You dont need to be a pro ski tuner or a boot fitter to appreciate a sharp edge or an appropriate fit. This blog post will help you learn how to dial in your skiing and snowboarding gear for maximum performance and comfort on the slopes.
By Rachel Walker
Full disclosure: even though I worked at Skiing Magazine for three years and spent a significant amount of my time there working on mountains all over North America, I am still a total luddite when it comes to gear. I know wax and bases go together, and I can tell you when my feet hurt. I feel something strange when my edges are rusty and dinged (that would be my inability to carve a good turn). But how to maintain or dial in gear has never been my strength.
Nonetheless, Ive decided to embark on a self-improvement project that I hope will bleed over into my gear closet and keep my gear in better shape, my feet happier, and my ski days frustration free. This project basically involves reading the trade magazines and websites to learn basic maintenance, more about boot fitting, and anything else important that pertains to my gear.
Heres what Ive learned so far:
Rust on your edges looks ugly but isnt something to stress over. What is disconcerting (at least to the dudes at the tuning bench) are missing chunks of metal from your edge, dull points, and any instance where the edge has detached from the ski. Do yourself a favor and take your boards in for a tune before your first day (unless youre so prepared you had them tuned and layered up with storage wax at the end of last season).
Throughout the season, do something novel and just look at your edges. Make friends with them. Understand what they look like healthy so you can know when theyre getting dull, dinged, or worse. Depending on the terrain you ski or ride, youll want to get them tuned on a regular basisask the shop guys their recommended schedule.
Its no fun to stick to the snow while others fly by. Ive learned that much of this lagging is due to a lack of wax. When you get your edges tuned, you can pay for a wax. If you have an iron, two stools (to hold up your boards) and a plastic scraper (available at ski and sports stores throughout the country), you can learn to wax your boards yourself.
There are different waxes for different temperatures, so get the expert opinion at the shop before you buy wax. Alsosome boards (thinking of Nordic skis here) have super sensitive bases that can burn theres definitely a skill to waxing boards, so look for a clinic at your local shop or REI store, and then go to town. Waxing skis, Im learning, has sort of a Karate Kid catharsis to it.
Repeat after me: Ski boots dont need to hurt to perform. With todays heat moldable liners and malleable plastics that can be warmed, punched out, and molded (and then cool into rock-hard plastic shells), a person can dial in the fit with the help of an expert boot fitter and have a season of warm, comfortable feet without sacrificing performance. In Boulder, where I live, ski boot fitters have god-like status and the wait to get in to them can be long. Endure the wait. Its worth it.
Here's a helpful video from Christy Sports about their popular boot fitting service:
So there you have it: my education of late. No, its not earth shattering, but its a good place to start. I realize there are tons I dont know, and I am fine with that. I never set out to be a gear scientist. All I want is to take care of the gear Ive got so it takes care of me. Im confident Im on my way.