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I wondered if it was what dying felt like.

On a frozen remote road my pickup had broken free of its earthly bonds and I was alone and adrift. The approaching snowbank was the inviting white light. There was nothing to do.

In the movies this is where someone yells "CLEAR!" and high voltage through the heart catapults the victim back to mortal existence. In my case it was the snowbank catapulting the truck. Before we came to rest I decided never to be a Hollywood stunt man and wondered if the survival kit was still behind the seat – the one with the useless space blanket, useless "multipurpose" tool, and inedible energy bar (which is useful because it can function as a hammer).

On the upside, the four-wheel drive was working - all four wheels were turning nicely. On the downside, none of them were touching the ground. An hour later, still chipping at the problem with the constantly refolding folding shovel, I asked myself if there might be a lesson to be learned. (Slow down? Watch for ice? Sorry, I'm a greater meaning kind of guy).

While sliding has become a Methow identifier and economic mainstay, skidding somehow has the same status as shoveling and plowing. That's odd, because a well-executed skid demonstrates a mastery of timing and coordination easily equal to some silly skate ski technique. And while I agree that botched sliding can lead to the damaging agony of defeat (or worse - snow in your pants), a missed skid can leave you making payments on a vehicle that no longer exists.

No, I am not anti-skiing (wow . . . a triple negative). I’ll happily shell out $22 for a cold day of being lapped repeatedly by six-year-olds traveling fast enough to create wind. I’m just wondering why one of two equally challenging skills gets all the respect.

Maybe it’s nomenclature. Skiers have, in their conversation quiver, sexy terms like klister, telemark, christy, and sitzmark (European code for butt crater). Skidders, on the other hand, are stuck with fishtail, brodie and OH %&*#@! Skispeak conjures images of cappuccino steam; skidtalk brings visions of dented thermos bottles.

It could also be the equipment. An online search shows roughly 6,233 choices of skis and 4,326 different boots to pick from. (The number of pole, binding and accessory choices is easier to express as an exponent, but I forget how to do those.) They are all flashy and colorful and carry exciting names like Nanosonic Carbon Skate R/SC. For skidders it boils down to the vehicle and the tires. Once you sift through the marketing glitter there are really only a dozen or so vehicle styles and tires are about as flashy as . . . well . . . tires. On the other hand, they do pretty well in the name department: Pirelli Winter Sotozero RunFlat 225/45/R17. I have no clue what it is but I still want it.

Eventually I was able to lower the truck enough to rock and lurch my way back over the snow bank. The road, of course, was just as icy as when the ordeal began and I was soon enjoying a receding view of the forest as the truck skidded backwards. With no energy left to fight my new plight I relaxed and let instinct take over. The truck arched gracefully into the cutbank, hooked for a moment, then swung the rest of the way around until I was rolling headlights first again. In hindsight, I’m convinced it was a delicate combination of throttle, brake pressure and steering that produced this exquisite dance of vehicle and nature and got me home safely.

Hence my point. Doesn’t creating a ballet out of 3300 skidding pounds of plastic and steel seem a tad more impressive than shaving .05 seconds from your ski race time by improving an edging move?

What skidding is missing, I think, is a proper buzz. We can fix that. Not being one to reinvent the wheel (except when I devise a better wheel . . . which is often, come to think of it) I’ll follow the Nordic lead:

  • Skid Team - A nonprofit of course. I’m seeing a bold, plucky logo gracing tailgates and mudflaps; matching hood ornaments; goals, objectives and bylaws and a training ground alongside a ski trail so that sliders and skidders can get to know one another.
  • Language - Let’s just send a few rigs flying across a frozen Patterson Lake and then name the results things like the Cross Torsional or the Lyman Lateral. And instead of “hit the brakes”, learn to say “apply resistive counterforce”.
  • Skid Clinics - Nothing gives an activity more respect than teaching it. Wouldn’t you want to learn how to do a balanced Cross Torsional? We could even have all-Prius day.
  • Gear - Sure, you can skid with the best of them in Sorels and Carhartt, but do you think that’s ever going to get you respect at the Mazama Store? We need everything from shoes to centrifugal harnesses designed to shout, proudly, SKIDDER! Maybe we could even get Subaru to come through with a limited production Skidster, its only one-wheel drive model.

Ambitious? Perhaps.
But keep in mind that I haven't even mentioned slipping.

Best of traction to you.


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What superb grammar.

Bob Spiwak