The dads of winter
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Mike speaks aloud, arranging ski-tuning steps in his mind. “I hot scraped, and put the wax on. That was at 5:00 so I don’t think I have to leave it on all night. At 9:00 I can go down and buff and wax and put on overlay.”
I ask when he will sharpen, and he says he already did.
“I might put on some Sera F between his runs,” he says, and looks out seriously from under his eyebrows. “That could be two-tenths right there.”
He means two-tenths of a second.
We are midway through four days of day-tripping to Vail, where our son Teddy is one of nine 13- to 15-year-olds from the Roaring Fork Valley participating in the Junior Olympics for the Rocky Mountain and the Central regions, with 90 boys and 70 girls from many states.
The practice runs and races are unbelievably tight. In one practice, for example, Teddy was .8 of a second behind one of his friends ” and that meant 25 places.
Each day we bring and fetch skis, in complex sequences. Many kids here tune their own, but others are still learning. For this premier event, Mike is just doing it all.
Arriving in Vail for the first race, we saw Teddy’s teammate Kevin with his parents. When I chuckled that Mike had been tuning at 5 a.m., Sandy said Glenn was doing the same thing ” at 4:15. Mike sometimes slices his palms testing edges; nicks fleck Glenn’s fingers.
At a ski race in Monarch last year, a squash court at an old wooden ski lodge was turned over to tuning. A dense forest of dads, with a few kids and indeed several knowledgeable women, labored over portable tables, brushing and ironing, discussing waxes and temperatures ” air and snow surface. After dinner a father returned, while his friends hooted from the promenade about time limits.
Until this year our friend John mostly ski-tuned for his son George. This year George’s coach has stressed self-reliance, but ironically John can barely relinquish the job. He fears George won’t do it quite right; George thinks he can. George’s mother, Linda, says, “Last night Kegan’s father said, ‘Oh, I let Kegan do his training skis, but I do all his race skis,’ and John nearly went ’round the bend.”
One acquaintance has set up a tuning room in the crawl space beneath his house, with a trapdoor entrance and tools hanging from the ceiling. Here he tuned skis for his daughter, an exceptional skier, for years, and when she began traveling more, he told friends, “I’m in withdrawal!”
We drive back and forth; we call and see what Teddy needs. Mike meets him at the starts, and then carries his coat and snow pants down when Teddy peels to his speed suit. I marvel in some dismay that the boys are like little princes.
That first race day, Mike worried all morning.
“I should have left ’em sharp,” he muttered.
“They were sharp and now they aren’t?” I asked, confused.
“I buzzed ’em down” ” for warm, grabby snow.
On the slopes he said, “Hope his edges are right. He might want ’em sharper.”
But Teddy had a good run. As we milled around at the finish, Mike said, “How were your skis? I think they were just sharp enough but not too sharp.”
At one finish, a disappointed boy shouts at his father, “You’re not waxing anymore!” (The boy turns out to have a great result, and presumably mellows out.)
Now Mike stands in the falling snow between the two runs and crayons in overlay, corks and brushes it.
Each morning the boys receive fresh skis, as if tuned by elves; we bear food and raiment. And I wonder a little.
But each time the announcer reads a racer’s answer to the bio question, “Who has been the greatest influence on your life?” the youth has said, “My parents” ” or “My dad.”
Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at email@example.com.
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