Roger Marolt: “Joy of New Ski Boots,” the shortest tale ever told
I write this on the morning of the day I have been dreading.
If things turn out as badly as I imagined most of last night between fits and starts of restless sleep, I want you to know this has been fun. I truly enjoyed writing for you every week for the past 16 years in this section of the paper, which for many has become known as “The Place the Sun Don’t Shine.”
There is currently no bounty on my head, as far as I know. The heat works at my house. I just got new tires for my car. I finally washed my puffy down jacket. My health is fine, aside from some nagging shoulder tendonitis inflamed by caning some antique theatre seats in my living room. You don’t know what that is? Look it up. I have bigger things on my mind. So, you wonder, what am I so worried about?
I got a new pair of ski boots, that’s what.
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I have been skiing for a long time. There is not much on the slopes that gets me nervous anymore, except the Fanny Hill six-pack lift at 10 a.m. Saturday morning over Presidents’ Day weekend. While I have not seen or done it all in this, my favorite recreational activity completely void of any identifiable objective, I have seen and done enough so that I am rarely motivated to hit the slopes before noon most days. And still, this new boot thing I have done just four times in my adult life.
New ski boots hurt. If yours didn’t cause cramping deep within your soles and soul so that you felt throbbing all the way up to your temples the first few days you had them, I hate to be the one to tell you, but you bought the wrong size, they are way too soft in flex, or both. That said, if your feet are warm and you still feel like dancing at apres ski, who cares?
I care because I think I’m an expert skier. I firmly believe this is important for reasons I cannot explain even to myself. As an expert in my own mind, I have accepted the axioms of new ski boots: one, they must be ridiculously stiff; and two, toenails will eventually grow back.
There are some very good boot fitters in this town. A guy named “Gus” at a place called “Gorsuch” comes immediately to mind. If you stumble and limp upon one of these people, keep in close contact and treat them well. Their services have a good chance of saving you from meeting your annual deductible for foot surgery, or at least keep you from giving up the sport of skiing.
I can’t afford to be this nice to anyone, so I am left to navigate boot fitting on my own. I know lots of people who are happy to offer free advice when it comes to ski boots, but no one tells me the same thing, so getting a proper fit remains as experimental as it does founded in pure luck.
My boot guy might be shady. I can’t prove it. He also gets me skis and other equipment. He doesn’t ask many questions. It sometimes feels like I end up with what he has, rather than what will suit me best. I would be convinced of this except for it always seems to work out right. Oh, and the price is good.
This time he set me up with really stiff racing boots. They are stiffer than my old ones, which are so stiff that I have missed ski days because I left them in the garage the night before and couldn’t get my feet into them when I got to the slopes.
I reminded him that I am 58, have a bad back and weigh less than 170 pounds. He said, “The stiffer the better.” To my skepticism, he asked sardonically if I was an old Buick going back and forth to the grocery store or a Jeep tackling in the untamed terrain. What would anyone say to that?
This seemed to make sense, so I got really nervous about my upcoming test runs. I was praying for good luck. These cramps, too, will pass, I convinced myself. I winced, wiped my eyes and pushed off.
The results of my test? If you heard blood-curdling howls on the slopes Saturday, it was not phase one of the reintroduction of wolves to Colorado. It was only me, buckling my new boots. Not long afterward I think I figured out what those super stiff boots are all about. I am an old Buick after all. Thanks goodness for eBay.
Roger Marolt has since joyfully returned to his moldy old boots that have treated him well for a decade, at least. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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