Shoulder Season

They’re somewhere behind the mountain bikes. Or it could be the lawnmower and leftover Trex from fixing the deck. Shit. Well, they’re back there somewhere.

Twenty minutes later I find them next to the badminton net, covered in deflated crocodile and killer whale floaties. I brush a few spider webs off the touring setup, and rub some rust off the edges of the pow sticks. It’s a bit premature for those—although it’s tempting. I pull out the rock boards, 2005 Rossignol BC Scratches, splashed with familiar black and orange…and a “Vermont is for Lovers” sticker. I’ve never been to Vermont; where the hell did that come from?

The tips (and tails) are delamming, and the bases—besides being a fuzzy white from a complete lack of wax—are a P-Tex parody of Swiss cheese. A few bear signs of attempted repair, and I try to remember the origins of each wound: Thanksgiving opening day at Blackcomb, Honkers cat track during the dreaded 2005 season, a poorly crushed PBR can in the parking lot…I stub my toe (damn flip flops) on a pallet of old National Geographic issues as I make my way towards the front of the garage.

Put away the truing stand and bike tools, replace the summer ales with shoulder-season Rainier cans, and soon the work bench is clear. I squeeze past boxes of Christmas ornaments and dig through the pile of rubber reptiles and sea creatures. Iron? Check. Wax? Check. Ski vises? I find them in the obvious place, a dairy crate of cleaning supplies. Duh.

As the iron heats up, I clamp down both skis, an easy task thanks to their erratic and unintentional rocker. Was the dial supposed to be at eight or five? I split the difference. It’s only wax. And plastic. And metal.

Smoke rolls up as I press the warm-temp Swix to the iron and promptly splatter second-degree burns across my right foot (damn flip flops). I frantically redirect the molten fluoride and paraffin into the P-Tex craters and crevasses. Base welds are overrated.

Months of rock climbing and gripping mountain bike handlebars somehow doesn’t translate into wax scraping—halfway into the first ski, my forearm cramps and I am forced to retreat. That’s fine—it just means longer before I have to wax again…genius. I don’t even bother with the edges; I’m not in the mood for tragic comedy.

Some further rummaging and I find my boots. I use an ice pick to chip off the glacial mud remaining from a June Mt. Baker summit, where I forgot approach shoes and was forced to make the hike alternating between Full Tilts and beach footwear (damn flip flops). The mission was a success; my attempts to clean the boots are not. The sand and grit will just give the wiggling toepieces better traction, I decide—the five-year-old Marker Jesters could use the help.

My roommate comes out and watches me take the skin off a finger replacing a broken buckle, remarks on the caustic smoke filling the garage, and generally judges me for my overly early and possibly obsessive winter preparations. “The snow won’t be here for over a month,” he says. “Next you’ll be sleeping with those things.”

He’s right, but that’s not until later—for now, sweating like a fat kid in a CrossFit class and buzzing slightly (due to either burning P-Tex fumes or the autumn Rainiers) I collapse into a lawn chair outside. Despite whispers of snow on Whistler’s peak or rumors of a storm headed towards Baker, winter has yet to arrive. It doesn’t matter; now I can start setting up car pools, Nikwaxing outerwear, swapping cut-offs for jeans and bike racks for ski clamps. It is my ritual, and I am ready for six months of waking up in the dark and driving home in the dark. I am ready to be damp and cold every day, to sell my soul to the mountains and the storm gods.

And, as I drop my now-repaired boot on my scorched pinky toe, I am ready to finally get out of these damn flip flops.


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