The Jaded Lo­cal

The Plea­sure of Not Do­ing Any­thing Rad


IT WASN’T THEIR FAULT. Tired from the shred­fest that is Jackson Hole’s up­per moun­tain on a pow­der day, the Rad Bros sim­ply had no frame of ref­er­ence for the happy id­iot in the ban­dana and flower-pat­terned wind­shirt, solo in the backcountry with no pack, ski­ing on a pair of 150-some­thing women’s skis, and… was he snick­er­ing at them? I should back up a lit­tle.

We’ve all had stand­out runs over the years that were de­fined by spe­cific skis. The glo­ri­ous mo­ment when I some­how man­aged to grease a bump line on 223-cen­time­ter Dynastar DH boards. The 6-foot­deep day in Fe­bru­ary of ’98 when I bor­rowed a pair of 90-mil­lime­ter-un­der­foot “fat” skis for the first time and be­came a golden god swoop­ing straight through the Mean­ing of Life and out the other side. And then there was that one run with Nate, lay­ing the long­est and most re­lax­ing turns ever on a pair of 200cm Salomons down a vast glacier that started in France and ended in a tiny Swiss town where the wild­flow­ers were just start­ing to bloom.

But that morn­ing in Jackson I was tat­tered: surf­ing couches for a week, chas­ing lo­cals up boot­packs and down long rocky couloirs, wak­ing up in my ski clothes with the taste of car­pet in my mouth. This par­tic­u­lar floor was in a not-very-nice-smelling of­fice build­ing I had been poach­ing for a few nights, slip­ping in af­ter the Mangy Moose shut down. There was a tem­per­a­ture in­ver­sion in the val­ley and while it was freez­ing and gray at the base, I could see the sun al­ready warm­ing the high peaks above the re­sort. All I wanted to do was get up there and lie on a warm rock. Just a cou­ple of hours of lizard ac­tion and one mel­low run down.

But the thought of shoul­der­ing a pack and gi­ant heavy skis again was un­bear­able, and the last thing I needed was more beat­down, more adren­a­line, more avalanche pro­to­col. Day-drink­ing was loom­ing when in­spi­ra­tion struck.

I strode into the near­est rental shop and of­fered a 12-pack to bor­row “the short­est, light­est, soft­est ski you have.” Af­ter some con­fu­sion and sup­pressed snick­er­ing among the staff, I was pre­sented with a pair of baby-blue 156cm Rossig­nol Saphirs, 70mm-wide in­ter­me­di­ate-ad­vanced women’s skis mounted with all-plas­tic bind­ings that went to 9. Pin­ning the bind­ings, I ra­tio­nal­ized that I should be able to at least wedge and side­step down most ter­rain.

Af­ter a quick change into the the afore­men­tioned 1970s wind­shirt/ban­dana combo, I was waft­ing up the ca­ble in a big red box, ac­com­pa­nied by a few lo­cals and some slightly less-sup­pressed snick­er­ing. I sus­pect mid­dle-aged men dressed like Wayne Wong and ex­cit­edly flex­ing re­ally short women’s skis are not a reg­u­lar sight on that par­tic­u­lar tram.

Once through the bound­ary gate, I shoul­dered the feath­er­weight Rossi’s and booted up a ridge into the sun. On a track­less sub-peak, I found my warm rock. On the sur­round­ing faces and flanks above tim­ber­line, the Jackson pow-day pro­gram was in full ef­fect as rad peo­ple teed off on rad ter­rain and (pre­sum­ably) got rad footage. I laid on the rock and day­dreamed about at­trac­tive women in jacuzzis un­til the sun faded.

The day of epic not-do­ing-any­thing-rad-in­jack­son had now reached the bit where I had to ski down thou­sands of feet of what was sure to in­clude ev­ery­thing from cold boot-top pow to re­frozen moguls.

Del­i­cately click­ing into the Bar­bie Dream­house bind­ings, I held my breath and dropped off the top of Four Pines into the 35-de­gree pow­der-cov­ered un­known. Feet to­gether for max­i­mum float, I built up speed and gave a lit­tle nervous shimmy… and the tips por­poised like play­ful pup­pies. Chan­nel­ing a pow­der ski­ing style not seen in those parts since 1988, I butt-wig­gled about 300 tiny turns down the 600-foot pitch. Af­ter the first hun­dred, I was sup­press­ing a smug snicker of my own.

Which is where the Rad Bros came in. I was stand­ing at the bot­tom of the pitch, ad­mir­ing all those scrump­tious minia­ture wig­gles, the del­i­cate an­gel kisses of the Rossig­nol Saphir, when they skied up. Equipped for Max­i­mum Send, with the big­gest, burli­est skis, full-face hel­mets, and airbag packs, they had no doubt been Killing It.

As they skied passed me to­ward the icy maze that drained back to the re­sort, one of them said, “Nice skis, dude.” I let it go and went back to con­grat­u­lat­ing my­self, and then fol­lowed them into the rut­ted-out tra­verse.

Teeth clenched for what would cer­tainly be sur­vival ski­ing, I came to an­other rev­e­la­tion: The tiny Rossi’s were in their el­e­ment. I could pick apart the in­tri­cate and icy banks through the for­est with a kung fu bar­rage of lit­tle jibby moves that I had never done be­fore be­cause I had never skied on 156cm skis.

Half­way down I caught up to the Rad Bros, who were now soaked in sweat, hang­ing on for dear life, and no longer mak­ing snide re­marks about my skis. I re­frained from shriek­ing, “How do like my skis now?” but I did throw an ex­u­ber­ant daffy.

Back at the base vil­lage, I re­turned the rental skis with a bot­tle of cham­pagne, which seemed more ap­pro­pri­ate than a 12er in this par­tic­u­lar ski-shop-hookup-eti­quette sce­nario.

While I haven’t skied on the Rossig­nol Saphir since, I have con­sid­er­ably broad­ened my scope ski-wise. It’s psy­cho­log­i­cally tempt­ing to try to find the best one, the burli­est one, what­ever, but just like all dogs are Good Dogs, al­most all skis can be Good Skis. You just have to let them.

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