“You’re Going to Ski???!?”



See the blue skis with the word “Wax” on them? I bought them today for $30. They’re nearly 40 years old. I owned a pair just like them in a faraway land known as Denver. I skied on them a lot AND (here’s the madness) I took them with me to the People’s Republic of China. Yeah. OK that “might” not be totally insane (I think it is), but I was living on the Tropic of Cancer.

After a year in the tropics, the skis came back to Denver in time for one of the snowiest winters in history, a winter so snowy that Colfax Avenue, one of the biggest main streets in America, was carved into two lanes with a wall of snow between them. There were days when X-country skis were the one sure way to get around town. The mayor at the time — Peña — was taking flack from everyone over his apparent inability to get the snow plows out.

The skis moved with me to California where they had some pretty decent adventures. Once was with a bunch of colleagues. Everything California was alien and the 18 inches that had landed in the Laguna Mountains east of San Diego gave me a chance to be myself. Back then I was “Ms. Ski Wax America,” and I was very proud of my back-country skis. My colleagues had skis but waxless, fish-scale, skis (like the prettier, narrower, slightly newer ones in the photo). I could have taken my fish scale skis (simpler) but I brought my back-country skis because I loved them, partly, and partly for the overall coolness effect.

One of my colleagues, a very overweight know-it-all type with fish-scale skis that were too short for his weight, borrowed some wax from me — red wax. First you don’t wax fish-scale skis. Second, red wax wouldn’t make his skis faster; it’s sticky; it’s good for climbing hills. When he was “ready,” he pointed his skis down the steep hill and didn’t move at all. Those skis had been conditioned to HOLD ON to the mountain. That was fun to watch, and he was a good sport about it. I helped him clean off his skis and things went a little better for him; not much, though. His weight pushed the fish scales down so hard they were gripping the snow. We went up and down a decent hill and then came home.

On those skis, I skied around the back side of Cuyamaca Peak where I saw cougar tracks for the first time. They skied up Mt. Palomar and back down again. It was really something to see the great, white telescope domes in the snow. As we skied down the unplowed road (a lot easier than it had been skiing five miles up the manzanita plagued trail) we passed a family who’d come up to “see the snow” a California family with a beach umbrella, beach chairs, a cooler. As we whooped our way down, a kid called out, “Hey mom! That’s what we should do!”

They skied up the PCT to the Garnet Peak Trail (no way to ski up the Garnet Peak Trail itself), accepting the constant challenge of close hedges of manzanita scrub on both sides.

And then… Life changed and the skis went to the Goodwill.

A couple of weeks ago, I went out to lunch with friends then — as an adventure — we visited the flea market, and I saw these skis in the back room. My heart skipped several beats. Of course they’re not “my” skis, but they are my skis. Without thinking I reached for them and cradled them against my shoulder like old friends. My friend Elizabeth looked at me with so much compassion, “Are you going to ski, Martha?” she asked.

I told them I once had skis just like them, and put them back against the wall. Of course I’ve thought about them for the past two weeks. Today, I went to look at them. Thirty bucks. I put them together and carried them to the cash register. The couple that mans one of the shops in the flea market looked at me and said, “You’re going to SKI?” The couple is around my age, I guess. And of course I limp and often use a cane.

I explained I used to have a pair of skis just like them. And I said, “Yep. I’m going to ski. Maybe not this year, but, yeah.”

“Watch out for avalanches,” said the wife.

“Yeah, well, I think it’ll just be the golf course.” I really have no illusions about this.

“The golf course?” she looked at me bewildered.

“Yeah,” I said. “When there’s enough snow they groom it for cross country skiing. It’s beautiful. And I live right beside it.”

“It’s good exercise,” she said. I nodded. It’s more than that, but that’s fine. It is. “You need poles.”

“I have poles at home.”

“Good luck!” they both called out as I left the store.

“Thanks,” I said, “and thanks for the moral support.”

“We hope you do it,” said the husband, a former alcoholic whose life story I became familiar with on my second visit there. My little heart glowed.

“I’ll let you know.”

You can see in the featured photo that one of them (the bottom one) is pretty badly delaminated; the other one only slightly at the tip. That made me relate to them even more. I’m delaminated. When I got home, and had looked them over good, seeing that it didn’t seem hopeless, I called the local ski store. I told them I’d bought a pair of old cross-country skis that were somewhat delaminated, and asked if they could repair them. I’ll have to take them in; maybe yes, maybe no. Either way, the skis are here and I’m glad.

