Steamboat Springs It was almost a holiday, Christmas in October, Deb Armstrong said.
As an aspiring young skier who’d eventually grow into a gold-medal winning Alpine skier, she looked forward to a powderhound’s annual fall ritual: trotting out last year’s gear.
“My family, we always drug it all out into the living room,” she said. “We’d put everything on and make a party out of it. We were really excited because it meant the season was right around the corner.”
Well, it’s October and as a couple days of delicious snowfall have emphasized, the season is right around the corner. It may be a bit early to hike and ski in the majority of Routt County, but there’s no better time to haul out the gear and see what fits, what doesn’t and check what maintenance needs to be done.
For Steamboat Springs ski wax connoisseur Tim Magill, the first real in-town snow is a siren song for his customers. As much was evident Thursday in his corner of Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare downtown, where racks of newly waxed skis sat waiting for their owners, who were suddenly thinking skiing.
Magill said there’s no better time for a good tuneup.
“People come to get their bindings adjusted, to get their skis through the stone grinder, to set the edge and get them waxed,” he said.
A grinder can help get rid of a bit of rust that tends to develop on skis that weren’t stored correctly. He pointed as much out Thursday on a pair that were slapped together at season’s end and stashed in the garage.
He showed off another pair of skis with a deep gouge, a rather common problem after last year’s crummy snow cover and late-season snowless streak.
It may have seemed pointless to repair them last year — surely another rock awaited — but now’s the time, he said.
“Sometimes, when they’re deep enough, I can write on the name of the rock that did it,” he said with a chuckle. “I can point to the rocks up there that have made me money.”
Sharpening the edge may not be for every skier and rider. Pete Van De Carr at Backdoor Sports said he can’t remember the last time he sharpened his edges. That has more to do with the fact he typically sticks to powdery and chopped powder conditions in the backcountry.
“I don’t need sharp edges,” he said, “but I do still need wax.”
Everyone needs wax.
Magill said an at-home tuning setup can run about $100, including an iron, a wax scraper and a file to keep those edges sharp, which is important on the hard pack.
“You want to lubricate those bases,” Armstrong said. “If they start to look like your skin, dry and almost scaly, they need a drink, and they need a drink of wax.”
A fresh and well-done wax job will keep you gliding over the snow, so it’s important no matter the conditions.
As a part-time speed skier — think 150 miles per hour — Magill knows plenty about achieving maximum velocity. He even has his own brand, Home Town Wax. He explained that picking a wax can be as complicated or as easy as you need it to be.
“You can make it as complex as the World Cup or as simple as warm or cold,” he said.
Warm or cold refers to the type of snow. If you can make a snowball out of it, it’s warm. If you can blow it out of your hand, it’s cold. One type of wax works well with warm snow and another with cold snow. The degrees in between really matter only if a gold medal is the goal.
Find the comfort
Following along with Armstrong’s “try it on again” logic, One Stop Ski Shop’s John Kole said now’s the time to work out the kinks in a boot that may have been a nightmare at the end of last season.
“Do it now before it becomes a problem again,” he said.
As pain tends to dull in the memory, that means trying on those boots and even spending a little time in them.
It also can be important to make sure all parts of the boot are in good shape. The most common area to wear down include the toe and the heel on the bottom. In many boots, those can be removed and new pieces can be screwed back on.
Worn soles and toes can cause problems over time. They attract the gunk that can make it hard to snap on a ski and eventually wear enough that a binding won’t easily grab onto the boot.
Kole said the replacement costs about $40.
An easy way to avoid the problem entirely is to wear Cat Tracks or what he said was a new product a year ago, $29 Ski Skootys, when walking in a boot.