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Benny, check these out. Pete Richardson and I were at the end of a dead-end road somewhere east of Barre, Vermont, pressedtight against the sort of snowbank that can only be found obscuring backcountry trailheads at the ends of dead-end roads in remote northern locations. Which is to say it was huge.
Pete was reaching into the back of his old Subaru; its engine was still ticking itself cool and the scent of freshly burned oil hung in the air. I couldn’t see Pete’s face, but I knew he had a gleam in his eye, if only because Pete always has a gleam in his eye. The guy could have had the flu, a hangover, and be on his way to jail, and he’d still have a gleam in his eye. I find this to be either the pinnacle of charm or extraordinarily annoying, depending on my mood.
“I call ’em the Fat Bastards, said Pete, cackling (yes, cackling) as he proudly lofted a pair of…of…honestly, I wasn’t quite sure what they were. They were short, perhaps 150 centimeters, and wide—I’d guess 125 millimeters at the waist—and appeared to have come out on the losing end of a squabble with a band saw.
Suddenly, I got it: The Fat Bastards were what remained of Pete’s old Rossignol and Burton snowboards. Inspired, bored, or just plain drunk, Pete had sawed his boards in half (were it not for the clatter of the saw, the cackling surely could have been heard a mile away), mounting the resultant slabs with tele bindings. Can you say, “asymmetrical sidecut? Sure you can. Can you say, “Who needs inside edges? No? Well, Pete can.
It demands a certain degree of confidence to so radically alter your gear. I suppose it shouldn’t have come as any sort of surprise that Pete would cut his snowboards in half, slap a pair of decades-old bindings on them, and proclaim it viable ski gear. This is a man who considers a 100-day season a missed opportunity—a man who’s been known to ski through the night, descending from the backcountry in just enough time to change his clothes and make it to work by 7:00 a.m. In a more typical year (say, 140 days), he might hit the lifts five or six times. The rest of the time, he hikes for it—I’ve seen him rack up legitimate 10,000-foot backcountry days, stopping for no longer than it takes to smoke a Marlboro Light down to its filter and chew through a slab of cold meat.
For 99 out of 100—hell, for 999 out of 1,000—skiers, the Fat Bastards would make little sense. But Pete is that one-in-a-thousand skier who has so defined his style through experience and skill that he’s earned the right to go into his basement with a pair of snowboards—from different manufacturers, mind you—and come out with skis.
I am not a one-in-a-thousand skier—not even close. But those Fat Bastards sure lay down a nice skin track. Maybe I’ll ask for metal cutters for Christmas.