The Tao of Tuning

What kind of skier are you: a binding popper, tip banger or rusty numbskull?

The Tao of Tuning
Jim Campbell Illustration

I was first introduced to ski tuning as a young child skiing home from my local hill. Along the path home, we had to cross backyards, sidewalks, alleys and a couple of streets, the busiest of which was Ninth Street. Sometimes Ninth Street had snow on it, other times it was sanded, and other times it was completely bare. But it didn’t matter, if you got enough speed, and there weren’t any cars coming, you could make it across. After seeing the first sparks fly off my edges on a bare street, it clicked. You could sharpen those rails of metal with the right equipment.

As a young racer, all you needed was a file, a cork and some paraffin wax from your mother’s homemade jam. It was quite the arsenal to keep you competitive. And it still is, but the art of ski tuning has progressed. My ski tuning mentor, Fred Nowland of Lou Lou’s fame, currently at Alpine Haus, taught me to be more proficient in the art of tuning — especially “hand-tuning.”

A well-tuned ski is easier to turn, faster on the Cat Tracks, and if you have the ability to carve a turn, the sharp edge allows you to basically drive your own rollercoaster. It’s simply more fun, and the skis last longer. If you’re going to spend $500 or $1,500 on your equipment, it only makes sense to take care of it.

I’m reminded of the person who purchases an expensive sports car and then doesn’t have it maintained so as to allow peak performance.

Most skiers don’t worry about their skis that much, which is where tuners come in. But understand that, just like your mechanic — or your priest — they know what you’re doing out there.

Which one of these are you?

Tip Banger On the lift, you always smack your tips together. Cutting your top sheet and burring your edges (but only on the top quarter of the ski). Tuners know a tip banger when they see your skis.

Rusty Numbskull A Rocket Box is no place to store your skis. Days of repeated storage while in a wet Rocket Box will definitely rust your edges. They can see that.

Annual Waxer You start a season fast and get slower every day. They know, because the bases look dry and white.

Road Skier You just don’t want to walk down that road, so you ski it. They can see those telltale small grooves down the length of the ski.

Binding Popper You’re the fastest one out of your skis every time. Why bother with that pesky ski pole? The bottom of your skis have dozens of indentations — they know, and it makes them crazy.

Rusty Tips and Tails You don’t keep them in a Rocket Box, but you never wipe the bases dry and always keep them stored together. Tuners know a great way to avoid this: Always dry them off and use ski straps.

Rounded Edges My worst nightmare. How can you turn if your edges aren’t sharp? I’m not talking about the spot where you hit a rock and you have a burr. That’s part of skiing. I’m talking about an edge that won’t even shave off a piece of fingernail. Get your edges sharpened, and maintain them. Tuners know that if you do this regularly, you’ll have a lot more fun.

Even a crap ski can be improved by a good tune. A wise man once said to me: “You don’t need a new ski, you just need a good tune.”

Welcome to Snowlander, Vol. IV

Here we are, well into the second month of skiing and I feel like we’ve seen it all — big powder, a little rain, and lots of sun. Over the holidays, I ran into many first-time visitors to this area, and my question to them is why the Northwest Rockies for their holiday break? The overwhelming response was, “This is the only region that has snow.”

The Tao of Tuning
Jim Campbell Illustration

What’s so beautiful about hearing that as a response was that our region has now made an impression on ski tourism that will undoubtedly be favorable over the next several years. Who knows? Instead of booking future trips to their favorite Montana, Utah or Colorado resorts, these snow travelers will remember the fond family vacation of 2011 to our local resorts and make a new tradition out of it.

It is hard to ski day after day, week after week, with no large snow accumulation. As a good friend posted as on Facebook this past Sunday, it’s crazy “when you’re stoked because a centimeter is making all the difference in the world.” Everyone I’ve spoken with remains positive that the snow will come again, and they’re stoked that our corner of the world is still looking a heck of a lot better than most places in regards to snow coverage and conditions.

Now with a successful holiday season in the books, area resorts are not skipping a beat. They’re smoothly transitioning into the most exciting time of the year — event season. All of the local resorts have jam-packed events calendars through the remainder of the season — wife carrying, oyster feeds, torchlight and firework displays, big air shows and competitions, rail jams and a 24-hour ski race. Check out or keep this Snowlander supplement for quick reference. Both of these are the best resource for a comprehensive event schedule. And all of the events are great reasons to get up to the slopes.

The positive is we still have three months of ski season, with the days getting longer all the time.

See you on the mountain!

Jen Forsyth
Snowlander Editor

Harvest Festival Craft Faire @ Green Bluff Grange

Sat., Oct. 1, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun., Oct. 2, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sat., Oct. 8, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun., Oct. 9, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sat., Oct. 15, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sun., Oct. 16, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
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