At a ripe 40-something years old, I shouldn’t be this excited. I just got new ski boots, and when they arrived it took me all of one minute to rip them out of the box, and wrangle them onto my feet. New boots still light my fire.
But after several minutes of gallivanting around the living room, making imaginary ski turns in my new boots, I sat back and pondered. I’ve been skiing for about 30 years, shouldn’t this child-like excitement have worn off by now? That’s when it also dawned on me to pull the shades in case the neighbors were watching.
Sometimes to get to the toothsome part of an issue, you need to dig up the root. So I sat there, on the couch, in my boots, and reminisced about every pair of ski boots that I’ve ever owned. With each pair, I attached my place in life at the time in terms of logistics, educational or career status, and ski ability.
Now, I’m not unlike many other young men who find themselves swallowed up in the ski world, so some of the logistics are hazy and the career status a little stalled; but the ski ability and agenda has progressively moved forward.
Time tends to slip away when reminiscing about your ski life, yet what I discovered while sitting there boot-clad in my living room on a warm autumn evening, is that the root of my excitement could be reduced to three adjectives: Warm, moist, and sweaty. How many times as a kid did I force my feet into these conditions?
Still kind of warm, moist, and sweaty is how we often received roller skates on school field trips, and how the ice skates were delivered to us at the local rink, particularly during the busy Christmas break. It’s how the bowling shoes came for gym class. Yes, where I grew up in Wisconsin, bowling was part of our physical education, and the classroom was the public alley where grownups drank and smoked cigarettes at 10:30 a.m. on a weekday.
Several classes went bowling during this period, and if you weren’t in the first wave, you were sure to get shoes that were still warm and kind of moist and sweaty. While still warm was a pretty rare occurrence with rental ski boots, they were most often still kind of moist, and if only in our imagination, sweaty.
At that time in Central Wisconsin, rental equipment was doled out to small town kids for decades, not years. We wore the same stuff people 20 years our elder had worn. How could you not stop and wonder how many feet had been there before? Whose feet were they? Who made it all sweaty? But there was nothing to protest. You either wanted to roller skate, ice skate, bowl, or ski, or you didn’t: Either put them on, or sit and watch. It was that simple.
With the exception of the kid whose dad owned the bowling alley, none of my friends had their own specialized footwear. I was a growing boy nurtured on meat and milk so there was no way mom was going to buy me a pair of bowling shoes, ice skates, rollers skates, or ski boots. It was never even discussed as an option.
The more often you partake, the more acute your senses become. With each visit to the rink, or bowling alley, or ski area, you begin to hone in on the various levels of remaining warmth and moisture. Sometimes they were really still quite warm and sweaty. Someone before me must have really been bowling, or skating, or skiing hard for hours.
Sometimes they were only kind of warm, and a little less sweaty. Occasionally you enjoyed a lucky day, when they were not warm, or moist, or sweaty at all; and in this you rejoiced.
Then that day, that glorious wonderful day arrives when you finally own a pair of brand new ski boots: A place where nobody else’s foot has ever been. These are not dank and stinky. The liners are not ripped or riddled with balled up lint. These are brand new, wrapped in plastic, and smell like new car seats.
What I discovered that night in my living room is that when still kind of warm and moist and sweaty is your reality, the minute that it stops being your reality – in the form of new bowling shoes, new skates, or new ski boots – it’s a very big deal: Even for a ripe 40-something.
Photo: Troy kicks in with his new boots at Taos (sorta... via Photoshop)