Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Lifetime of Skis

Yours truly blows off a day of graduate school for turns at Crystal Mountain, Washington.
Skis: K2 KVCs.  Boots: Salomon SX-91 (yeah, rear entry).  Poles: Kerma "corrective angle."
Yes, that is a flourescent pink turtleneck.  Jealous?  April 1991.
As I was going through some old photos the other day I thought of two things.  First, I'm really glad I didn't grow up in the digital photography era.  Some things are best left to hazy memories or personal photo albums.  Pity you youngsters out there.  Second, I can remember every pair of skis that I've owned, although a couple of the model names remain a bit unclear.  Below is my lifetime in skis.  Feel free to comment and share some of your most memorable boards.

Trek XC skis (circa 1979): My first "boards" were skinny skis as my parents took up cross-country skiing when I was in my early teens.  I can't remember the model, but they were grey, nowax, and very slow.  At least that was my excuse as I tried to keep up with my friends.  

"Fiberglass" skis with cubco bindings (circa 1981):  It's a damn shame I can't remember the make and model of these skis, but in my mid teens I skied a few days on the local hill with a pair of "fiberglass" skis (you know they were old if that's what they were called) with cubco bindings I got from a friend.  The boots barely came up above the ankles.  Yeah, they were an antiquated death trap, even in 1981, but after a few years on skinny skis, they were a dream.  Plus, if you use your imagination, the cubcos look a bit like a Dynafit tech binding, but weighing ten times as much.  

Source: retro-skiing.com
K2 skis (circa 1983): At some point I sprung for a pair of new skis with modern bindings (ah, DIN standard) and boots (yup, rear entry).  I can't remember the model, but it's irrelevant. These were intermediate skis, stacked deep and sold cheap.  At the time (and this is probably the case today), K2 would crank out a bazillion of these skis and slap different top skins and model names on them so that shops carried their own model.  They were real noodles, but at the time I couldn't carve a decent turn if my life depended on it.    

K2 Slalom 66 (3 pair, circa 1985-1988):  By the end of high school, I figured I needed a better ski, but was worried that a full-bore slalom ski might be too much for my rudimentary style, so I opted for K2's "soft" slalom ski.  K2 has made a number of great slalom skis.  This wasn't one of them.  Plus I broke 3 pair in 3 years.  Fortunately they had a good return policy.

K2 712 (circa 1986):  These were actually older than the K2 Slalom 66s, but I picked them up used to have a decent pair of rock skis.  That they were and the served me well for many years.  Even on good days, I often skied them rather than the Slalom 66s.

K2 Unlimited VO (circa 19879): Old schoolers out there will remember that there was no such thing as a one-quiver ski in the late 1980s.  K2 tried to change that with the Unlimited VO, a ski that I absolutely loved.  You can still pick up a pair here.

K2 KVC (pictured in top photo, circa 1988):  Being an eastern skier, the Unlimited VO was all fine and dandy, but I needed something for bulletproof ice.  Hence I sprung for the stylishly pink accented K2 KVC.  I also have great memories of these boards as it was during this period that I began to get my ski legs and become a stronger technical skier.  

K2 UVO (circa 1989): I really can't remember precisely when I got these, but they were the followup to the Unlimited VO and thus an obvious replacement.  They did ski well, but they had the worst name and some crappy pastel graphics.  They were my "powder" ski (or more aptly put crud ski) when I first moved to Seattle.  Eventually I put a pair of Silveretta 404 bindings on them and they became my first backcountry setup.

K2 5500 (circa 1991): I won these in a raffle.  When I worked in a ski shop during college, my boss once told me they were a good ski for middle age men.  Perhaps this biased me as I hated them.  I tried them twice, found them squirrelly, and dumped them like a bad habit.

Salomon 2S (circa 1992): Salomon began making skis in the early 90s and I switched to their 2S, a so-called "round turn slalom ski" (at the time, slalom racing had digressed into an ugly "J-turn style that I thought was an abomination).  I eventually moved the Silveretta 404s to them and, in addition to Cascadian tours, I actually skied these a few times in the Wasatch backcountry, but don't tell anyone.

Rossignol 4G (circa 1993): I picked these up used from a friend for the express purpose of skiing très grande vitesse.  The purple top skin matched my one piece too :-).

Salomon 2S (circa 1994): I opted in for another pair.  I had these for a very very long time as I began to tour more and ski resorts less and was too cheap to pony up for new boards for the few days a year I was running laps.

Salomon SuperMountain (circa 1999): After years of badmouthing "fat" skis, I finally bought a pair. Yeah, "fat" at the time was a 78 mm waist, but after years on narrow, stiff slalom boards, I felt invincible on these skis.

K2 Piste Stinx (late 1990s): Sanity prevailed in the mid-to-late 90s when I bought these skis, put tele bindings on them and became a backcountry paramarker, dumping the heavy metal Silveretta 404s.  And not a moment too soon.

Rossignol (unknown model, late 1990s): I picked up a used pair of rossis with tele bindings at a swap when I was suffering from some sort of telemark affliction.  I never liked 'em, but fortunately they were cheap.  I think they ended up in the garbage can.  I couldn't even give 'em away.

K2 World Piste (early 2000s): Another tele setup for paramarking.  This one with an 80 mm waist!  I covered a lot of miles on these boards.

Dynastar Legend 8000s
(circa 2005): I wasn't skiing much at the resorts during the early 2000s, but got these as my son advanced and I wanted something with which to carve the groomers with him.  This was a really smooth carver and the first pair of boards I owned at sub 180 cm.  My back loved them!

Karhu Jak BC (circa 2006):  Of all the skis I've owned, I think this one was the most underappreciated by fellow skiers.  I'm not sure why it didn't take off as the board of choice for Wasatch tours.  It was midfat, lightweight (7.3 lbs), and skied like a dream in just about anything but upside down powder.  Drew Hardesty of the Utah Avalanche Center liked them so much that last year he told me to give him a call if I ever want to get rid of them.

Rossignol Phantom SC97 (circa 2009): As my son began to explore the mountain in all conditions, I decided to go a wee bit wider, opting for the 97 mm wide Rossi Phantom.  I have a ton of good memories of these skis primarily because of all the powder skiing I did on them with my son.  This is still my main alpine ski, although admittedly an upgrade is needed.

Dynafit Manaslu (2012): I've never been into big wide backcountry boards.  The Manaslu is a good modern option for old-school skiers given its "modest" width (95 mm waist) and sub 7 lb weight.  I like these boards, but back problems have thusfar limited my mileage on them.

Top 5 Best Memories (chronological order): K2 Unlimited VO, K2 KVC, Salomon SuperMountain, K2 World Piste, Karhu Jak BC


  1. Wow Jim. That's quite a large number of skis for your ski history. I have owned around 10 pair of skis and still have 8 of them. But, I only ride 5 (including rock skis). Do you still have tele bindings on your touring skis? Or, have you switched to AT bindings? At the end of this last ski season, I purchased a pair of Volkl Kiku skis and put a pair of Marker Baron AT bindings on them. I'm looking forward to using them.

  2. Dr Jim, Dollar to doughnuts nothing in your modern era are even close to being as long as those poster boy K2's

  3. K2 skis (circa 1983): At some point I sprung for a pair of new skis with ... rossignolskis.blogspot.com