An ode to my ski boots

ski boots shatteredThese are my ski boots. Or rather, they were my ski boots.

As you can see I’ve put a lot of snow miles on them in the decade or more that I’ve worn them. If they could talk, they’d tell some tall tales of powder, mud and bumps; heavenly bluebird days; and days so thick with snow or fog they couldn’t see where they were going.

They’d tell stories of tromping through ski villages to find the best après ski; outliving the skis I bought them with; and what it was like to click into a fat new pair of modern parabolics.

They’d laugh uproariously while telling the story of that time I entertained the skiers in line—as well as my daughters—by diving into a side belly flop to avoid getting hit in the butt with the ski lift chair.

You can see traces of some of those stories in the scuffs and scratches. These boots have given me their best.

They were with me during my superwoman years as I taught my kids to ski, as I pulled them up hills and they skied between my legs on the way down. They were with me as I rode the magic carpet, balanced on tow ropes and held fast to my kids’ arms on chairlifts for fear they would tumble out and break their necks.

They’ve stuck with me as I’ve entered middle age: through back pain and knee pain, on slow days, on days my speed demon has found me again, and on that day when even the speed demon had to admit defeat to her teenagers.

They’ve kept up with the family on highly active and joy-filled days on the slopes, and stuck with me through days that were whiny and crabby and cut short. Days when I wanted to give them all the boot.

My kids, of course, have outgrown their ski boots year after year after year. But I’ve had mine through all those years. And now it’s time to say goodbye. After all their years of service, they were starting to hurt so I needed to explore the possibility of replacing them while we were skiing in Whistler last month.

I stopped into a local shop to talk to a ski tech.

“I don’t know why but my boots are killing me this year. Seriously, my toes feel like they’re crammed into the end.”

“Maybe they’re not the right size.”

“How could they not be the right size? I’ve worn them for years.”

“You never know, hey. Before you buy new ones, bring the old ones by and I’ll take a look at them. It may be the fit just needs a little tweaking. One time I had a dad in here telling me his daughter’s boots were hurting so bad she couldn’t ski. He brought them in and I found a rotten orange in the toe.”

I laughed. “Are you saying I have an orange molding in the toe of my shoe?”

“You’d be surprised at the things I’ve seen.”

“Well we did find some mouse droppings in one of our shoes before we left home,” my husband chimed in, jokingly. “Maybe you have a mouse problem.”

“Are you saying I’ve had a mouse nest in the toe of my boots for the last two days and I haven’t noticed?”

“I’ll go get the boots,” my husband said. “Stay here.”

While I was sitting there waiting for him to get back, the tech kept talking as he fitted the woman next to me. “You should see some of the boots people bring in. They think they need new ones and they’ve got boots that’ve been hardly worn. The stickers are still on.”

“Stickers?”

“The size stickers. The little ones on the front of the boots. I know they haven’t been worn much if they’re still on.”

I laughed some more.

My husband walked in with the boots, bottoms up in a shopping bag.

“Take a look at these! You’re not going to believe it Julie.”

“What is it?” I asked, peering into the bag. “Wait, what?! No way. What the heck happened to my boots!”

I pulled them out of the bag for a closer look and to show them to the tech.

“Hey look, I guess I do need new boots,” I said, pointing to the crumbling heels.

ski boots 5 ski boots 4
I couldn’t believe I’d not noticed them. But when do you ever look at the bottom of your ski boots?

ski boots 1“Look, they also still have their stickers on them!”

We laughed some more as he began to fit me for new boots. I tried a few pairs on until he finally determined that he didn’t have the right boots for my narrow heels. It was Christmas and they were sold out. I’d have to go elsewhere, but it was getting late and I didn’t want to risk not being able to ski the next day.

“So what do you think? Can I just ski with these tomorrow? I’ve already skied two days,” I asked.

I slipped the old boots back on for show, and that’s when I discovered the source of my foot pain. It wasn’t the broken heel plates—although that was certainly a serious problem—but it also wasn’t an old orange or a mouse nest. It was a toe warmer from last season, bunched up in the front of the boot. I hadn’t noticed it before either.

I guess I only have eyes for snow.

“Uh, no you cannot safely ski in these boots,” he said, after a noticeable pause and a look of suprise.

My husband parroted him, “Uh, no.”

One more day on the slopes, the ski tech explained, and they might crumble more. They could come loose from the bindings and put me at risk for a fall or injury.

So the next morning, while the rest of family headed for the hill, I sat in another ski shop for an hour or more and found a new pair of boots.

Meet my new boots.

ski boots 3ski boots 6We didn’t like each other at first, my Langes and I. In an effort to get the right fit, the ski tech tweaked them with a heel moulding for stability and custom insoles. That made them hurt so much while I was skiing that for the first time in my life I said I didn’t want to ski anymore.

I returned to the shop three times that day for adjustments.

On the last time, we stripped everything out of the boot that we’d added. The next day on the slopes it was just me, a pair of wool socks, and my boots. There was nothing else between us, and that worked. We’ve skied together four times since and we’re getting to know each other better.

I’m becoming more comfortable with my new friends, and—don’t tell my old ones—but they’re treating me better. They listen when my toes are cold and they keep me warmer. They listen to my sore spots and they cushion me. They’re shiny and new and have cool clips. We’re skiing new stories together, and we’re doing it well.

One last thing: they are a whole size smaller. It turns out the ski tech was right. Not only was there something stuck in the toe, but my old boots were the wrong fit. You can see the difference on the stickers, which are already starting to fall off. ski boots 7

Ski on.

###

Blogger’s note: It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged here and I have much to catch up on. Travel to Whistler, Vancouver, San Francisco and more. Join me as I revisit old adventures and discover new ones. When I’m not here, you can find me at Rogue Ant.

 

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