing the tree before attaching himself back onto the rock once the route became more straightforward.
In a roundabout way, this story demonstrates what I thought fat skis were all about. They are a tree branch next to a rock wall, if you will. The great technological revolution of skiing — which began with the introduction of shaped skis and progressed with space age materials that allow skis to become more user-friendly for a customer base that is aging almost as rapidly as it is accumulating disposable income — helps us get through the traditional challenges of skiing.
Fat skis seemed, to me, to be an anti-aging remedy. I even thought a purposeful subliminal message was being sent by manufacturers calling softer tips and tails with a slight reverse camber “rockers.”
This idea was reinforced by my brothers who, being fat skiers themselves — or something like that — have for the past several seasons been trying to convert me to “modernize” my gear. I have always skied on race skis, which they continually point out, are hard on the back, hips and knees. This is fact. Nonetheless, race skis are what I am comfortable with, no matter how uncomfortable they make me afterward.
I was assured that my aging body would thank me for switching to fat skis. They said I would be able to stay in the game longer (the same slogan used for erectile dysfunction remedies?). They were not appealing to my ego, which they figured a guy my age would have given up on long ago. This pep talk left me feeling weak and winded.
I think the moment of persuasion had its acute effect last spring on an afternoon when the crud was deep, wet as cement underneath and crusty like old camping socks on the surface. As my brothers, on their fat boards, glided over the surface of this mess, my skinny, stiff racers dived like dolphins over a school of mackerel. Sure, I got a few more face shots, but at the end of the day, my legs felt like I’d just lost a game of slug bug on a drive from San Francisco to San Diego in 1972. My brothers barely fogged their goggles. Limping to my bedroom that night, I capitulated to their wisdom and vowed to maybe consider trying a pair of fat skis sometime the next season.
It’s funny how quickly time passes as we age. It seems like yesterday I made that promise. Saturday it was finally time to pay the Fischer rep. He, in turn, handed me a pair of 188 cm Ranger 98TI’s.
Despite my reluctance, I admit they are about the coolest looking pair of skis ever — low profile rockered front and tails, tapered thin sidewalls, shark-head-wide carbon fiber tips, translucent top skin under the foot, the rest jet black with green lettering — OK, I’ll try them!
The first day, I ran them through the paces. There was a little leftover powder here and there and a bunch of soft crud everywhere else. I felt like I was floating above the scene, an out-of-body experience. They made lanes through aspens in the Dumps seem like boulevards. They were thoroughly Wongesque in the Bell Mountain bumps. The next day, things firmed up with the overnight sub-zero temperatures, so I had to adjust my adjustments, but it was more simple experimentation than struggle. I pretty much love my new skis in everything but Aztec ice (and, no, that’s not a new Aspen apres-ski drink).
In summary, I think fat skis might be the best thing since sliced bread. But as man does not live on bread alone, I’ll keep the racing skis for when the snow is not buttery.
Roger Marolt likes new skis. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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