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The Most Important Purchase of My Life

Written by Patrick Scott, Fresh Air Experience Community Outreach Coordinator

In 2007 I moved to Peterborough. That year, I had quit my office job to go to grad school. I had also quit smoking. As many half-marathoners will attest, the best way to get over smoking is exercise. So I started jogging. Then it snowed and jogging was miserable. I was also miserable.

One beautiful day, shortly after the first snowfall of the year, I went out for a walk with my wife on a multi use pathway near our house. Suddenly, out of the long afternoon sun emerged the  most magnificent man I had ever seen, speeding towards us on a pair of skis. The speed, grace, and sheer power left my jaw hanging open in awe. I didn’t entirely know what I was looking at, but I knew I needed to do it.

I cross country skied before, and even had my Dad’s old wooden classic skis at my house. I tried using them as a running replacement. They felt nothing like what I had just seen. So the week after Christmas, I went to Wildrock Outfitters down the block from my house and started asking a sales rep - Wayne - questions. I quickly learned that I would be looking at $650 to get kitted out with my own set of skate skis.  As a grad student this amount seemed unconscionably luxurious. I took a deep breath and did it anyways.

They weren’t anything fancy. A pair of Salomon Equipe skate boots, and Active 8 skate skis. I was immediately in love.

The path near my house was soon covered with too much snow to use my new skis. I went in search of grooming. The excellent Kawartha Nordic ski trails north of Peterborough soon became my favourite place. I didn’t own a car, and used the club’s online forums to find a ride. A lovely little family drove me up to the trails every weekend that winter. I spent a lot of those weekends landing face first in the snow as I found my bearings in a new sport. A lesson helped. Practice helped. The awesomeness that is skiing helped more than anything else.

When my degree was done, and I was planning more grad school, a city where I could ski was probably too significant a factor in making plans for what was now a family with a small child. Ottawa ticked a lot of other boxes, and so it was that I discovered skiing in Gatineau Park.

I started introducing everyone I could think of to the sport. I wanted everyone to share the joy that skiing brings me. My friend Matt and I had a standing date every weekend. I would buy sandwiches at DiRienzo’s, he would provide the ride, and we would ski into a day use cabin in the park and discover a new trail. Skiing also became something I would do on my own, a way to gather my thoughts, and recharge mentally while wiping myself out physically.
One day in my first year here I decided to ski from P3 to the Champlain lookout and back. I will never forget arriving at the lookout for the first time, or the incredible sense of accomplishment I felt as my rubbery legs crossed the bridge at St Raymond.

I got better and better at skiing. One day I even saw someone look at me with the same sense of awe I had when I first saw someone skate skiing. All on the pair of silver skis I bought in Peterborough.

Eventually, as skiers do, I bought some better skis. I bought some better boots. I walked into a store called Fresh Air Experience and picked up some crazy light poles. When I started instructing, my old skis became my teaching skis. When I slowly realized that I did not like academic work, I knew that I loved skiing, and that I wanted to incorporate that into what I did in a day. I got a job at a ski shop, and got even more skis. My old skis became rock skis.

Finally, last year, for the first winter since I bought them, I did not use my first set of skate skis. They sat in the garage of the house we purchased on the edge of Gatineau Park so that I could be close to skiing. The rule around here is that if you don’t use something for a year, it’s probably time to get rid of it.

Last winter, when so many people are looking to try the sport for the first time, and there are so few options available, it seemed like the right thing to do was to  find them a good home.

Realistically, both skis and boots are near the end of their useful life. There are some cracks on the sidewalls, and the tails are pockmarked with holes from my first winter skiing, when I couldn’t even plant my poles in the right spot.

I can trace most of my major life decisions over the last 13 years back to the purchase of these skis. Especially the decisions that make me happy. Seeing them go marks an ending of sorts. Hopefully they help someone else discover something they love too.