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Ask Josh – September 1999

Ask Dr. Flake

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Dear Josh,
Until about four years ago, I used to take a two-week ski vacation every year. Now I just go to the Caribbean. I like getting away from winter, but it bothers me that I lost the passion for something I loved so much. How do I get the passion back?
Mitch Skowronski
Chicago, Illinois

I do not want to-my goodness no, I scarce dare do it-but I must perforce question your purported “passion” for skiing. You honestly just “go to the Caribbean?” Just like that? And then admit it in SKIING Magazine?

I must say, you’ve got the balls of a skier, if not the passion. But no snowy mountains? No creak of your boot hinges on a cold morning? No moment of great-souled weightlessness as you pop off a rise and the slope falls away beneath your skis as quickly as you descend? No trips up the chairlift in a blizzard, the flakes falling thick on your arms, muffling the skiers below you, your edges feathering the creamy froth on the way down?

Indeed, the more I rattle on, the farther I find myself from you. I frankly don’t know what to tell you. The best I can do is tell you to fall in love with a skier. And perhaps sign yourself up for some insane steeps clinic that offers camaraderie and the chance to do something extraordinary and way the hell beyond what is experienced at blue-water resorts featuring nightly limbo lessons at the Aki Bar near Pool 4. Actually, that doesn’t sound so bad. Anyone know any good limbo instructors in Utah?

Measured in terms of days, what is the usual life span of a set of skis?
Seth Fisher
via the Internet

It depends largely upon the skier. My skis, for instance, do not wear out; they last until I absolutely can’t stand the thought of not buying a new pair with the newest technological notions embedded within. My current Rossis are still perfectly good, but because I have irrational gear lust-based not on thoughtful consideration of return on investment, but on irrational, status-driven conspicuous consumption-they’ll soon be replaced. You, on the other hand, not troubled by such $700-a-pop demons, should expect to get 90 to 140 days out of a pair of skis.

What happens after that? Most say that the ski becomes “dead”; it loses its camber, or bowing, which in technical terms is called sproing. This means that the epoxy bonds that hold each layer together break down, and the ski loses the flex characteristics with which it left the store. It is softer, and the tip and tail are more alike in stiffness than different. To determine if your skis are dead, put them on a flat surface, without added weight, and look to see if there is room for a pencil underneath. If they’re flat against the table, they’re probably not skiing the way they were when they were new and you were flushed with love for your slippery stalks.

Being a first-time skier, I noticed that many skiers just leave their $800 skis leaning on a rack while they eat lunch. This is extremely trusting, don’t you think?
Gary Lee

It’s not just trusting, it’s downright foolish. We shell out gobs of greenies for our boards, and then we leave them sitting there, glinting in the sun. Are we crazy? Well, yes, but I think it’s the best kind of crazy. It’s the same crazy that motivated Abbot Suger and the architects of Angkor Wat. The same crazy that drives Christo to wrap the Reichstag in white. It is the quirky insistence of humankind that it knows. A leap of faith on the razor’s edge. It makes no sense that we leave our skis unlocked, and yet…we do.

Our trust is neither supported nor supportable; it is tautological: We are skiers. We would not steal other people’s skis. Therefore, other skiers will not steal our skis. Besides, there are the odds: My car is statistically 7.7 times more likely to be stolen than my skis–and my car I lock up. So I continue to reject exhortations to lock my skis. I rail against the proliferation of ski-lodge lockers foor my lunch, spare gloves, and socks. When I ski, I am with skiers. The fact that they are skiers is all the credential I require of them to be guardians of my belongings.

Yes, some may call it country-clubbish, even elitist. But I call it democracy: We skiers are members of a community. A community founded on an understanding of sensation, a recognition of beauty, a shared thrill at the uncommonness of defying gravity. And by God I trust my fellow members with my skis.

Do you have a question for know-it-all Josh Lerman? Send it to Ask Josh, Skiing Magazine, 929 Pearl St., Ste. 200, Boulder, CO 80302; or e-mail him at: We won’t be able to print all questions. Former Skiing executive editor Josh Lerman is now articles editor at Parenting.