I also did a little research yesterday when I was so down about things. This is what I learned in a professional paper about skiing after total hip replacement. It made me a lot more hopeful about everything.

“2 groups of 50 patients each, matched for age, weight, height, gender and type of implant, were clinically and radiographically examined after THR (total hip replacement). Group A regularly carried out alpine skiing and/or cross-country skiing, while group B did no winter sports. At 5 years, no signs of loosening were found in group A, whereas 5/60 implants in group B had signs of loosening, mostly of the femoral component (p < 0.05). At 10 years, 30 patients remained in group A and 27 in group B. No new cases of loosening were found in group B, but 2/30 cases in group A. There was a higher (p < 0.05) average wear rate in group A (2.1 mm) than in group B (1.5 mm). The wear rate was particularly high (3-4 mm) in physically very active patients in group A with localized osteolysis at the interface. It seems likely that in an even longer follow-up, the number of cases of aseptic loosening would be greater in group A than group B. Our findings, combined with the results of previously-published biomechanical studies, do not provide any evidence that controlled alpine and/ or cross-country skiing has a negative effect on the acetabular or femoral component of hip replacements. The results of the biomechanical studies indicate, however, that it is advantageous to avoid short-radius turns on steep slopes or moguls.”
PMID: 10919294 DOI: 10.1080/000164700317411825 

Since I’ve never done short-radius turns on steep slopes or skied moguls, this is good news.

There’s also the question, “What’s the point of life?” I’ve actually figured out the answer.

The point of life is to have a good time.


26 thoughts on ““You’re Going to Ski???!?”

  1. Excellent! So you won’t be doing acrobatic skiing, no “big air”. But there can be some lovely gliding around. I’m imagining that in some ways XC skiing on minimal slope might be more comfortable that walking at this point. I of course could be totally wrong about this, but with lesser impact, controlled range of motion, and different weight distribution, it seems a possibility. Have fun, even if its fantastical at this point.

    • IF we ever get enough snow this year, I’ll take out the waxless skis and give it a shot. I think — as you say — it could be easier and more comfortable than walking. Sometimes we get a substantial dump in May so I haven’t given up hope. I just have to ski down the alley, cross the street and I’m at the golf course, so if it doesn’t work, I can just walk home. 🙂

  2. Hey, I learned to ride AFTER spine surgery. It was impossible and it was forbidden and I did it anyway and I’ve never been sorry. Wherever you find hope, go for it.

    • It seems unlikely as the Goodwill was in San Diego but I think in a symbolic sense, anyway, they are my old skis and you are right. ❤ Especially the way the LEFT one is delaminated and it's my LEFT hip that needs surgery. I definitely think they're friends.

      • There’s some wonderful bonding going on there — doesn’t Goodwill transport goods from one place to another where they’ll sell more easily? Do talk to them nicely, and that golf course will make a wonderful cross country track for you!

        • I never thought of that but yeah, Goodwill does that. Maybe they ARE my skis. Oh man. This valley is pretty miraculous. It could be true. If it snows the nordic ski club will groom the golf course, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t need groomed trails and I know where the carts are allowed to go and I’ll just stick to that. I think the grooming is mostly to protect the greens, to keep skiers off of them. We just need some snow — so far this winter we haven’t even had 4 inches.

      • Wow — I didn’t realize that your area is as dry as ours — only 4 inches of snow? — in Colorado? That’s amazing!

        • It’s been a crazy winter. The average daily temps have been in the 40s/low 50s. My pansies from last summer haven’t fully gone dormant. Normally, in January, we have a week of -20 at night and 10 in the day. Not this year. Where I live is considered a desert (average annual rainfall 7 inches), but this year is crazy even for here. Up north they’ve had more snow, but still less than normal.

  3. Damn! Who would have guessed? Good for you, wax those babies up and feel more positive about the hip replacement now!

    Shame you can’t carve some gnarly moguls, though….


  4. Absolutely!

    If thus to look behind is all in vain,
    And all in vain to look to left or right,
    Why face we not our future once again,
    Launching with hardier hearts across the main,
    Straining dim eyes to catch the invisible sight,
    And strong to bear ourselves in patient pain?

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