Loading up my haul of 2016-2017 Madshus skis for the race season, coach Pat reminded me to raid the Caldwell Sport ski tie bin. If you’re racing at any level, chances are high your skis have travelled through Putney, Vermont and the Caldwell grinder. And if you’re lucky enough, you not only get your skis ground, but watch fresh coffee get ground and then transformed in their state of the art espresso machine. I digress.
Because of the vast quantity of skis that go through the shop in the season, Caldwell sport ends up with a lot of ski ties. And I mean a lot. And in a world where ski ties are essentially currency come race day, I loaded up for the season (because somehow, like hair ties and socks, you never seem to hold on to them for more than a week). As I tossed the ties into my bag, I noticed one of them said, “Sharmila Ahmed, Midwest J2.”
Sharmila and I crossed paths many times in high school and college. We raced together with Jen Rolfes (who went on to ski for Harvard and from what I can tell became fluent in Russian) to fifth place during the 2008 Junior National Relay Championships in Anchorage, Alaska. I distinctly remember a sections race where seeing Sharmilla on the start list right after me may have initiated my habit of starting races as hard as possible (and seeing her teammate Maria Tinebra 30 seconds behind me only further fueled that questionable habit). And while Sharmila had mono (I think) our senior year of high school and consequently wasn’t competing in the race, she is front and center in a picture I have framed at my house of now teammate Jessie Diggins and I tucking into the final sprint of the 2010 State High School meet (dubbed by the Star Tribune as the most exciting cross country ski race maybe ever…full recap with video here).
Her mouth is wide open with her hands in the air as she’s cheering both Jessie and I on (I know it’s her because of the Burnsville Letterman’s Jacket, and her signature braids poking out from her hat). Our paths diverged in college- her competing for St. Scholastica in the central region and me for Dartmouth in the eastern one.
Sharmila and I are Facebook friends, but other than that I don’t think I’ve talked to her since sometime at an NCAA race in college, so this blog post will probably come as a huge surprise to her. But seeing her name on that ski tie brought a big old smile to my face. And because we are nearing Thanksgiving, I’d like to start the what-I’m-thankful-for-list. I’ll begin with ski ties.
Obviously I’m thankful for ski ties because they keep my skis safe from me, the pavement, and the airlines. Beyond binding my skis together, in a community like the cross country ski one that seems simultaneously so vast and so small (and so prone to thievery, apparently) ski ties are a great way to reconnect and reflect. It seems silly that something so over priced (5 dollars for a piece of foam sewed between two flimsy pieces of fabric…unless you’re Sam Tarling and get them personalized…points out there to anyone who managed to snag one of those) and so small could bring me so much joy. Ready yourself for the pun ahead: Ski ties really are the ties that bind.
As everyone hits their first snow and first races of the year, I encourage you to take a look through your ski tie collection. I’m willing to bet you have a tie with someones’ name on it that will bring you back to a particular race, moment, old friendship or rivalry (and undoubtedly some awkward high school crushes). Reach out to that person. And realize how fortunate we are to be part of such a wonderful and supportive community. I feel so thankful all the time that I get to spend some of my twenties chasing snow and goals alongside such an amazing crew.
And Sharmila, if I haven’t lost the ski tie by the time I post this blog (which may seem crazy, but I’ve lost ski ties faster than that), I’d like to give that ski tie back to you as part of a holiday care package. Let me know if you like milk or dark chocolate, and I’ll send it your way Happy early snow to everyone, and happy Thanksgiving! Here are a couple shots of the last two weeks…