By Merisa Sherman
I stood there in my boots, my hands on the railings, while my dad and the boot tech giggled about how many drops of water they should put into the my foam liners. My face was red and I remember feeling like I was about to faint from the heat on my feet. But I stood on that boot molding stand with a pride that I had never felt before.
Because this was my big moment. These were my first adult boots, my first foam liners and I always thought it was one of my dad’s proudest moments in my ski racing career. Not that I was ever very good since I always hated skiing fast, but I was a skier and that was always enough for him.
These were not just any boots. In a world before women’s specific gear, these boots were magic. The ski shop owner, who had become like an uncle to me over the years, had reached out to Rossignol and somehow gotten me a pair of shells that had been designed for Julie Parisien. Julie was my absolute ski racing hero at the time. We both skied the yellow Rossi 7S and now my 14-year-old self was getting her boots: the Rossi R900 with the pink band around the heel. It was probably the highlight of my ski racing career.
I pretty much grew up in that ski shop. Not working there, but just hanging out. My engineer dad and I would head there every Saturday after skiing and spend time in the boot department. I don’t remember if it was because he had to get his Strolz boots worked on every week or if he just thought it was the coolest place to hang out, but we would be there for hours.
I mean hours. While my dad never worked in a ski shop, it was definitely his favorite place to après-ski. We would chat with who ever was getting their boots worked on. Most of the time they were strangers and dad would joke with them about the long process of the custom boot fit, how painstaking the whole thing was and how lucky they were to be in Killington.
Looking back, I always wonder if my dad had the suppressed desire to be a boot fitter. I know he longed to be a ski bum and I always assumed that he would have become one if he had ever picked up and moved here. Interestingly enough, while he studied hand tuning like a man possessed and was responsible for all my race tunes, he never once touched my or his boots. He always left that for Ray.
So I grew up in a ski shop. I would stand quietly and listen while skis were sold to customers, learning about their construction and how they worked. I even did a science fair project on the variable camber of skis using the infamous ESS VAR binding. I ended up managing a ski shop for a few years and loved every minute of sharing my long earned knowledge with anyone who was willing to listen to “a girl.”
My dad shared his gear knowledge with everyone, whether you were interested or not. As a ski instructor, he wanted to make sure you knew all about the equipment you were using and not just how to ski on it. He took each and every one of our house guests to the shop and made sure they learned something. Whether it was getting new boots or a snowboard, he would stay by your side and make sure everything was just how you needed it to be.
Because that’s how he shared skiing with people. He always made sure that, no matter your ability level, you had the tools to have the best experience possible. Because everyone was always missing something. That was his gift to everyone and this past weekend, when my cousins were up from Cincinnati, I got to give that gift as well.
After skiing all day, my college age cousin and I spent hours at the shop, flexing skis while she learned about their construction and then even more time when I discovered her almost 10-year-old boots were two sizes too large for her. As I sat next to her on that boot bench, it felt like I was coming home.
I knew my dad would have wanted to be here for this moment since he helped teach her to ski 15 years ago but I could feel his energy and we tried boot after boot trying to find the perfect fit. And then, when she made her choice, I smiled as she stood on the boot stand while her liners were molded and chatted with the boot tech and then hung out with the back room boys eating NY bagels while they closed up the shop. It was perfect.
Merisa Sherman is a long time Killington resident, KMS coach, bartender and local Realtor. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.