Love Letters to the Skis of My Life

It’s easy to get caught gazing in the ski shop or in the lift line—the latest and greatest new skis, stunning in all their colorful, flawless glory. But every once in a while, the fond memory of an old beloved pair creeps in, bringing with it the thoughts of ski days and runs past. Here’s a letter to some of those skis that I’ve loved, and some that I’ve lost, along the way.

Dear long and arrow-straight Heads
that Santa Claus dropped off
on Christmas 1998,

Thank you. My first real skis, you ended my waits in the rental line at Bittersweet after getting dropped off by the ski school bus. With royal blue and fire engine red topsheets accented by pops of yellow, your beauty was my ticket to freedom. With you, I learned to carve, ticked off my first black diamond, and accomplished, perhaps, the greatest achievement of my life: winning the Crystal Mountain, MI 2000 spring fling garden hose race with a team of best childhood friends.

Dear year-old, but NEW TO ME 196cm
K2 Merlin IVs,

Your piezoelectric vibration dampening lights blinked as I carved, so at night I’d stare down, entranced by your red glow. You were my first shaped ski, back when that term was sexy and new. My time skiing with you was passionate but short—a roof rack failure at 70 miles per hour ejected your sidecut selves into the path of a semi on US 131. But for the one ski that survived that day, our love has lasted—with a Glen Plake Sharpie signature and shot glasses glued to your topsheet, piezo lights still blinking with each Jagermeister shot-ski hoisted two decades after the last time you carved your edges into snow.

Dear 2000 K2 Fatty skiboards that
I BEGGED my parents for,

On Christmas morning 1999, my parents delivered. Man, you were fun: tearing through the park with friends sans poles, pulling monster spread eagles off the kickers, skating cat tracks like Apolo Anton Ohno. Granted, I never did learn to spin like Mike Nick, and skiboards didn’t take off like I was absolutely sure they would. Your 88cm of freestyle freedom hung by the leashes in my parents’ garage for a few years until I eBayed you for beer money in college. Still, I have no regrets—for a 14-year-old mobbing with a big group of friends, you were perfection. I may never have as much fun on as our days of Chinese downhills, ski tag, and follow-the-leader side hits.

Dear Salomon Scream 10 Pilots from 2002,

During my senior year of high school, you were the ski of my dreams—top of the line, flagship, skied by so many of that year’s Warren Miller athletes whom I idolized on the silver screen. With those gorgeous orange topsheets and matching integrated binding system, you were way out of my league—and price range. You came to me as a demo, then actually became mine—a check from Maggie’s parents’ insurance after the roof rack incident paving the way. We spent the rest of high school together and lasted into college, making our first trip from Michigan to ski real mountains in the West together, speeding toward Colorado for a first taste of the ski bum dream.

Dear 169cm, 2003 Volkl P50s and the
bright yellow spandex that
accompanied them,

I was probably drunk on Boone’s Farm in the dorm when I ordered you off eBay, hoping you’d arrive by the first race of the season. Ski racing was certainly not what ski team was all about (that honor was reserved for the 200-pound ice block we carved into a Jagermeister ice luge and loaded into my buddy’s truck each winter), but these slalom skis, combined with Tecnica race boots and a banana-yellow GS suit, helped me at least feel the part. At 18-years-old, you are the oldest skis still in the quiver, complete with the words “GET LOW” in faded Sharpie on one of your shovels. We still find time for each other once or twice a season, always when the snow’s rock-hard and there’s a need for the pure bliss of a railroad carve.

Dear employee sale 2013 Volkl Katanas,

Oh baby, at 112 underfoot and all rocker, you were my first pow ski. I picked you up cheap at the Backcountry.com employee sale during my first year in Utah—the employee sale a ski bum Black Friday where a normally mild-mannered tele skiing coworker might punch you in the face for a gently used $20 GORE-TEX shell. But I found you, and fought hard to get out of the warehouse with you draped over my shoulder. With perfect edges and big, wide bases unblemished, your topsheets showed a few scuffs and a poker-chip gouge that was your only real blemish. Nothing a bit of epoxy and sticker TLC couldn’t fix. You’re my best canyon companion when things get deep, or when I’m feeling hopeful.

Dear brand-spankin’ new Volkl Mantra M6s,

Man, you’re pretty. And while we’re still in that new stage of relationship getting used to each other, I already know this is love. Pristine red graphics, edges shining like chrome, and black bases that glean without scuff or scar. I take great care in loading you in the truck bed and try to give you plenty of space in the lift line. This will change, of course, and will likely change soon, but until then, we’re going to charge all over the mountain. I can’t wait to see where we go together.


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