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Maxed Out: Choose your weapon

'The first real skis I ever owned and used were a mustard-yellow pair of Völkl Renntigers...'
Choose wisely.

I believe I have what can best be described as an unnatural relationship with things I own. Not that kind of unnatural relationship; get your mind out of the gutter.

When I discover I own something that works well, does the job it was designed to do, gives me great pleasure, I tend to hold on to it, use it, wear it, drive it, whatever, well past the time I should have relegated it to the scrap heap. I’m pretty sure it stems from a paralyzing fear that whatever I get to replace it will fail to give me the same kick, the same warm, growing relationship.

Doesn’t always work that way, of course. For example, the first skis I ever owned were made of wood. They went nicely with the leather boots that fit into their cable bindings. I never fell in love with them because I never skied on them. A non-ski accident so bizarre—and woefully indicative of my utter lack of coordination—left me limping pretty much the whole winter I bought them from a friend. By the time the next winter rolled around, I couldn’t remember where I’d put them and had moved on to other diversions.

But the first real skis I ever owned and used were a mustard-yellow pair of Völkl Renntigers. I bought them when I realized the addiction of sliding down snowy hills had me firmly in its grip and wasn’t going to let go and the cost of renting skis was quickly surpassing the cost of owning.

Faced with the myriad brands and models, my ocean of ignorance of all things skiing, and my mental immobility when faced with too many choices, I might have soldiered on with rental skis for a lot longer. But an opportunity to demo about eight pairs of Völkls one day on the icy slopes of a ski club overlooking the equally icy expanse of Georgian Bay in frozen Ontario changed all that.

The Völkls, more so than other skis I’d injured myself on, seemed to blend precise, German engineering with my own incompetence in an alchemical combination that let me very nearly conquer the ice people in Ontario have to ski on and fooled me into thinking I might get better. It wasn’t so much that I could hold an edge with those skis—or even understood the concept of holding an edge at that time—but when I was sliding head first down the slope and managed to flop around and get the ski in front of me, that fine German steel actually seemed to chatter me to a stop before I reached the bottom of the hill or the nearest unpadded lift tower. What more could I ask for in a ski?

The shop I purchased them from didn’t have the model I’d demoed and really liked, but the salesman, perhaps remembering he’d conned me into buying rear-entry boots and therefore knew nothing about skiing, managed to convince me the Renntigers were an even better choice for a discerning skier such as myself. Especially the 205s, which was all he had left. Needless to say, they were several orders of magnitude more ski than I could even begin to manage and, once I moved to Whistler, led me to quickly develop a close and lasting relationship with Allison McLean, whose physiotherapeutic fingers exorcised  my numerous injuries... and continue to work their magic today.

I finally, painfully, replaced those skis, many years later than I should have. After having been abused for more days than I’d care to admit, they had all the camber of wet pasta. Their topcoat was almost unrecognizable due to the amazing number of times it took to convince me I couldn’t stay upright with my tips crossed. They were more notched than a gunfighter’s six-shooters, and replacing them was more an act of mercy killing than opportunity.

I’ve only bought new skis once since then... and they were disappointing. A single arrow in the quiver model from K2, they gave me the illusion of being good in bumps, powder and off-piste crud—not that I could ski bumps, powder and off-piste crud very well on any skis, but those are conditions where people expect you to fall more often than they do on, say, Pony Trail. For that reason alone, I endeavoured to spend most of my time there.

They were replacements for a red, white and blue pair of K2 something-or-others I’d rescued from Lost and Found. Like the Renntigers, I skied on them well beyond their useful life. By the time I got rid of them, they seemed like an appendage, a part of me. That I hated their brand-new replacements cemented my relationship with new skis.

While my head can be turned by the racks of shiny, new, shapely skis in every shop in town, my natural inclination is to buy inexpensive, second-hand skis. That’s “buy.” I no longer shop at the racks outside the Longhorn.

But here I am again. Pondering the useful life of my current favourite skis. Well, not so much pondering, but wondering how long I can continue to enjoy them when I see models a decade or more newer attached to the fence at the Re-Build-It Centre in Function.

They, too, are Völkls. I’m not sure what model, since not even the Völkl website delves that far back into the company’s history. I bought them for $60 maybe 10 years ago from a ski instructor who was leaving to head back home to some Scandinavian country.

The first time I skied on them it was a revelation. Like driving a sports car, they handled everything like they knew how to ski well even if I didn’t. Fast and responsive, they carved turns like they had power steering—think turn, make turn. Perfect skis for everything except Wet Coast cementitious powder.

My friends have had multiple new pairs of skis while I’ve used them, day in and day out. Some look at what I’m still skiing on and I can see both pity and ridicule in their eyes. But still, I tune them, wax them, care for them, and already grieve their eventual retirement.

I picked up a new-to-me pair of somewhat wider, all-mountain skis the end of last season. More an act of desperation than design, they were, of course, demos on sale for the modern day equivalent of the 60 bucks the Völkls cost.

I’ve skied them two or three times. They’re competent, but they don’t move my soul. They don’t make me feel like a better skier than I probably am. But they’ll do until something better comes along. Assuming I finally ever give up on the Völkls... which will probably be when they actually break.