The Joys of Wood Skis
by Michael Edelman, OYB Bureau Correspondent
I fell in love with cross country skiing during the 1968 Winter Olympics. As a young teenager watching those skiers glide silently along, I imagined myself doing the same, through local woods and parks.
My first skis were a pair of US Army Surplus skis—wide maple planks to which I attached cable bindings. I skied them that first winter on a local golf course, where I’d sneak in after dark. I spent my off-ski hours looking through catalogs, learning about multi-layer construction, lignostone edges, and exotic balsa-cored racing skis. Those Army skis were heavy, but they taught me a lot about applying tar and choosing wax.
The next winter I saved up my paper route money and bought a pair of Asnes Turskis—217cm long general touring skis that took me through a couple more years of touring parks and golf courses. Then I was seduced by the Dark Side, in the form of a pair of new Fisher Europa 77s with a plastic base—no more tarring!—and aluminum edges. I sold the Turskis to my pal John, and gleefully took to the woods with my new techo-wonder skis.
And I almost immediately regretted it. The plastic base and edges were nice, but compared to the old Turskis, the 77s were dogs. They just didn’t have the spring or the glide of the old skis, and so the next year they were up for sale, replaced by the first of a long string of purchases that have slowly filled a corner of my basement.
Then three or four years ago I was wandering around a used sporting goods store when I spotted a pair of 220mm Asnes Tur-Langrenns—the lighter cousin of my Turskis—for $29. “You could hang ’em over your fireplace,” the store owner helpfully offered. The heck I would! Even though it wasn’t much of a year for snow I bought them, if for no other reason than to keep them out of the hands of someone who’d treat these wonderful skis as mere décor. The next winter I waxed them up and took them out for a short tour in a local park, and it was 1972 all over again.
Since then I’ve picked up another pair of Tur-Langrens, and a pair of Sundins touring skis as well; wood skis are a bit more prone to breakage than modern composite skis, and it’s nice to have a spare pair in reserve. I don’t ski them too often; I save them for quiet tours, when I’m skiing by myself, and I know I won’t be breaking trail or running the chance of breaking them in a fall on a tricky downhill run.
Looking around the web, I see that I’m not alone in my affection for classic wooden cross country skis. There’s even a web site (http://www.woodenskis.com) devoted to fans of these skis, and the owner sells good quality skis for anywhere from $75 to $95, with prices going up every year. I think I might have to lay in a few extra pair, just to be on the safe side.
And maybe a few sets of bamboo poles, too.