In praise of cheap skis

Spring skiing. It’s warm, and on the front range it can be damn windy – but there’s no snow on the front range this year, so that won’t really matter. On thing spring skiing always is, is hell on your skis. Skinning up through mud patches (ok, it’s hell on skins too…), skiing down over rocks that may have just enough coverage to really surprise you, or maybe so little that you think about just booting down, but that would make the climb up kinda worthless.

Oh, spring skiing. We hate to love you. But you are there, tantalizing us with the promise of a few more turns in mediocre snow at best. (Unless you are kind enough to give us a big dump in the neighborhood of 18″ of fresh, slightly heavy powder like you did last year, and hopefully will again – hint, hint.)

The thing for me is that I have only been skiing for a few years and don’t have a well-thrashed pair that I can sacrifice to the Rock Gods. I also have friends who avoid spring skiing because when their skis are ready for the rocks, they’re so played out that they will hardly stand up to the abuse. So what are we, collectively, to do?

Do we pass up the last gifts from Snowy, the God of Winter Jollity? Do we play eeny-meeny-miney-mo and pick a stalwart from our quiver and hope it doesn’t get trashed?

Well, you could, but are either of those really the best choice?

Stop in to your local shop and see what demos they have hanging around to sell, hit up Craigslist, or check what Cripple Creek has up on the consignment page. Grab a cheap pair of skis, and ski the living hell out of them. 

Today I was dropping off a couple of prototype ski packs to the guys at my local AT store – Neptune Mountaineering – and couldn’t help but notice a pair of Dynafit Baltoros sitting on the used ski rack. They were a couple years old and had the white and orange graphics – you know, the ones where the sun-beaten ski tops won’t attract snow like iron filings to a magnet. They were 176cm of traditionally-cambered, alloy-sheet-stiffened, only-drilled-once, 84-cm-underfoot goodness that beckoned me like Sirens waiting to dash me (and in turn, them) against the rocks.

Now they are mine.

While the top sheets are surprisingly beaten up, the bases are perfect and there is plenty of edge left so that I will be able to abuse these for years to come.

The best part, all they cost was the portrait of Ben Franklin that I’d been carrying in my wallet – waiting for the perfect thing to buy with it – since the day I found it next to my parked (I did try to find the owner but there were no takers, well there were takers, but none who knew the correct denomination of the bill…). So, basically, they were free skis – which is even better than cheap.

Because I’m me, I’ll take a bit of time to clean up the jagged edges of the torn top sheet and epoxy them so that they don’t continue to unnecessarily deteriorate. Then all I need to do is grab a pair of bindings and skins. Yes, they will be nylon skins, whatever is the cheapest I can get from Dynafit. I think a pair of TLT Expedition bindings may be in their future as well (I’m just trying to ascertain their heel-toe drop first to see if they’ll work). [Or, maybe I’ll just cannibalize the Speed Radicals from my Shift skis and wait until next winter to get some new bindings for them.]

The other thing that these skis will get to do is be my November skis. When the mountains  get a bit of coverage but not so much that you want to take your nice skis out. It’s like spring skiing, but in reverse.

While these skis will not be babied, they will be loved.



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