I was weaving between fly-fishing displays a few weeks back when Don's voice came rolling out from behind the tuning-shop counter. "Surprise," he said, producing my battered pair of Surface Save Lifes. "Had to do a base weld." I'd figured when I dropped my skis off for their pre-season tune that they might need some extra attention. That's the risk you run training with toboggans on rocky slopes. Still, core shots are nasty business, and I'd like to think I could take better care of the equipment that takes such good care of me.
These Save Lifes have been my go-to skis since I slapped some alpine-touring bindings on them eight years ago. They're light on a skin track, springy in powder and can cut a turn around a dime on corduroy. Sure, they chatter a bit when the conditions are icy, but so do my teeth. We have a bond as old as skiing itself. I think, they react.
It's strange the attachments humans forge to inanimate objects. We name our cars, our instruments and our boats. We line our shelves and pockets with good luck talismans and hold on to beloved childhood toys well into our twilight years. Why would skis and snowboards be any different? Every scratch and gouge and divot they hold is part of the patchwork of our past adventures, the planks themselves marking each step in the evolution from novice to pro.
For me, it all started with a pair of Elans. They were janky old things, white with red lettering, that had already lived a full life as rentals when my dad bought them from a shop in Lead, South Dakota. I was 6, fresh off my first weekend on skis at Terry Peak and eager to get back on the snow. Those Elans were my ticket.
We rode together for several seasons before Rossignol entered the picture. With my ski skills improving, Dad decided it was high time I had brand new planks. He settled on a pair of Viper Jrs, snagging himself some Rossignol Viper Xs in the process. Our third musketeer, a neighborhood friend of mine named David, got a pair of neon-orange Viper Zs that same season, and we dubbed ourselves the "Viper Squad."
I woke up one Christmas in my mid teens to find a set of Rossignol Bandits waiting under the tree. It was love at first sight, and those Bandits saw me gently down my first double black diamond. But a factory defect caused them to delaminate during our first season together. They were replaced by a pair of Bandit XXs, which carved like a dream at Tremblant, Lake Louise and Sun Valley and still live in a storage space beneath my bed, waiting for the day that nostalgia finally drives me to ride them again.
And I have no doubt that day will come. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion. It's partly why a friend of mine continues to ride a pair of 15-year-old Rossignol Scratches, and why David rode his Viper Zs for over a decade. It's why my dad gets so excited when he sees my old Elans shredding the slopes back home. They've passed through the hands of at least three families since my last outing with them, and they probably have the battle scars to prove it. But like my Save Lifes with their fresh base weld, those Elans still have a few good turns left. ♦