Sunday, January 16, 2011

Something old, something new, something borrowed.....

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.


Rob said...

I have a pair of Madshus wooden skis from the late 60's. I found them about 20 yrs ago leaning against a dumpster in South Mpls. with another pair (that I sold). I have skied on these for over years and enjoy them; however, they are so wide at the shovel that they hardly fits a groomed track. Watching the 2010 Olympics and the unending "Ski Hut Sale" commercials got me excited and I happen by when I was next in Duluth. I bought new Salomon 8 classics, boots and some really light carbon poles. What a different experience! I felt like I was going almost as fast as I would skate skiing! I have enjoyed the new gear while training for the Pepsi Challenge and the Birkenbiner (yeah, watching the Olympics gave me some crazy ideas). I still regularly use my Madshus skiing on our un-groomed Virginia municipal golf course (1.5 blocks away from my house) which is my English Pointer’s exercise playground in the winter. I have finally put modern bindings on them after tiring of buying three pin boots that only lasted two seasons. When I get on a packed trail these old skis move well and are a joy to use (but the dog can still run circles around me).
Rob R.
Virginia, MN

DaveO said...

We have a large Birkie contingent heading up this year and an even larger Vasaloppet race contingent. Two relay teams!

I do love the wood however and it seems lot of others do as well. I've gotten email comments from the non Blogger people out there....

TheMayor from Bemidji: I enjoyed your post on the wooden skis the picture of you is awesome!!
The wooden skis have been used up here a lot this year with the cold and new snow.
I had a pair of profile sns step ins ( still in box and not used yet) on a pairof Janoy 215's with lingastone edges. Fun for backcountry and a good work out too. There is a wood n wool ski event on march 4th called the snowjourn. the oldest race in bemidji and a lot of fun.

And the VOR: I had Janoy skiis after I broke my Normark woodies!