Short days and crisp air change our brain chemistry. From one hour to the next we begin neglecting our bicycles. Our running shoes gather dust. We search the house for signs of winter’s return. We tune skis, mend Gore-tex, modify toys, and attack piles of forgotten gear on total faith that it will snow before Christmas. This ritual of preparation, this snow dance, helps us round the corner and head down the homestretch toward winter. Here’s a glimpse at this year’s well-rehearsed dance steps at the Dawson household:
Dive into the colossal family shoe heap to locate missing orthotic. May take more than one winter to find.
Check boot inners for critters, alive or dead. Jamming toes into a rotting mouse is a sensation I need experience just once.
Run around the house shouting about my missing ski pole before remembering it is supporting the radiator in my Jeep.
Scrounge up spare pole baskets. Since they often double as high tech laser reflectors in my son’s latest Lego project, explain to him that Lego people are a peaceful race who need no weapons of mass destruction.
Buy one of every sport bar available and conduct taste test. Store all in freezer for dental safety evaluation.
Ignore claims that certain sport bars make you 20 percent stronger (tried that last year).
Consider how weak my legs are. Consider working out. Or consider buying shaped skis that “turn themselves.”
Check ski reviews in well known magazine for self turning ski. Find text that claims: “This turning machine is a mountaineer’s face shot ski, one of the best shaped planks in this review. Testers raved about it’s wide, solid platform that really holds the turns. It doesn’t flounder and handles everything well, especially control on the steeps. Unparalleled in parallel mode, this universal ski is like your best friend…or like a sports car.”
Research new NSAIDs and glucosamine formulations (don’t ask).
Organize my garage workshop (AKA “cave” in male sexist politically incorrect lexicon).
a)Convert workbench from storage shelf to work space.
b)Purchase and store Ptex and wax stash in case of worldwide shortage.
b)Find ski equipment in multi-sport gear piles (keep can of Raid handy).
c)Back car out of garage while listening for sound of breaking things.
d)Assure Lisa that yes, I do need a new stereo and fridge for the garage, as well as several new power tools.
Wax family ski quiver.
a) Clean scuz off bases and top skins, (most likely paint overspray from latest Jeep project, but maybe mud from last spring tour).
b)Fire up “Ol’ Shocky,” a circa 1950 clothing iron with exposed, toasted electrical innards. After choking through clouds of old wax and ripping the battery from the smoke detector, I usually get the temperature right.
c)Cook in a thick layer of hard wax glisse butter, perfect for the cold and rocky Colorado pre-season.
d)Sharpen scraper. When it pulls a long spiral of wax from the ski, or a curl of skin from a thumb, I know I’ve got it right.
Tune damaged skis. ( Entails making a mental note to stock up on beer and cookies for the local ski techs.)
Take son to used equipment shop for winter outfitting. Find nothing for son, but buy pair of mint-condition Head Standards with Cubco bindings to decorate my cave.
Maintain and check all electronics.
a) Turn off avy beacons from trip last May. Clean corrosion in battery compartment.
b) Buy fresh batteries.
c) Program new 2-way radios to receive everything but Oprah.
d) Scour corroded battery contacts in headlamps.
e) Return latest GPS to…whoever…(it caused brain damage.)
f) Figure out way to carry lithium cells without sizzling and shorting when wet (BOOM).
Goop new thread locker on my flicklock pole screws. Shorten the shafts a bit, thus making them lighter, and shorter when fully collapsed (better for steep snow climbing).
Drill lighting holes in steel self arrest grips (the things weigh a ton).
Modify new water bladder (old one has a new species of fungus growing on the inside). Since the valves on these glorified colostomy bags always drool, install a shut-off valve upstream from the discharge.
Give the ski-pole-duct-tape-wad a fresh winding after using most of it to attach tire chains last spring.
Replace cracked goggle lens, vow no more inverted face shots.
Mutter imprecations about about lost goggles.
Find goggles in my sock drawer where I left them.
Inspect tires on family whale. Do we need new studded snows, or can the cash go for a new sled, as in Yamaha ?
Buy lunch for loan officer. Mention new snowmobile in proper context at proper time, “it’s a business expense, I have to find out what’s so bad about them.”
Ask Lisa about snowmobile after candlelight dinner and foot massage.
Call partners, make list of current phone numbers. Note their work schedules and possibility of “powder rules.”
Buy discount ski pass for area that now has open boundaries to backcountry, since all friends have same pass (try not to think of days when pass cost one tenth of current gouge).
Check backpacks. Dump fishing gear with leaking salmon egg jar. Place pack in wash with half gallon of Clorox (perhaps add old polypro.)
Fit and modify new boots.
a) Obtain latest-greatest. Sell 16 other pairs of used boots to do so.
b) Donate stock boot liners to charity, or perhaps science.
a) Find best boot tech in valley, and what sort of gifts they like. Usually beer but not always.
d) Convince boot tech that custom liners for backcountry need extra half-size of toe room (use gifts).
e) Rip boots apart. Weld and drill custom lean-lock. Locktite canting rivet. Replace stock tongue with stiffer version scored at yard-sale. Rivet power strap to prevent loss. Punch out for bone spur. Experiment with drilling lighting holes in plastic shell.
f)Re-assemble boots using new power tools Lisa allowed. Disguise “extra” holes with silicon and magic marker.
Check in to gear junkie treatment center.
Hope the dance worked.
(Note: This article was originally published in Couloir Magazine, 1999)
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.