In another world my business partners are preparing for a cat skiing trip to the Monashee Mountains in British Columbia. Though I was invited to join them, I will instead make my way to Utah to hook up with the Boondockers crew for a run on the sleds. Tough decision? Brother you have no idea!
Last summer I was out with the boys from the office when they started talking about their upcoming annual ski retreat. They were quite enamored in their description of the lodge, the snow and the experience in general but when they realized I wasn’t participating in the discussion they excused themselves and suggested and that it was unfortunate I couldn’t ski as they would love to include me in the group. With several drinks in my gullet I was feeling rather invincible and so reminded them that despite the fact that I hadn’t donned a set of boards since early 1998 – I could still cut turns around any member of their crew. Come December I was truly hoping that the bicycle rule (like riding a bike) would carry over to the ski world as there was no way I could backpedal out of this.
I created quite the spectacle when I arrived at the lodge wearing a pair of ‘Klim’ snowmobile pants, my 1997 ‘Hors La Loi’ après ski jacket and my old ‘San Marco’ boots. A kit which created the desired effect on the boys but somehow seemed to miss the mark with the onsite ski technician who passed me a pair of 168 cm skis that looked like inverted tennis rackets. “C’mon man! When I said I hadn’t skied in years I wasn’t expecting you to loan me your sister’s skis. I used to be somewhat of an expert at this back in the day!” Thankfully he took my comments in good nature and explained that the new ski technology resulted in shorter but wider boards whose concave shape and surface area were the modern equivalent to the standard 200cm minimum to which I was accustomed.
Following my fitting we attended a safety course which described the monumental snow pack, avalanche danger and of course the general perils associated with the cat skiing experience – none of which provided any relief for my fraying nerves and left me nearly paralyzed as I stared down a narrow chute with nothing but my ski tips to establish a proper frame of mind for my first run. Shouts of encouragement echoed round the mountain as I finally let loose and dropped the 10’ cornice. Tucking neatly, I touched into a pillow of powder and was amazed at both the flotation and the ease with which my tiny skis seemed to turn themselves down the hill. What a joke – it was as if I’d never stopped skiing and that my hiatus was nothing more than a midnight dream.
While I certainly acknowledge some element of reminiscent skill, I can’t help but marvel at the technological advancements which have created a shorter learning curve and a warmer welcome to every skier regardless of their experience or skill level. More importantly I find myself pondering the advancements in the snowmobile industry during the same period and realize that if anything they have made the sport more tangly than ever. Everything from track lug and chassis design to helmets, apparel and turbo; all improve function but as well, allow access to regions that were once impassable, perform stunts that were recently unimaginable and push the operating range of rider and machine well into an overtime shift. Certainly there are many improvements that can result in a far more comfortable experience but today’s snowmobiles will lure even the most novice rider away from the beaten path and into territory that demands a serious investment of sweat equity. And since I spend the better portion of my time sweating my brains out these days, I’m figuring the return I get from a well earned ride is far more rewarding than a slide down that slippery slope!
Sweat Your Brains Out!