Over the last 10 years, these gloves have handled it all. From my 1st day on the job teaching kids from Sonora, Mexico how to ski and grab the dreaded rope tow at Mt. Lemmon; to my final year at Ski Valley teaching privates to UofA professors and their children. The $20 tips these gloves accepted at the end of a 2-hr lesson paid for the gloves many times over. How many 3-year old kids these friends have lifted up, brushed off and encouraged to give it another try I’ll never know. Even after a long day teaching, they kept with me by helping out a short-handed patrol perform final sweep on darkening runs which had long iced up. When other gloves would have been sweat soaked and chilling the hands within them, they kept me comfortable enough to enjoy the lengthening shadows of the pines and the silence of an empty run save the occasional call of my own voice, searching for any lost or hurt skiers left on the mountain. Their only reward was to be shucked and thrown into the back of the truck while I spent my tip money on 1’st beers and tequila at the Alpine in Summerhaven with the ski-school and patrol.
Of course, they’ve seen their share of powder days with me; protecting my wrists and palms from spindrift and wet powder alike. I can’t count how many tree limbs these guys have brushed aside and shielded me so I could pass relatively unscathed to enjoy more powder turns in the trees weeks after a storm passed. But a friendship is not defined by the good times; rather, they are tested and given opportunity to shine in adversity. More often than not, they hung it out with me on the less than nicer days; sweating in the early spring sun while skiing hockey-rink hard-pack, waiting in line for last chair just so I could get one more run in before the season ended. They’ve been there for me at 5 in the morning in late January with the wind-howling, the sky puking and the temp plummeting. These are the times when they kept me warm enough to head out when all common sense told me to go back to bed or quit early and drink a beer. They’ve been with me through my two ski injuries: hyper-extension of my left thumb from a stupid fall on a groomer of all places and a tree hit in the backcountry while skiing powder. Both times, I was unable to grip a beer in my left hand for several months. I’m talkin’ major trauma here folks.
They’ve also been with me through many changes: Graduation from College, buying my first house, OU winning a national championship, a move to DC, engagement, death of a family member, marriage, selling my first house, a move back to Arizona, buying my second house, two fiesta bowl losses by OU…in a row, buying my first new car. Quite simply, they’ve seen it all. They’ve seen me change both as a person and as a skier. They’ve gripped the steering wheel of three different vehicles clawing their way up an icy mountain road. They’ve been pinched, dirtied and cussed at while applying chains to these vehicles so that we could continue on. They’ve been abraded by freshly sharpened edges on no less than 6 pairs of my own skis, not to mention friends, family and student skis which I’ve carried. In every instance, they have never let me down. They’ve seen me transition from long and skinny skis, to short and shapely skis, to fat and floaty skis. Quite literally, they’ve lived through a revolution in ski design and have made turns through it all with nary a gripe.
Unfortunately, they have also skied their last season. The insulation just does not hold heat like it used to and all attempts at water-proofing the UV-battered gore-tex and brittle leather palms have not given me the reprieve I was hoping for. What was once black XCR fabric is now a sun-bleached purple. I was able to eke out one final season with them last year…..snif….please give me a moment here….I’m sorry to get like this….but the time has come to buy another pair. I feel horrible for letting my friend go since we’ve had so many good times together. I feel like Tom Hanks saying goodbye to Wilson while lost on the ocean….crying out, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry”.
To finally let go, I will be conducting a wake of sort’s, with the participants to be the 8 friends with whom I hope to choose just one to see me through this tough time and the coming years. I am inviting these friends from Backcountry.com over for a short stay at my house so that I may talk with them, get to know them and ultimately choose one to spend the next segment of my life with. I just hope one of them is up to the task. 10 years is a long time to ask of any one thing. I doubt the next pair will last me this long, however they need to understand what is expected of them. The other 6 will return via UPS back to Utah, at my expense of course, to wait for another soul searching for a soul-mate.
Rest assured, I will be sure to share with you photos and comments regarding the pro’s and con’s of each potential mate in case any of you are looking for a pal too. Here are the participants: