Head Over Heels . . .

Posted by on Jan 12, 2012 in Daily Blog | Comments Off

When people ask how I got into telemark skiing, I have to be honest and say “chasing a girl”.

I met the woman who would become my wife during the summer season. We were guiding rivers and somehow I convinced her that I was fit for a season fling. At the end of the season I convinced her that maybe our relationship had a little more to offer. It became apparent that to make that possible I would have to step up my winter game. Not that I didn’t have some game, it’s just that winter was the season in which the woman who had been suckered into the position of my girlfriend was most committed to.

I came from the east coast and was pretty confident on a pair of skinny skis. I also felt like I had mastered the art of downhilling on ice sheets, to the point of feeling comfortable skiing in jeans and a sweatshirt (who needed all that tech gear anyway?). My wife was from Colorado and, thanks to a blown ACL and the experimental days of college, had become a committed telemark/ backcountry skier. That was during the days when the “rad” backcountry ski was 30 cm under foot and before someone offended the gods by sullying the natural flex of leather by incorporating plastic.

The first winter we hung out together I was convinced that my skinny ski skills could take me anywhere her “fat” skis, with their ridiculous metal edges, could go. I quickly got schooled in Crested Butte when I waxed up my skis and followed a skin track. With legs shaking from trying to herring bone up Snodgrass I decided, given shortness of time, I should turn around. I stepped the skis into the skin track and used the track to guide me down the hill, purposefully launching out of the track and, not so purposefully, into a head plant when I came close to “ludicrous speed”. Somehow I survived.

My second outing included not only my girlfriend, but her father. They hiked me up Pikes Peak and opted for a treed descent away from the road. The soft snow helped, and I was able to actually get a few turns in my floppy cross-country boots before crashing. At the end of the day, in response to my mother in-laws question of how I did, my father in-law to be commented that I crashed better than anyone else he had ever seen.

OK, I consented, there was something to the heavier gear and metal edges. There was no kicking and gliding, but chances of injury and death were greatly lowered. My wife to be arranged for me to borrow a pair of skis and leather boots and then dragged me up a skied out skin track to a “secret” powder stash. As it turned out, coming from the east coast, powder was my nemesis. It managed to flip me, turn me, and dump me in every direction. My jump turns down the icy sheet of a skin track are the only thing that saved my relationship.

Over the years I have gotten better. I still ski more in the vain of a bull in a China shop. My wife skis with grace, “bouncing” in powder. She has dragged me to huts and shown me the joy of the hike. Together, after a long period of denial and statements like “I can do anything in my leathers that they can do”, we adopted plastic boots, and, truth be told, my toes are thankful for it. No more taping before every ski day. I am still an expert at crashing and tumbling, but at least these days I do it in the correct gear.