Some opening days of ski season seem to start weeks, or months before the mountain opens.
Anticipating the joy of Winter, much time leading up to the day is spent locating and unpacking ski clothes put away for the Summer, and making sure that all equipment is meticulously prepared, tuned, and ready to go.
All that’s left to do on the actual day is to shower, dress, and call in sick.
This year was, umm, different.
This year, opening day began before the end of last season when it became evident that no matter how many socks were worn, no matter how tightly they were buckled, the ski boots that had served so faithfully for so many seasons were no longer supportive, no longer safe; they had to be retired. They had earned it.
Getting new skis can be very fun. Taking the first few runs on them on gentle terrain, learning where they like to be stood on, finding out how much weight can be applied toward the tips before the tails slide out, how much strength and balance it takes to hold on when weight applied to the tails accelerate the skis beyond one’s comfort zone. Scary. Fun. Blissful.
Skis come and go, each with their individual character and charm; some better in deep snow, some better on ice, some easy to turn, some that don’t respond to input until accelerated to speed. Some folks maintain a quiver of skis, keeping several pairs from which to choose based on mood or particular conditions or situations.
Boots, however, are another matter all together. Boots are a commitment. Boots can only be modified so much to fit – some plastic cut here, some padding applied there, buckles adjusted to tighten over voids, loosened over hot spots.
Much research poring over the latest ski equipment “Buyers Guides” resulted in much confusion. Choose your width (97, 100, 102) choose your flex (100, 110, 120, 130, 140) choose boots that have switches to make walking easier, choose boots that have soles for better hiking, choose boots that are only for racing, choose boots cause you like the color…
By contrast, in the late 60’s, Lange, the premier ski boot brand at the time, offered three models, all essentially the same black ski boot with different stiffnesses: Standard with red liner for beginners, Pro with blue liners for advanced skiers, and Competition with yellow liners for racers.
Choosing a particular boot brand and model is a big commitment. As they virtually immobilize one’s ankles, ski boots determine the stance, and therefore the balance point one assumes while on their skis. Feet and skiing style must then adapt to the charactaristics of a ski boot. This process can take several seasons. Literally.
Weeks ago, I had decided on the simplest option of all: a pair of 100width 110flex Lange racing boots. If I’d a had my ‘druthers, I would have preferred plain black, but these beauties were the most gorgous shade of blue.
Even before out of the box, they looked purposeful, competent – worthy of an extended partnership. A partnership that I knew would require me to adjust how I did the thing that I loved most doing.
Having worn them several hours over several evenings, I found that only after I tightened them down did they make my feet go numb. Having partnered with several boots over the years, I knew that how a boot felt in the livingroom may or may not have anything to do with how they felt on skis.
Overwhelmed with office work for the last few weeks, the morning of opening day this year was not nearly as methodical as some, and there would be the added consideration of new ski boots.
Not scheduled to be on duty until afternoon, the morning was spent with office work and chores, that of course took longer than anticipated.
Ski Patrol uniform had been washed last week, but not much else was accumulated. As the time to leave for the mountain drew near, underwear was donned, gloves and helmet located in considerable haste, skis and poles, sporting a fine coating of Summer dust, pulled out of the barn, were tossed in the back of the car.
Reaching the end of the driveway, a thought came to mind – “Goggles!”. A fast switch to reverse, a dash back in and out of the house, then onward to the mountain.
Dressed in uniform, complete with new boots, I skated off to the lift, greeted the liftie, and thanked him for holding the chair for me. Strange, I thought, riding the lift today felt like I had ridden it yesterday – not eight months ago!
The chair ride seemed to take forever, but then finally, the moment of truth. Top of the mountain reached, I slid off the lift, and buckled the boots at a reasonably loose setting. Heading down the most gentle trail making very deliberate, slow speed turns, I found these boots to be more precise than the ones recently retired. I liked them. They seemed to like me.
Next run down a slightly steeper pitch caused my feet and lower leg to feel like they were wrapped in security. Next run down an even steeper pitch let me feel that even though we didn’t know each other that well, I could depend on them. These babies were rock solid. They were Langes – worn by guys like Killy. They would not let me down.
And then it happened. After a few more runs I realized that I was not in pain. Langes were known to provide unparalleled performance, at the cost of inflicting Medeival levels of pain on those who wore them.
Opening day ended, and I finally unbuckled the boots – not seeking pain relief, but because it was time to go home. Racing boots that performed like racing boots and fit like old friends straight out of the box. Didn’t think it was possible. How lucky can you get? Go Figure.
Win and the folks at Idlewild Ski Shop, or Scott and the crew at Guenthers Ski Shop can hook you up with Langes, or pretty much any other boots or shiny new ski goods you might want or need!
Whether or not you ski or ride – best wishes for your best season ever!
This Wanderlist hand-crafted at 1620 feet.