MIDDLE AGED SPREAD: THE MISERY OF MAY
By Sam Masters
Autumn is bad. For the serious snow enthusiast this nether period is a time of almost existential unease and longing.
Even using a word like ‘existential’ makes me a little queasy at this time of the year. French philosophy might have some of the answers in Summer but come May it is pretty much useless.
The worst part of the cold-shoulder season isn’t the wholesale deciduous warfare or the tedious wait for opening day, but enduring tales of Northern Hemisphere ski trips told by frenemies, acquaintances and members of your extended family. Save yourself the mental effort of listening: the snow was always ‘epic’ and they were inevitably the first foreigner to set foot in Tajikistan/Japan/Aspen. Your brother-in-law somehow makes transit at Changi Airport sound like the chase scene from Mad Max.
At this hideous time of the year you just want to sit in front of a blazing fire drinking gluwein out of a bucket and dipping chocolate biscuits in a mixture of hot fudge and caramel. Instead you’re meant to get snow fit. The gym long ago lost its appeal: every time you move to a new weight machine your high-tech active wear slurps up litres of other people’s sweat. The gym offers all the risks of an extra-marital affair, just without the sex.
Surely mountain biking is the ultimate snowsports off-season training? Mountain biking is God’s way of saying you are making too much money: a credit-card arms race where your safety is largely dependent on how much cash you spent on your suspension. The trails get just slick enough with fallen leaves to make you realise why our American cousins call Autumn, Fall.
It’s a relief when it begins to snow. You race around the house collecting all the gear you should have looked after over summer. The battery in your avalanche transceiver has exploded. The bases of your skis look like a diorama of the Battle of the Somme. You didn’t know that fungus could blossom until you packed your boots away last October still a little damp. “Maintenance” is surely the least sexy word in the English language. It somehow manages to simultaneously convey uncertain and increasing expense, tedium, plain fiddly imperfection, and awareness of both your lack of time and knowledge of polyethylene base material. Maybe some new kit will make everything ok?
Like most readers I detest advertorial dressed up as journalism. So I certainly won’t be bandying about a bunch of brand names. When visiting one of Canterbury’s home-grown ski manufacturers, however, I was pleasantly surprised to find exactly the skis I wanted. After instructing the ski maker to make them to my specifications. In truth most ski manufacturers now turn out decent boards; the challenge is to find the ones that suit you best.
I’m not going to suggest for a second that the empty pit in the centre of your soul caused by the miseries of Autumn can be erased with the purchase of shiny new gear. Just about the only bearable thing about May and early June, however, is the delivery of your Chill Pass and mounting bindings on your new ride. Winter can’t come soon enough…
Photos: G Browne, S Masters, Kingswood