To cut corners and advance faster, some individuals make pacts with the devil or other dark powers and don’t think much about the consequences. Today, I want to talk about the pact I made with speed demons a long, long time ago, and still enjoy its benefits as of this day. It all started when I was just seven years old; I was a little boy of modest means, raised in an alpine village and my dad, whose primary job was to make cheese, was also able to do almost everything. Among other skills, he was an excellent woodworker and one day made for my older brother and I two pairs of skis out of some pieces of beechwood he had on hand. I remember that he dipped the tips into hot water and subsequently placed the skis on a form that was always there in the back of his workshop.
He screwed on steel edges alongside the base and installed a pair of “bear-trap” bindings to complete the whole package. The unvarnished skis looked a bit pale and we had to wax them with a black and smelly concoction that would allow for what we believed was the best available glide in those days. My first time out on the equipment was for a flat, cross-country type race with my elementary school mates on a warm Sunday of March. I can remember that my glide was just terrible as I felt glued on the track while my better equipped buddies, already on factory-made Rossignol or Dynamic skis equipped with plastic bases, appeared having no problem passing me and pushing ahead.
This “static” feeling didn’t set well with me and I’ll never forget it. From that point forward, I developed a reverence for speed on snow and focused my subsequent outings on going down and going straight. Unbeknown to me, I had sold my skiing soul to the snow speed demons. While this deal helped me most of the time, it also brought me plenty of trouble, especially when I started jumping with my skis. A few hundred yards from the family house, there was a place called the “ski jump” where contests used to be held in years past and before the first tram was built in the area. We had rebuilt what resembled a respectable jump by piling up a big mound of snow and we were flying some 30 to 40 feet with our makeshift equipment. This is in a way how I became acquainted with aeronautics and understood early that in order to fly far, a very good rate of speed was a necessary condition. It’s also at the time that I experienced some of my worst falls and fully felt the pain of the “agony of defeat.”
Over the years, I continued to indulge in speedy trials, learning through twisted ankles and sprained knees my reasonable speed limits. They were also numerous cuts occasioned by sharp edges and low-cut gloves, so it’s fair to say that I paid my dues by discovering the beneficial and nefarious sides of speed. Later, as I became a more proficient skier, I discovered the “skiing paradox”, a profound truth that means that while skiing is often a frightful endeavor that puts us on the defensive and slows us down, a good rate of speed is the antidote, the magical ingredient that makes the work of skiing so much more pleasurable. This of course is easier said than done, but remains a fundamental foundation for becoming a better skier. Do I apply it? You can count on it!
When I can do it safely, I go fast. Not just to make it easier on me, but because I honestly enjoy it and since I’m much older now and my days on skis are beginning to become numbered, I can’t afford to waste time anymore. Remembering myself stuck on the ground at age seven remains a powerful motivator and so far my deal with the “skiing dark forces” has been a pretty rewarding one. Now, if you’re ready to follow into my ski tracks and make a deal with some skiing speed demon, do it on a friendly basis, don’t be too overzealous, don’t become overconfident and always watch out for other skiers!