Nordic gear gets Japanese de-clutter treatment
By Mark Ollinger
It all started with a new purchase. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed an increasing number of classic Birkie skiers using skin skis instead of wax skis. My grip waxing skills are modest at best and my fish-scale wax-less skis were getting a bit long in the tooth. While on vacation in Vermont this August, I visited a ski shop and noticed a set of Madshus skin skis on sale for a great price. I decided to take the plunge. One thing that I did not notice is that the skis came with the NIS mounting plate already installed. The NIS pates are only compatible with the NNN style bindings and not the SNS system that I have on all of my other skis. That meant an additional investment in new ski boots as well. So much for the savings on the new skis.
My wife Debbie and I are empty nesters and have resolved to start to get the house ready for an eventual downsizing. I am working on her to end my forty year “expatriate” assignment in Illinois and return to Wisconsin or another midwestern state that is not teetering on the brink of financial disaster like Illinois. We’ve been in our current house for nearly twenty-five years and a fair amount of “stuff” has accumulated during that time. Since my retirement in June, I have been on a personal jihad to eliminate clutter and items that have served their purpose, but are no longer needed.
I don’t want to be a hypocrite, so my new skis and boots means that that some culling of the Nordic ski gear herd is in order. I decided to try to channel Japanese organizing sensei Marie Kondo. She gained fame through her best-selling book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and related Netflix series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”. I listened to the audiobook version about a year ago. Kondo has dubbed her method the KonMari method. Briefly it consists of gathering together all related items you own in one spot, evaluating each item, and keeping only the items that continue to ‘spark joy”. You also need to choose a place for everything. Her method shares a connection to Shintoism. Items whether expensive or inexpensive should be treated with respect. In her book, she tends treat inanimate objects as animate. For example, items that no longer spark joy should be “thanked” for the service or joy they provided in the past and then discarded or donated.
I decided to apply the KonMari method to my Nordic gear. The “everything in its place principle” was already practiced in the basement. The skis hang from the rafters, ski boots lined are lined up on a shelf, and waxing gear in a large storage bin. It was time to pull everything down and conduct a physical inventory.
The “Twelve Days of Christmas” could have served as the theme music for the gear review. I had most of the days covered with a couple of holes and a few duplicate days:
12 kick waxes (includes two tubes of klister)
11 ski ties (I must have lost one)
10 glide waxes/pastes
8 scrapers (two which are auto windshield scrapers)
7 pairs of skis
6 pairs of poles
6 pairs of ski boots
6 Scotch-brite pads
5 waxing brushes (two household brushes used before I invested in the real thing)
5 pairs of gloves/mittens
4 fanny packs
4 kick wax corks
3 Birkie hats
2 spare bindings (one NNN and one SNS)
2 waxing irons (one recently broken)
1 box of Start Grip tape
1 roll of Fiberlene
Kondo emphasizes picking up and holding each item. If it sparks joy you should keep it and if it doesn’t, you should thank it for the pleasure it once provided you.
I have a love-hate relationship with ski waxing. Prepping the skis gets me fired up about getting out on the snow, but I have to admit after nearly three decades of skiing, I am not very good at it. My collection of hard kick waxes received the KonMari treatment. The wax kit contains two identical Swix red kick waxes designed for skiing above freezing. Holding the wax, I have a hard time thanking it for past pleasures. Warm temperature grip wax experiences have been rare. Most of the time the kick zone iced up and snow hung on like super glue effectively turning the skis into long snow shoes. After enough waxing fails, the wax-less fish scales are the default skis on warm days. I doubt I’ll ever consume one of the Swix reds in my lifetime, let alone two. As David Spade used to say on Saturday Night Live “Buh-bye!”
Two tubes of klister inspire fear instead of gratitude. This liquid bubblegum is designed for warm temperatures and icy conditions when hard waxes can’t generate grip. It refuses to dry and is constantly trying to escape the tube designed to contain it. I have used the ice klister just once and that was ironically on my fish-scale skis skiing the Korteloppet. At the Birkie Expo, a waxing expert suggested running a small bead of ice klister in the center groove for what was expected to be an icy track on race day. The skis climbed well that day and I kept receiving reminders for the next two years as the klister deposited itself on the inside of the ski bag and remained sticky. An application of talcum powder to the inside of the bag did the trick. I am saying goodbye to this form of Nordic toxic waste without a thank you.
The ski roster needs some pre-season cut-downs. A classic skier of my modest ability needs no more than three pair of skis: wax, wax-less, and a set of “rock” skis. The new skin skis bring the total to seven pairs in the basement. The better fish-scale wax-less have been demoted to the “rock” ski role and the old rock skis have been cut from the squad. They are scratched, wide, and heavy. A neighbor donated them when he moved to Arizona. Over the years they provided plenty of slow, but stress-free skiing on thin snow cover. I can honestly say to them “Thank you letting me abuse you on gravel, sticks, and dog poop.” Another waiver wire victim might be a candidate for the West Bend Historical Society. The skis belonged to former Olympian and United States Ski and Snowboard Association director Luke Bodensteiner. Bodensteiner grew up in near my home town. One of my brothers, through a friend of a friend, acquired the skis and they eventually found their way into my basement. At 205cm the aging Karhu skate skis are unusually long. I haven’t met Bodensteiner, but he might have had an alternate career in basketball. Not being a skater, I tried kick wax on them and had reasonable results on flat tracks, but climbing proved challenging. In its next lifetime, I hope this set finds its way into the hands of a tall person who can skate on them.
One ski set is intended for my wife. REI had a year-end sale about five years ago and I picked up a pair for her in the hope that she would catch the Nordic bug or Birkebeiner Flu. Thus far, she has remained immune. The skis have the original storage wax on them. Hope springs eternal and I’ll hold onto these.
The new NNN compatible only skis have contributed to a logjam of boots and a quandary. My older skis have SNS bindings that are not compatible with the new boots. Changing out all of the SNS bindings will be additional cost and effort, but in the long run it seems that the NNN bindings are the way to go and will simplify things. In the short run, I will not change out any bindings, but the boot inventory needs a review. My original set of NNN boots technically fit the new skis, but they are in rough shape and don’t mate particularly well to the new footplate, so out they go. I used to think that my foot size was a 43 in the European size chart. That was until I skied my second Birkie and lost a right toenail when my foot swelled a bit and kept jamming into the toe box of the boot. For shorter ski sessions the boots fit fine, but I like having toenails and have since moved up a size. These Fischer boots are in good shape and I hope the next owner has slightly smaller feet.
All of the cross-country items were subjected to the KonMari treatment. Some sparked joy and I rationalized hanging on to them. Others have been moved to the donation pile along with other unrelated household items. Some items are bound for the landfill. Debbie and I don’t qualify as minimalists yet, but we are making progress after decades of accumulating. I am on outdoor retailer email list and they are offering some great deals on ski wax. Time to stock up!