The Great Yank-Euro Ski-Off

Part 3: Throwing a Shoe

OBJECTIVE:
To see who has the most coordination and wherewithal in a compromised situation.

LOSING A SKI ("THROWING A SHOE") symbolizes the varied disasters that befall out-of-bounds skiers. The unpredictable snowpack of the backcountry—especially breakable crust—routinely yanks skis off. Avalanches can strip a victim's board, boot, sock, and even pants, so getting out alive can come down to one-ski maneuvering.

We, the unfilmed and unsponsored, biff immediately after throwing a ski. We lack the pro's catlike agility and superhuman quadriceps strength. For a normal person, it's a considerable challenge to ski on one plank down a groomed run, let alone through a steep black diamond with egg-carton bumps—like the run we've chosen for today, on the skier's-left side of Whistler Bowl.

I expect Black and Perret will ski a fair length, and they do. As the bumps soften in the spring sun, Black wiggles downhill on a 185-centimeter B4 from Rossignol, his longtime ski sponsor. He stands tall and attempts to ward off wayward deflections with quick flicks of his poles. He'd normally bend his knee more, but it's encased in the plastic brace he's worn since he tore up his ACL in 1996 in an accident he suffered while guiding in Alaska. Black dances down the slope until an impudent hump tosses him on his caboose about 70 yards from the start.

Perret clips into a 201cm Stormrider DP, a ski that DP designed for the Swiss manufacturer Stöckli. Skiers testify that it's the stiffest ski on the planet, but Perret has no trouble bending it to his whims. He sinks his 198 pounds into the ski and fires downhill. With his poles spread wide for balance, he absorbs shocks with his thick, coil-sprung leg. All told, Perret travels some 30 yards farther than Black before he topples sideways, the winner.

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