Turns out, equipment really does make a difference.
Since learning to skate five years ago, I had been skiing on CRSes -- trusty friends whom I affectionately named "Twinkle Feet" and "Feather Toes." They were fine for learning: short, stable, durable, and fast enough that I didn't feel the need for anything better.
But then, this year, I bought a pair of RCSes. I had been hesitant to pull the trigger. Were fancy skis really worth the price tag? Would I even notice the difference?
The answer was a resounding, unequivocal "Yes!"
These skis are a completely different animal from what I was used to. If my old skis were quarter horses, these beauties are thoroughbreds: sleeker, livelier, more nimble, built for speed. I feel a little silly saying this, but these skis have a personality. It's like they're chomping at the bit to perform -- like, if I just let them be, they'll do all the work for me, gracefully, effortlessly. On the uphills, they seem to surge with energy. And on the downhills? I've never skied with such control and precision.
In case it wasn't clear, I am hopelessly, utterly in love.