Realskiers: Love Is An Active Verb, So Stay Tuned
But once they have the object of their desire in their possession, their ardor cools and a state of benign neglect sets in. While they still profess their love, they no longer feel it’s necessary to show it.
As in most relationships, if fair treatment isn’t reciprocal, the relationship suffers. As skiers, we ask our skis to perform for us at a very high level. Once we get to be rather good at the sport, we expect them to save our lives with every turn we take in the woods or down a rock-lined couloir. As long as we don’t subject them to extreme abuse, we consider we’ve fulfilled our side of the tacit contract: you take care of me, I take care of you.
But not damaging your skis should not be mistaken for treating them well. Skis need to be loved on a regular basis if you want them to love you back. Your affection should take the form of waxing your bases and touching up your edges after every time you use them. You read that right: to perform at their peak, ski bases need a drink of wax and edges can stand a light polish before every ski day.
If your emotional ties to your skis are insufficient to induce such exertions, perhaps an investment-based approach to your ski relationship will prove more motivating. Most skiers have no idea that a great deal of what one pays for when one buys a ski is associated with the base and edge finish.
The machinery necessary to produce a consistently flawless finish on an industrial scale would pucker the wallet of a pasha and contributes far more to the cost of a ski than whatever discount you imagine you negotiated when you bought them.
In short, if you’re not taking care of your bases and edges, you’re flushing a large chunk of your recent investment. While you can always overlook daily maintenance in favor of a longer interval system, the quality of your ski experience will gradually degrade. This is called taking a relationship for granted, which usually ends up disappointing both parties.
Skiing is expensive. So is routine ski maintenance, if you’re always paying to have someone else do it. But a daily dose of wax and a light touch along the side edge with a stone doesn’t take long to administer oneself. Yes, there is brushing and scraping and buffing involved, but the payback in glide quality is substantial. Repetition has another redeeming quality: a well-waxed base will continue to glide smoothly even if you skip a couple of days, while an unwaxed base, dying of thirst, develops more drag as it oxidizes.
At this time of year, a great many skiers descend on ski swaps and tent sales, hunting for the Bargain of the Century. While many are savvy enough to inspect the bases for a blown-out edge or a clumsy patch job, most would assume that an unmarred base was ready to ride.
Not so fast, Savvy Shopper. Not many second-hand skis have a fresh structure in the base, those systematic micro-slices in the ski surface that are the foundation of a great glide. Before dripping a few puddles of wax on the bases and calling it good, get the bases stone ground and the edge angles re-set (1o base angle and 2o side angle is hard to beat as an everyday set-up) so you have the right foundation for your future maintenance program. The extra forty bucks or so it will cost to get this done will get your young relationship with an older ski off to a much better start.
One can’t discourse on the subject of love without bringing up the children, or in this instance, children’s skis. No piece of equipment gets less attention than a child’s ski. Manufacturers don’t want to invest in tuning them as they barely break even on kids’ skis from the get-go. Shops are leery of grinding away too much of their softer bases. Vises and tuning benches aren’t set up for their tiny lengths.
Yet children have even less chance of overcoming the handicaps inherent in trying to steer a dry, railed ski than an adult. If you’re a parent, inspect your family’s skis for flatness and assume they’re thirsty for a shot of hot, lubricious hydrocarbons.
If you want your skis to love you, you can’t just tell them you love them, too; you have to show them. Just don’t forget to unplug the iron when you’re done.
Photo: Tuning at Sport Loft ski shop in Salt Lake City, Utah (Peter Keelty)