In my haste to head north Saturday and hit the Vasaloppet practice loops and the cabin, I managed to forget my classical ski boots. This was critical because the sky was clearing and the temperature was plummeting. Skate skiing on very cold snow is very similar to attempting to slide across sandpaper in a pair of tennis shoes. The crystal structure of cold snow makes skating a a ton of work, while the kick and guide style of classic skiing seems to work as good or even better in the cold weather. TheLegend bailed me out however, and reminded me that there were a pair of backcountry boots up at the cabin that would fit me. The one possible glitch was that the only pair of skis that they would fit on were the '70's vintage wood skis that were leaning in the corner of the cabin and hadn't seen wax for 3 years. A quick 5k skate when we arrived convinced me that it was time to haul out the wooden skis.
For years I was a wooden ski guy, mainly because they were cheap. In the mid 60's photo to the right I have my $19.95 Holiday downhill skis with cable bindings, my double lace Treviso Italian boots, $14.95 at K-Mart, and a Towncraft jacket, one of JC Penney's finest. The high end guys back then skied on Head or Hart metal skies and had the prestigious buckle ski boots. I thought about my Atomic World Cup skate skis, Atomic boots, carbon fiber poles, and 'technical' ski clothing and kind of chastised myself for falling into 'gear' mentality. For a hacker like me spending money on that kind of gear is a complete waste, yet somehow I wind up convincing myself that I need it.......kinda like extra kayaks. The one mitigating factor is that I won't be buying next years hot ski or clothing, I'll use what I have until it disintegrates or my skiing career ends.
The wooden skis brought back good memories. Wooden skis always seem to work with about one wax colder than the fiberglass ones. The kick is also much more forgiving. Its like gently letting out the clutch in a car as opposed to 'dumping' it. The one problem is that the skis were too short for me and I never did get the kick wax pocket off the snow. As a result I was very slow and the boys had to wait for me several times along the trail. It did prompt me to think about hauling out my old wooden skis and using them for classical. In the photo left TheMayor used the very same skis I used and did the Vasaloppet 42k classic in the brutally cold -16F year, complete with bamboo poles. TheLegend skied the race, and likely many others, on those same ski god knows how many times.
Wooden skis are one of the many instances where older stuff offers an interesting contrast and different feel than current technology. Many of us still use those funny paddles that look like a 2x4 flattened on both ends that the Inuit came up with a few centuries ago. I still hunt deer with a single shot rifle that has an action patented sometime around the Civil War. In many instances older is not just different but far superior. I think that that merino wool outperforms any synthetic fabric by miles and so does Bushmills Irish whiskey, founded in 1608, head and shoulders above the more modern competition. The really great thing is that people are discovering and preserving retro gear, a practice that will allow us to compare and enjoy that gear well into the future. Pull out the old stuff and give it a try. You may be very pleasantly surprised.