WARREN’S WORLD: Dreaming of Snow

first_img Email Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. Until the early 1950s, a summer without skiing was a lot different than it is today. Summer, in earlier times, meant frequent trips to the garage to check on whether or not your skis had warped or twisted in the heat. The skis were all made out of laminated wood and didn’t have plastic bottoms. To try and prevent the warping, some of my friends would take their metal edges off and cement the screws in the wood when they put them back on. Other people would put copper rivets in some of the edge screw-holes. And almost everyone I knew scraped the finish off of the top of the ski and re-varnished the wood. We would patiently rub the tops down with steel wool between coats of varnish. We looked forward to riding the rope tows. We planned trips to resorts within an all-night drive of where we lived. It would be 1953 or ’54 before the minimum wages were more than 25 cents an hour, so a $2 rope tow ticket cost some people a day’s salary. After a summer of surfing every weekend, some people had their entire winter ski trip schedule mapped out. If it snowed in the San Bernardino or San Gabriel mountains of Southern California, we would, of course, drive there. Mount Baldy in the San Gabriel Mountains is more than 10,000 feet high and its steep sides offer some truly spectacular skiing when they get snow. In the late ‘40s we had to climb up for every turn we made going down. At the time, there was no plastic on the bottom of your skis. We laboriously put on layer after layer of lacquer as a running surface and then guessed at what kind of wax to put on when it finally snowed. The warmer the snow, the softer the wax, was about all I knew. I used to just watch the hotshots and then borrow their wax. I was a weekend behind and sometimes I climbed up and walked back down with big globs of snow stuck to the wrong wax on the bottom of my skis. The laminated wood skis had almost no torsional rigidity, no matter how many coats of varnish you put on them. As you skied across an icy patch, the tip of the ski would twist off toward the valley below and so you leaned further forward so you could put more pressure on the tips of your ski. Arguments were for and against long poles and short poles. When I went to a friend’s house to watch him varnish his skis, or he came to mine, we got in lengthy and complicated discussions about camber, rigidity, and placement of bindings. At the end of the ski season we had an eight-foot-long piece of two-by-four lumber that we clamped onto the tips and tails of our skis. There was another smaller piece of wood under the binding to keep the camber in the ski. We took very good care of our pile of stuff because skis already cost as much as $24 a pair for the top-of-the-line model. I spent an entire winter in Sun Valley skiing every day on a pair of $21.95 Northland “seconds” that I got in trade for painting a sign at Pete Lane’s ski shop. They were seconds because they had a knot in the wood up near the tip and were less than aesthetically perfect. But they skied perfectly for me. It was not until the winter of 1948-49, when the French National Ski Team showed up in Sun Valley with offset edges that we started chiseling out the wood above our edges so that we too could have offset edges. Nevermind that we didn’t know what they were for and that the French also sharpened their edges. The enjoyment for us was just as much as it is today for the many skiers, who when they get to their computer, with a few strokes, make all of the arrangements for their ski vacation, including condo, airplane tickets, rental car, lift tickets and rental equipment that is all tuned up, waxed and ready to go. You have to do it that way today because everyone is so busy texting each other instead of sitting around in a garage working on their equipment and reliving the past and planning the future. I’m lucky I enjoyed it then and I can hardly wait until I start looking for the snow reports. last_img read more