I was psyched on Friday to wake up and see that Mount Wachusett was open for business. I was not optimistic that the mountain would survive the two days of rain and warm temperatures that we had just experienced, but I was excited that they were at least opening. I headed to the mountain that morning with low expectations, and on my arrival you could see the recent weather had taken a toll. There was an obvious recession in the snow and the coverage went from excellent to okay.
The plan was to bring the Telemark gear again and skin and ski a few laps. I really love the skin and ski day at the resort, as it combines a great aerobic workout with some fun skiing, as long as it is not too busy. If it is too busy, sometimes the skinning up can feel dangerous, almost like a car driving the wrong way down a one way road.
I chose to bring a different pair of skis to the mountain this time in an effort to get comfortable with all my gear early in the season. After a few days out this season already I was beginning to feel very confident in my skiing, as well as my transitioning from uphill skinning to downhill skiing. We were getting so efficient that we were very close to being as fast to the top as the lift, which either says something about our early season fitness or the age and speed of the lift.
Friday was one of those days that destroys that confidence and beats any arrogance you may have out of you. We arrived at the mountain and geared up in the parking lot and headed to the base. Luke (a friend I consistently meet for these early morning skin and ski sessions) got his gear on quickly and began to harass me for the amount of time it was taking me to get going.
I was having a problem. Last spring, I secured my skis with one of the ‘gummy’ style ski straps and put them away for the season and now I couldn’t undo the closure on the ski strap. I like to think that a few months of hot to cold temperatures had somehow shrunk the strap, making it near impossible to un-lash, but truth be told I am sure it was wholly user error. I told Luke to go ahead and get a lap in while I ran to the car to try to undo the strap binding my skis together. Luke took off, half humored by my ill fortune and half disappointed to skin alone.
At my car I found a screw driver which I tried to use to leverage the strap undone but to no avail. Willing to part ways with the strap I began to search for a knife. I figured that I was really ready to ski and would never use this strap again anyway, so I may as well cut ties with it once and for all. By destroying the offending strap I would also never again be tempted to use it and put myself in this awkward situation again. Unfortunately, I had taken my knife out of the car.
I thought that Luke may have had a knife in the back of his pick-up, so I began to dig through the pile of kites, skis, and paddling gear residing in the bed of his truck but I was unable to turn up a knife. With the clock ticking and Luke surely getting close to completing his first lap I sadly tucked tail and headed to the ski shop. I awkwardly asked the ski tech for a knife to free my skis. With a smile, the ski tech grabbed the offending strap and, in one quick motion, freed it. He gave me a smirk and told me ‘I must have loosened it for him.’
Embarrassed, I headed out to the hill to skin a few laps with the flush of gumby shame on my face. Only a few days into the ski season and I had already gotten a good taste of humble pie.