Maxed Out 

A piece of Canada's skiing heritage

Misadventure and cross-country skiing seem to be closely linked concepts in my experience. It might be the desert-dweller in me or, more likely, just my innate lack of co-ordination. Regardless, I do not have a close and abiding relationship with skinny skis. In my experience, they should be called sweaty skis although, admittedly, my own skis are only about the width of linguini noodles and sweat very little.

My cross-country skis are very old though and for all I know, aren’t really even cross-country skis at all. In another lifetime, I bought them in Montreal at Canadian Tire, or Le Tire Canadienne, as it’s known in Montreal. I couldn’t buy skis at an actual ski shop in Montreal in the late ’70s because I couldn’t find one where anyone would speak to me in English. Gibberish being my only other language, I was reduced to buying skis – and almost everything else – at Canadian Tire because at least in the West End of Montreal, Canadian Tire hadn’t yet knuckled under to the draconian language laws of the Parti Quebecois, known in the West End as the Parti L’Idiot.

Buying cross-country skis was not my idea. As was true of so many misadventures during those years, it was the idea of my wife, who, having come up with enough bone-headed ideas like cross-country skiing to make it abundantly clear we each married the wrong person, is now my ex-wife.

She believed it would be "good" for us to engage in a brisk winter sport. I believed it would be "better" for us to move to Hawaii and forget there were sports associated with winter or for that matter a season called winter at all. Since she didn’t consider winter camping or ice climbing brisk winter sports – I believe the technical term she referred to them by was "stupid" – I bought skinny skis.

When I finally made it out to Canadian Tire to get cross-country skis, an adenoidal kid who looked like he’d spent way too much time in front of an industrial french-frier pointed to the back of the store and said, "Ask for Jackrabbit."

Jackrabbit turned out to be a chain-smoking, three hundred pound mechanic who was selling skis because he’d thrown his back out and couldn’t do brakes and shocks – his chosen profession – until he’d rehabilitated. It was immediately clear Jackrabbit knew a lot more about brakes and shocks than skis but what little he knew was more than what I was sure I knew and that, coupled with somehow knowing my wife insisted I buy skis, gave him the clear upper hand.

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