Ryan James Leclerc
Posted February 12th, 2011
I thought that Bertha was a fine name for the tall and curvaceous snowwoman that my lovely wife and I built in the middle of the field at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center on New Year’s Eve. It was she who suggested the name, and it just stuck. Bertha is my grandmother’s name, but only a few people know this to be true, so please keep it a secret. I’ve always called her Grandma. My mother and her siblings have always called her Mom, and everyone else has always called her Beth, which is her middle name. As far as her given name, Bertha, she hates it, and if she knew that I was sharing this sensitive information with the seven or eight people who read this column, she would be quite unhappy with me. But I personally feel that Bertha is a perfectly nice name, in that traditional, old-fashioned kind of way, and it is a name that has gotten a bad rap over the years, if you ask me. Bertha the snowwoman didn’t seem to mind it, nor did Bernie or Bert, her snowman and snowchild respectively, who we built to keep her company.
Building a snow family in the middle of the field at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center on New Year’s Eve was not something we had planned on doing, but as is the case with a lot of families, it just sort of happened. We had instead planned on reliving our prior New Year’s Eve, when before the big bonfire at midnight, we went snowshoeing around the lake with shiny headlamps and a sparkling bottle of champagne. Last New Year’s Eve was a cold and snowy night, and the lake was as frozen as the look in a frozen fish’s eye, and our trek around the lake was as safe as it was wonderful.
This year, however, the weather was totally different. It was unseasonably warm, well above freezing anyway, and after a few slushy steps beyond the perimeter of the shoreline, we decided that trekking out on a lake that may or may not be completely frozen on a night that was as dark as a pocket wasn’t the best way to end the year.
The warm weather and the rain that fell overnight didn’t do great things for the conditions in the morning, but fortunately, thanks to enough of a base and a lot of good strong snow harvesting work performed by the Craftsbury trail crew, there was still enough snow on the trails to go for a nice ski. Thankfully, they didn’t harvest the snow from our snow family—they were still standing—although not entirely intact. Bertha had lost an eye and Bert’s mouth, made of a twig, had started to droop a bit. It only took a little bit of work to fix them up for their first full day together as a family. With our parenting work done, it was now time to head out for our second annual New Year’s Day tour.
Unlike last year, I thought I was prepared for waxing my skis, having brought all eight of the Swix kick waxes with me. I was determined to avoid last year’s frustrating situation, where I had all of the Swix hard waxes except for one, Violet Special, which of course turned out to be the wax of the day. I had no choice but to buy, at full retail, a container of Violet Special from the Craftsbury ski shop. For a retail junker who works at a ski shop, buying a container of ski wax at full price from another ski shop is a painful and shameful thing to have to do, and not something you would want to do twice.
Thanks to rain and 40-degree weather, I was once again unprepared for the kind of snow that we were dealing with, which was soft and wet and melting away before our very eyes. When the snow is like that, hard kick waxes are useless, even if you have all eight of them. The only stuff that works when the snow is in such a dreadful state is klister, a nasty, messy substance that comes in a tube and needs to be spread on your skis like fine pâté on a baguette. I of course didn’t have any klister, but because I am an expert ski tech with expert skills and a vast amount of expert knowledge, I was able to form the expert conclusion, based on my years and years of experience with waxing skis, that not having brought any klister, all I had to do was simply purchase a tube of klister from the Craftsbury ski shop. Despite reaching this conclusion, I refused to shamefully buy another product at full retail and decided to just head out with the kick wax that was still on my skis from last winter, whatever it was.
It was a foolish, bull-headed decision and I of course had absolutely no kick at all and one thing you especially notice when your skis have absolutely no kick at all is an uphill climb. Skiing downhill feels the same, but trying to ski uphill with no kick at all is like trying to roller skate up a waterslide, only not as much fun. We did an 8K loop, and although it may be impossible according to the law of physics, I am convinced that the entire loop, from point A to point A, was uphill.
This reminds me of a common metaphor for life, where at times it can seem like an uphill battle. To extend the metaphor, one easy way to gain traction in life is to not be too bull headed.
Ryan James Leclerc has worked in retail longer than you. Although he has recently made the move from the sales floor to the office of Onion River Sports, he likes to reminisce about the good old days using the present tense narrative. He lives in Burlington with his lovely wife Mckalyn. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.