1989 meet 2011: from skinny to fat skis

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Photo copyright Nathan A. Ferguson.

This is more about psychology than skiing. When I was 17 I bought a pair of the same skis that the U.S. Ski Team was using. The Rossignol 4S Kevlar was an iconic model in its day.

With the skinny waist, lightweight materials, vibration damping and catchy teal color, they pushed the edge of what straight skis could do. They were designed for steep slalom courses. In other words, they were perfect for the East Coast and its infamous bulletproof ice.

I remember how beautiful they looked unmounted at the ski shop. I pulled out a happy-looking pair in the 200 cm length. On my first run somewhere in the Poconos, I let my weight get too far back and they crossed at the front bindings. It catapulted me into the woods. The 4SK’s commanded respect.

Little did I know at the time that my brain wasn’t fully developed. As a male, I had another eight years for that to happen, according to psychological research. My friends and I were impulsive and always doing stupid things. It was all about speed and attempting mostly disastrous jumps. This was before helmets and terrain parks. How’d we survive?

We also had limitless energy from some secret source. As if we had miniature nuclear reactors within us, we’d rise at dawn, drive up to two hours, catch the first chair lift and ski until the last one. For some reason, we always changed clothes and made the last run in shorts despite the weather. Then we’d drive home and go out later. Those were the days. It couldn’t get any better than that.

In the spring of that same year, I was lucky enough to ski out West for the first time. I pointed the Rossies downward at Vail’s massive China Bowl and they quickly submarined into the sticky crud. Once again, I got catapulted.

As a Colorado resident now, ski design has gone through a transformation where western skis are getting fat and fatter to maximize float in powder. I’ve also taken up backcountry skiing where you have to provide your own propulsion upward. The Liberty Double Helix skis, designed here in Colorado, are my vehicles of choice. They can handle anything.

There’s a reason I’ve hung onto those old skis and it’s not for the ’80s parties at the local resorts. Every scratch and ding tells a story.

    • saraj
    • March 29th, 2017

    My landlord (he’s 71) has 3 pairs of these and still swears by them. I haven’t gotten to ski with him yet, but he assures me he loves the moguls, Isn’t a Senior, and I may not be able to keep up.

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