Side by side, my new Faction powder skis are nearly as wide as my snowboard.
However, they’re nowhere near as fun. At least not yet, today, during their maiden voyage and my first foray on two boards since 1996.
I did it. I made good on my promise to get back on skis.
I wasn’t entirely confident that it would happen this season. After I won the high-tech prize at an apres-party raffle, I spent a week scouting the perfect bindings. Hours of research and many recommendations later, I ordered Marker Griffons, on sale, for delivery via next-day air. When the package failed to show for days, I spoke to a company rep, who rushed me another pair.
Then I got a nasty cold and spent a week battling it in bed. Then the weather turned insanely warm—mid-50s, sunshine, birds, kids in shorts walking down the street. Tourists have mostly evaporated from town, and some restaurants are already closed for off-season. This coming weekend is basically the Big Farewell to Winter, when Aspen and Snowmass mountains throw in the towel until next season.
Yesterday, however, I kept hearing rumors of residual effects from a wicked squall in Denver hitting Aspen. A snowstorm? In the second week of April? I delivered my new gear to the shop for mounting, just in case. Outside, It was raining.
This morning, much to my delight, I peered from my window to the driveway to see about 5 inches of snow blanketing the White Wolf. But this was not the Colorado champagne powder to which I’ve become accustomed. This was dense, damp clumpy sludge. Straight East Coast Sno-cone filler. Great. I was going to re-train myself to ski in some seriously sketchy conditions.
And, oh, what a humbling experience it was. I felt exactly as I thought I might: like Bambi trying to prance over a frozen pond. My feet, floating in the awkward abysses of rental ski boots, struggled in vain to control the massive boards—technology I’ve never experienced, not even as a 13-year-old city race champ. My nerves turned skittish. I started sweating. But by my sixth shaky run, I felt myself gliding back into a faintly familiar groove. I hit some moguls. Legs akimbo at times, I never fell.
When a fellow skier on a mostly untracked black diamond suggested I go ahead, I demurred. I gotta take a break, I don’t normally ski, I said, breathless.
"Wow, you’re taking some pretty aggressive runs then!”
Head-first, I thought. I wanted to embark on this adventure solo partly to ensure that I would move at my own pace, but mostly to avoid yearning looks from advanced skier pals waiting far below me. But here amid a wet spring flurry I found what I was missing: a boost of confidence. A stranger would help nudge me down the hill.
Unfortunately, the satisfaction was short-lived. The crippling pain of ill-fitting rental boots on tender shins forced me to call it quits after the next run. I was howling. Just before the home stretch, I spied a hometown bud, schussing a final fast lap before his afternoon work shift. I called after him.
"Are those the Factions?! Hell yeah!" he said, gliding over to me. "Ha, I just saw a guy coming from the woods DOUBLE-EJECT onto the trail…had to make a call on the emergency phone over there! Be careful in this thick shit—it can be dangerous.”
That was all I needed to hear. It’s one thing to confront crazy conditions, but a whole ‘nother story when you’re trusting subpar equipment with your physical safety (coughMountLemmoncough). I escaped the day without face-planting or throwing a yard-sale, and I’ll definitely be back soon, to break my 43.5 mph record…
Once I buy some boots that fit.