Gnarly Digits – A Ski Patroller’s Feet

April 07, 2014 D'Arcy McLeish

It’s 4:20am.  So early. But we’re still in bed, counting the seconds before that awful alarm of his goes off. It’s tough to sleep this time of year. We usually get a few hours in before the mild pressure of the blankets brings stabs of pain to our little extremities. Soon it will be time to get up. After that there will be an hour or so of bliss before he rams us into those plastic prisons he wears for work every day. Until then, hopefully we’ll be put into some comfy sandals or softer shoes with those big thick socks of his. Not perfect, but better than what we’ll be spending the day in.

Don't Be Fooled. Underneath Even Ms. Mancuso's Boots Lie A Pair Of Gnarled Little Oak Trees - Ski Racer Feet.  Photo - Lange Boots
Don’t be fooled. Underneath even Ms. Mancuso’s Boots lie a pair of gnarled little oak trees – ski racer feet.
Photo – Lange Boots

We’re feet, you see; the left and right feet of our human host, who unfortunately decided that making a career as a ski patroller was a good idea. Good for him, bad for us…especially at this time of year. Spring is brutal for a ski foot. Long days, severe temperature swings, and free flowing water and sweat make for endless misery. But we digress. Right now, we’re still enjoying the bliss of being in bed. BEEP BEEP BEEP. Why does that alarm have to be so LOUD! Is that really necessary, you ignorant idiot? Can’t you see your feet are already awake and thinking of ways to avoid the coming day? At least it’s Friday so we’ll have three days off, and that will be a welcome rest.

As soon as we hit the floor, and believe me, when he swings out of bed, we HIT the floor, we’re crammed into some tight ski socks. Awesome. We creak and wince our way down the stairs, and do our best to work the morning kinks out of all our little bones, muscles and tendons. What we wouldn’t give for a world where walking was outlawed and gravity didn’t exist. After breakfast, he heads to the door and we look over at all the footwear and wonder what today’s choice will be. Sandals, flip flops (the holy grail for feet), sneakers? He looks at the sandals but wavers…ok…no sandals…instead…COWBOY BOOTS? Really? You’re going to cram us into those ridiculous things? WTF!?!? Today is not the day to make a fashion statement, cowboy. Still, they’re better than ski boots.

Even My Feet Can Enjoy This... Photo - Rand Lincks
Even my feet can enjoy this…
Photo – Rand Lincks

After a warm, fairly smooth drive to work, he parks the car and walks us into the ski patrol locker room. This is our place of dread. Within these halls of vertical steel boxes lies the enemy of every human foot – the ski boot. Two minutes after being there he’s jamming us into a pair of ugly, hard shell, plastic prison cells with liners as stiff as concrete and all the comfort of a hole in the ground. Even the custom footbeds are brutal and serve only to remind us of our sensitive pressure points throughout the day. After walking outside, we see that this morning, we’re going up the hill on a snowmobile. That means avalanche control. More good news. Freezing temps, loud explosions, boot packing and side-stepping all mixed into a sweaty, soupy, spongy mess that blankets us in a wreath of despair. We’ll semi dry out after a late breakfast and then spend the remainder of the day cooking like a pair of sausages on a barbecue.

By day’s end, we’re done. We’ve had our toes jammed, bumped and crushed in these awful boots for close to eleven hours and it’s taken its toll. Our human host, Mr. Ski Patroller Man, is done as well. We can feel his hips, back and knees singing their own tunes of sorrow. All of us are in pain now. Every bone spur, tendon, toenail and muscle in us has collectively decided that today will be their day to scream. By sweep time, even walking is a nightmare. As we start down the hill, Patroller Man starts trading pain for speed. The faster he goes, the more it hurts. Moguls become mountains but we roll with him, knowing that the higher the speed, the quicker we’ll get to the locker room and the faster we’ll get these god damn boots off.

The Best Part Of About My Summer Job? I Don't Have To Wear Ski Boots.  Photo - Angela Percival
The best part of about my summer job? I don’t have to wear ski boots.
Photo – Angela Percival

After what seems like a marathon through an active combat zone, we arrive at the locker room. Our feeling of relief is tempered by thoughts of those ridiculous cowboy boots. How will we make it home wearing those bloody things? But then, at his locker, bliss arrives in a pair of battered old flip flops. YES!!! He brought them. As he takes off our socks and we gulp in air through every pore, we thank the gods that he brought flip flops. Thongs are a ski foot’s best friend. You can’t wear socks with them and they offer comfort, fresh air and utter bliss. As we walk to the car, everything settles. We can expand and stretch and breathe. Even the drive home sees Patroller Man give us a little cool air to blow on us and get some circulation to those gnarly little digits.

Forty minutes later, we arrive home. After a much needed shower (or a bath if you’re really lucky), it’s soon time for bed. For ski feet, bedtime is happy time and tonight, with three days off, we collapse into a dreamless sleep, hoping beyond hope that tomorrow the world will be one of flip flops and limited gravity.

For all of you ski feet out there, may you curse your skier, wear flip flops every day and hope your human host never, ever, decides to work in ski boots. 

Be safe, ski hard.