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Renntigers R.I.P.

Aside from the obvious environmental and warp speed consumerism consequences, there is an entirely subjective reason behind my disdain for the gluttonous vortex sucking my fellow boomers down the black hole of ever larger McMansions.

Aside from the obvious environmental and warp speed consumerism consequences, there is an entirely subjective reason behind my disdain for the gluttonous vortex sucking my fellow boomers down the black hole of ever larger McMansions. I suffer from an ailment medical researchers – thanks to the Human Genome Project – have now officially identified and named. I am a packrat. I forget the Latin name for it.

Packratism is, of course, a matter of degree. For example, I’m not a packrat like my Cariboo neighbour Stan. Stan is a high priest packrat; I am a novitiate. It’s one of the reasons I like to hang with him, kind of an Obi wan Kenobi, learn from the master thing.

My own nostrum to keep packratism under control is the artifice of living small. I’m sure it’s one of the reasons I like Whistler – I simply can’t afford to live large in a town where building lots run a million bucks and "affordable" homes a quarter or more of that. My living quarters are a bit like my brain; if I want to add something new, I’ve got to get rid of something already taking up space.

And so it is with heavy heart I’m planning the arrangements for the final resting place of several dearly departed pairs of skis. It is, perhaps, unorthodox to eulogize something so inanimate as skis but I feel a need to recognize their contribution to my own humanity.

Völkl Renntiger "R" Weltcup: 1988-1996

Electric piss-yellow, 205 centimetres of absolutely parallel edges from turned-up tip to stomped-on tail, my Renntigers were the first ski I ever owned and were, therefore, largely responsible for most of the orthopedic aliments plaguing me today.

Having come to skiing at an advanced age – a destination that surely puzzled my parents who spent the better part of my youth rushing me to doctors to be stitched up or otherwise ministered to after falling off bikes, roofs, walls and through various panes of glass, so co-ordinated was I – it was quite possibly negligent for the clerk at Sign of the Skier in Toronto to even sell me the Völkls.

But having yielded to the addiction of skiing and spent almost two full seasons renting skis I was sure were hampering my advancement in the sport, I engaged in what scientists like to call an uncontrolled experiment. I dutifully spent the day at a small – aren’t they all – private hill in Onterrible testing one ski after another. I wasn’t looking for superior carving power, edge-holding capabilities on sheer ice, responsiveness through the gates or free-running glide. I was looking for a ski that would enable me to get down the slope, all the way from top to bottom, at least once, in something more or less approximating a standing position. I found it in a white, cracked-edge Völkl Targa.

I might have been happy with the Targas, might have climbed incrementally higher and faster up the endless learning curve of downhill skiing. But the negligent salesman, who’d no doubt boned up on his P.T. Barnum, said to me, "Targa? Why that’s a woman’s ski. I thought you said these were for you." In the quiet of the shop, I heard, and was pretty sure he heard, the sound of dramatic, almost painful shrinkage from somewhere inside my jeans, kind of a muffled, window blind rolling up out of control sort of sound.

"What would you recommend?" I asked in utter capitulation.

He pulled a Renntiger off the rack, put one hand on the tip and pushing on the centre, flexed the ski in a move I, to this day, still do not understand the purpose or meaning of.

"This," he let the word linger for a beat or two, "…is a ski a guy can be proud of."

I grabbed the ski, gave it a mystery flex, nodded in knowing approval and did the only thing I possibly could given the way this melodrama was unfolding. I reached for my wallet and whipped out my Visa.

"Not so fast, Speedy. What about bindings?" he said.

As bewildering as skis were to me, bindings were completely unfathomable. Repeating the fatal mistake, I mumbled, "What would you recommend?"

Reaching toward the Wall-o’-Bindings, his well-trained fingers went directly to the second most expensive set. "State of the art!" he exclaimed, giving the bindings a loving pat.

Before I could respond, he went into a very, very technical explanation of DIN settings, release points, friction-reduced swivel framitz, premature evacuation and chick-magnetism. But the real selling feature was the three-position, fine-tuning, slide-plate technology that would allow me endless opportunities to fiddle with the bindings until I was certain beyond doubt that none of the three positions made a tinker’s damn worth of difference to my skiing but provided a ready scapegoat for my many falls – "Damned bindings!" I was sold.

It was obvious to everyone but me that my skis and I were about as suited to each other as J Lo is to whoever that guy is she’s either going to marry or just dumped. As good as they might have looked slung over my shoulder on the way to the lift, the Völkls pretty much rode me down the hill instead of the other way around. I just hung on for dear life.

At various points in our many years together, I simply put the Völkls away and skied something less renowned but more suited to my signature skiing style – helpless flailing. The Völkls were a Porsche; I needed a Volkswagen.

But the relationship proved fruitful. It was on the Völkls, during my first trip to Whistler, I performed a manoeuvre orthopedic students study in medical school to this day. On the run formerly known as Choker, now a terrain park, I launched myself earthward, landed more or less head first, and compressed my spine into about the length of a can of tomato paste. Unable to ski and barely able to walk, I scalped the remaining three days of my six-day lift ticket and used the proceeds as a down payment on a condo at the base of Blackcomb. When I could walk erect again, I was determined to get back on that horse.

The rest is, as they say, history. I moved to Whistler a few years later on the ridiculous pretense of already having a place to live here, became a ski bum, almost got to the point where I could ski the Völkls the way they were designed to be skied, put an unconscionable number of days on them – enough to leave them limp, quivering and with negative camber – and retired them to the shed in the early 1990s. Dutifully, I would take them out once a season and ski on them just for old time’s sake. I’m pretty certain 1995 was the last season they saw snow.

But now, I need their space. I’ve come to accept they will never be skied again and are just taking up space newer skis I will probably never ski again could be taking up. Perhaps in a few months, I’ll write another eulogy, this time for my first pair of shape skis, or as I like to call them, the Powder Masters.

Rest in peace dear Renntigers; rest in peace.