Our theme for the month of March is “monsters.”
The doorbell clinks as I push open the heavy entrance door of my favorite little ski shop. I walk across the worn wooden floor, dented by ski boots and rest an elbow on the counter next to the tuning station. “I’ve got a pair that need some love,” I say before handing my Head iRallies over the counter. He asks about the bases while he brushes his calloused thumb over the gleaming steel edges. He glances at the National Ski Patrol crest on my jacket and asks how sharp I want them—“throw-me-into-the-woods sharp,” I reply with a smile.
A few days later, I come to pick them up and as he hands them to me, he says, “I left ‘em real sharp for you.” As I thank him and turn to walk out, he reminds me not to cut myself on the edges. He doesn’t see me smirk, unconcerned, as I walk out the door. With a little swagger in my step, I cross the snowbank into the street and cage the black and red beasts in the trunk of my car before driving towards the hill.
It’s cold and a fresh snow lays chopped up on every hill. It’s too late in the day for fresh corduroy—these are the leftovers, already eaten up by the early birds. I pick an easy blue to test out the new tune job. Sure enough, the steel edges grip the snow and I can almost feel the metal shavings catching on the icy surface. I wrestle to stay overtop of my skis—engaging my core to steady my upper body as I drive through my glutes and hamstrings. I feel beautiful and wicked—flying fast and fearless.
The edges grip with a ferocity that wouldn’t let me wash my tails out even if I wanted to. I make seamless S-curves all the way down Mardi Gras, soaring past beginners and showing off for the lift-riders overhead. With edges like these, it’s no time for modesty, and with a little too much confidence I pressure the front of my boot and lean into the speed. And that’s the spot that I tell people about when I talk about skiing: right on the edge of control, heart pounding and mind clear—that’s the sweet spot that keeps me coming back.
On the second run I misjudge a snowbank—deceived by the flat light of nightfall. I catch some unexpected air and land awkwardly with too much weight on my left foot. I feel my right inside edge catch—unable to resist biting into the snow, and at the same moment, feel the muscle fibers in my left quad start to shred apart, struggling to bear the full force of the turn. And then, just as I think I am about to smash into the ice and snow, I regain my inner left edge and pull out of the turn, shaking off the near miss with a smile.
A few nights later I helped to treat a guest whose ski came off in a fall and caught her across the bridge of the nose, leaving a nasty gash. The bloody snow and her swollen eye were vivid reminders of the risks involved in winter sports, especially those involving sharp steel edges attached to your feet. Nonetheless, we go out. What’s life without risk?
Ultimately, I love my skis, and I trust them to hold their edge on the steepest terrain, on the sheerest ice, and when I’m transporting an injured guest through a mogul field. In those critical moments, I have to know that I can trust my edges, and that as long as I keep up, those monsters will get me safely home.