Please note: Nobody was injured in the making of this blog post.
It was a matter of when, not if.
Almost every day that I have skied at Bogus Basin the past few seasons, someone has made a comment.
“Are those Nordic or just really old-school skis?”
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“I’ve gotta ask, those skis are really skinny ...”
And so on. I’d been using the same skis and boots since high school — for about 25 years (for about a decade in the middle, I was only skiing once a year for some inexplicable reason).
Last month, on a ride up the lift with my 7-year-old son, Oliver, he asked, “Why does everyone ask about your skis?”
“Because they’re really old and not many people have them anymore,” I told him.
“You’re the only one,” he said — and he’s pretty observant.
The next time we went skiing, nobody asked about my skis. I should have considered that a bad omen.
It was a nice day at Bogus and the snow was in good shape. I heard a family with small kids say they were going to take the black-diamond run called Tiger from the lifts on the back side of the mountain to the lodge because conditions were good. I’d never tried that run, but figured if they could do it, we could do it. Plus, Oliver loves tigers — he wears a tiger on his helmet and is wearing a tiger shirt as we write this.
So we skied to the top of Tiger and I scouted it. It didn’t seem any more difficult than Night Hawk, a black-diamond run we ski frequently. I waved Oliver down and told him to go ahead.
Oliver stopped a little ways down and waved for me to join him. As I tried to stop where he was, I hit an ice patch and crashed. I slid down the mountain about 100 yards on my side, skis still on — worried that I was going to injure a leg.
When I finally stopped in the powder to the left of the run and got my skis off, I turned around to see what Oliver was doing.
“Right when you hit the ice patch, you lost one of your poles,” he says. “You lost the other one while you were sliding.”
One pole ended up right below Oliver. The other was about 10 feet up the hill.
“But it seemed like 25 feet,” he says. “I took off my skis to go get the pole. I grabbed it, but then I slid.”
Oliver took off like a rocket down the mountain on his stomach, feet first.
I saw him and started running across the mountain because he was going down the other side of the run. I tried to grab him — knowing that probably wasn’t going to work.
“And it didn’t,” Oliver says.
He took me with him.
“We were still sliding down the mountain attached and I managed to use you to get back going feet first on my back,” he says.
I slid probably 150 yards down the mountain — stopping about 25 yards after Oliver.
Still stunned and frightened, the first thing I heard was Oliver saying, “Dad, are you OK?”
Fortunately, we both were. But one of my boots was not.
I felt the boot hit something like a rock or an ice chunk while sliding down with Oliver. It shattered the exterior of my boot — damage I didn’t even notice until we got to the lodge.
Some friendly skiers brought down most of our gear but not my skis, which were off the run and not visible. I called Ski Patrol and they grabbed my skis.
I told a Ski Patrol member about the ice patch and he said, “You don’t have any edge on these” — one last dig at my ancient skis.
Oliver told him the entire story. He was amazed that the kid was smiling and chatty after such a scary endeavor.
“I was happy that we were OK,” Oliver says.
The broken boot finally forced me to buy some modern ski gear. I’ve got skis that are 92 millimeters wide under foot (one of many terms I learned during a one-week crash course in ski buying) — 50 percent wider than my old, 60-millimeter skis. And I’ve got boots that are killing my feet as I break them in but will be a huge upgrade in the long run. I’m enjoying the easy turns, sharp edges and powder performance of the new equipment.
Everyone I tell who knows Bogus Basin well marvels that we went down Tiger. Turns out, it’s got a bad reputation (and on the map, it’s listed as a double-black diamond — didn’t realize that a yellow black diamond on the sign meant two).
Maybe I’ll try it again with the new skis — in a few years, when this memory has faded.
“If you would have had new skis before that, we wouldn’t have to write this,” Oliver says. “But it made a great story.”