Sunday, December 31, 2006

Looks Like Snow,Only Smaller

A few inches of unexpected bounty have actually packed down to something skiable.

Yesterday I floundered around on some Fischer Superlights. The snow squalls probably obscured the view from the lodge windows. I hope so, anyway. It was my first formal exercise in two weeks, except for a few moments of stretching or a quick set of tele dips.

Today was more like the real thing. I skated off on verifiable packed powder. Other skiers had been out, so I had marks to show me where the rocks lurked. I actually got my heart rate up from the hibernating amphibian cadence I'd exhibited while buried in the mud for two weeks.

Honestly, working a sedentary job and driving everywhere, I should just wear a bib to catch the drool. Lower jaw and eyelids hang at the same slack droop. Periodically I raise the back of one hand to rub away the saliva headed for my chin. Can't ride? Can't ski? While not ready to seek death, I might not get out of the way of the speeding train if I happened to be oozing, sluglike, across the tracks when it bore down. I might work up the energy to grunt quizzically before impact.

The weather forecast quivers indecisively between a possibly fruitful wintry mix and buckets of warm phlegm. We won't know for sure until it's on the ground.

Meanwhile, we have skied. People look straighter, springier, smilier. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Friday, December 29, 2006


Loving winter has really become an abusive relationship. Who would stay in a relationship with someone who runs hot and cold, shows up late, leaves early, slaps you around, is constantly failing to deliver what's promised or live up to expectations? And yet we keep hoping it will change, that the magic will come back. Maybe things will be like they used to be.

You're so's like you're not even trying anymore.

You hang around with that hussy Colorado. I hate you! I hate you! Please come back!

I can't leave. Where would I go? What would I do?

Irrational, isn't it? But it's all we know.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Supported Touring

At this moment I can overhear a couple of people discussing operations in Maine by an organization I won't name, offering supported camp-to-camp ski tours.

Logistical problems pile up like foam in a shaken soda. Snowmobile users demand their shot at any trail. The customers require a certain level of indulgence to get them to come out at all. As with so many guided outdoor adventures, self reliance is the first casualty. It just becomes another energy-consuming, pollution spreading, peace-and-quiet-destroying human carnival. The organization in question has always expressed the hope that a significant percentage of the people who insist at first on being coddled will mature into self-reliant explorers and environmental advocates.

This is why I bushwhack. Choose terrain no one can cross with a machine, with a sketchy trail or none at all, and you have half a chance at some privacy and fresh tracks. This applies whether we have snow or not, because ATVs need a clear space and a manageable slope, too.

Of course the machine heads keep pushing the envelope, forcing the fanciers of quiet self-propulsion onto dicier and dicier terrain. Eventually you end up clinging to a cliff, bombarded by the echoing sounds of engines you can't escape.

We have some time before that happens. It's a race between humanity's self-indulgent deficit spending and the absolute limit imposed by finite resources. In the grand scheme, sag-wagon ski tours of the backwoods of Maine probably do a tiny bit more good than harm.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Klister Control

Klister can be more of a blessing than a curse, but only if you control this feisty servant.

Wax in a tube, like glue that never dries, klister has developed its own legend, full of demonic behavior and the horror of ruined clothing and equipment. But it's not evil, just misunderstood.

Many people fear klister's reputation so much they add to it by dousing the kick zone of their klistered ski with a flood of solvent, waiting a few minutes and attacking the gooey mass with a plastic spatula. This will move a lot of klister out of the kick zone and give the illusion of some success, but when the solvent dries the ski will be as sticky as a plastic placemat in a pancake house. The klister hasn't gone away completely. Thinned by the solvent, it has just moved to new neighborhoods and settled down. It's all over the sidewalls and top sheet of the ski. It's under the edge of the binding plate.

To succeed with klister, you must be patient. You can't kill it with chemicals. You can't scrape it away with a plastic or metal scraper. But two items from your own bathroom can turn klister cleanup into a trivial problem.

You will need some toilet paper and an old toothbrush. You will need wax remover, but not a lot of it.

Carefully place one ski on the waxing profile. Unroll a strip of toilet paper the length of the klistered area. Pat this onto the klister. Some technicians suggest you heat the paper at this point, using a hot air gun or hair dryer, but be careful. Softened klister could escape if heat is applied too quickly. You want the klister to soak into the paper.

You can also use Swix Fiberlene or similar cleaning tissue, which is more rugged than toilet paper, but also more expensive.

Using a thin plastic scraper, start at one end of the kick zone and scrape firmly, at a shallow angle, to the other end of the waxed area in one smooth motion. This should pick up the paper and klister in one nice HAZMAT wad you can then flick into the trash can. Only a little residue will remain on the ski.

Dip your old toothbrush into the wax remover and scrub the leftover klister in the kick zone. This is also the time to scrub away the little boogers of klister that always hide along the lower part of the ski sidewalls, especially with cap skis. The protruding edge of cap skis makes a little ledge under which the klister hides all summer if you don't root it out with your last base cleaning before applying storage wax.

Repeat the toothbrush cleaning as necessary to get all the little klister insurgents out of their hideouts.

Your other choice is to do a hack job on the cleaning, or no cleaning at all, and pay me to clean it up at the beginning of ski season. But let me warn you: I'm not cheap.

Monday, December 04, 2006

December Says It's Getting Its Act Together, Honest

Snow squalls sift into the emerald fairways of the golf course, barely touched by frost even at this late date. Could the ground please freeze before the snow this year? And could it stay frozen, so we keep what falls and don't lose it to a bog at the first gleam of rising sun as winter passes its midpoint?

The temperature has dropped to 26F. That's promising.

We tell ourselves it's early yet, and it is. But early clicks over to late by the end of the month.