A moment of clarity...
Sometimes all it takes is seeing a heel. A familiar friend who inspired my dreams for years suddenly looked different. It wasn’t the light or location that had changed. Maybe it was me. It was definitely me. Had to be me. I could understand not fully appreciating what I was looking at in college, but after all of these years of living in Colorado, and learning to telemark ski; I was amazed it had taken me this long to see the heel.
It was free.
That wasn’t snow covering up an alpine binding. It was snow on the ski, and the shadow confirmed it. The badass backcountry skier that taunted me in college in Texas, and eventually got me to take a year off before never going to grad school, was in telemark gear!
The title is “Chute Out” at Ellery Lake Bowl, Yosemite. It also says Chouinard Equipment for Alpinists, Box 90, Ventura, CA 93002 and I had asked for it, as well as a tee-shirt, as a birthday present my senior year in high school. It was above my bed in college and has received a prime wall position ever since.
Chouinard Equipment was Yvon Chouinard’s company that created hex nuts and stoppers for rock climbers before the end of the 80’s. The legal landscape encouraged him to make the decision it was easier to sell his designs to Black Diamond Equipment, and concentrate on making clothing via his other up and coming company Patagonia.
Bela and Mimi Vadasz, Alpine Skills Institute is the photo credit, and for all these years I had looked upon it with admiration. The slope is steep and the granite walls behind the skier highlighted the snow being thrown from the skis due to a jump turn. The image captures the skier in flight. That moment the skis are pointed straight downhill while in rotation before landing in the sun draped snow.
It’s an athletic and dynamic movement which, when linked in succession, creates a wonderful vibration known as skiing. A vibration that is unique to each individual but still there are rules. Rules about snow consolidation, and I could tell it was a spring day. The snow tends to stick to skis during the spring and the skier was dressed in a light top with a baseball cap.
Visually however, the skis and the skier didn’t make sense, especially the back leg. For years I had put in my mind that the snow along the skier’s boots was packed on the boot and covering the binding.
An idea formed prior to my telemark physical education, it had stuck around, but, if that was the case, then the back ski tip should have been lower given the leg position.
Yet, the heel of the boot was clear, and that meant the skier was in a leather boot with a plastic cuff connected to their skis via telemark bindings. Yes indeed, the heel was free and my old friend was a telemark skier.
Now, twenty years later, the poster's patina includes corners riddled with holes and crumpled paper with torn edges that feel all so appropriate.
Yes, the heel is free.
Equipment enables the turn. No skis no turn.
Skis make the turn. Sidecut and flex make the ski, not to mention the torsional rigidity.
Bindings make the heel free. Freedom to walk and ski.
Boots connect ski to skier. Comfy slipper hopefully.