Vagneur: Staying in tune |

Vagneur: Staying in tune

While waiting for my Jeep to warm up a bit, I noticed a woman struggling with her boots, mostly out of sight behind her car except for her attractive nether region, which was high in the air and facing Red Mountain. A few seconds later, she had twisted around, the telltale moon of her butt facing me, a not-unpleasant view at all; then it faced Aspen Mountain, and around and around she went, most likely cussing under her breath until at last her foot slid into the inner sanctum of her ski boot. And that was only the first one.

Yesterday, a woman told me she hasn’t skied all winter because her ski boots hurt and she doesn’t enjoy skiing anymore. Plastic boots caused me pain for about 40 years, until Aspen native and ski equipment guru Dave Stapleton put me in a pair of foam-filled Atomics. After an intense fitting session, he sent me up the mountain to try them out, knowing damned well I’d love them. Twice I hit Summit with a vengeance and then ripped down Spar to tell Dave he hadn’t charged me enough.

Times change — Atomic doesn’t do foam-filled anymore, and Dave is over at Gorsuch Sports, underneath the gondola, selling top-of-the-line Ertl-Renz ski boots, named after German racer extraordinaire Martina Ertl-Renz. These are custom-made boots, using a high-tech scan-fitting method, which takes into account the action of not only the foot but the entire lower leg. These foam-finished liners are absolutely performance reliable; the outer shell is heat-molded to them, and they are a very comfortable boot.

Across the street, Performance Ski sells Strolz boots, the choice of yours truly. These boots are also handmade and foam-filled and trace their roots back to Ambros Strolz, Austrian boot pioneer, and 93 years later, they are still made by the same family. Each morning, I eagerly buckle up my boots, ski hard and never think about them again until I take them off at the end of the day. That is pure comfort and performance, fitted by owner Tommy Bowers.

And think about this: Custom-made boots are generally much warmer. As any ski pro can tell you, it never pays to sacrifice quality or fit when it comes to ski boots, and we are blessed that Aspen has two of the world’s best to choose from.

With good boots on your feet, ski performance is imperative, and there are many good skis on the market, but what do you do once the “new ski” tune has worn off? Just keep tensing up, sliding across the slick spots out of control and hoping you don’t crash? Naturally (and usually not soon enough), you take them to a ski shop for a tune, and if you’re lucky, they’ll ski better than when you took them in.

Or, as sometimes happens, you’ll have them tuned and then wonder why you’re continually crossing your tips or one ski wants to hook on the flats, and before long, you start thinking it’s you. It might be the tune job you just got.

Machines do wonderful things, but they are not necessarily good for the customer in the ski-tuning business. Each human tuner develops a method of adjusting the tuning machine, or how this or that should be done, and the one time you got a great tune turns into the next time, when someone else is running the machine and you wonder if you got the same pair of skis back.

No one wants to talk about this because it might be bad for business, but what if there was a place you could get your skis tuned by hand, the old-fashioned way? Just like boots that are handmade, there is at least one ski tuner in Aspen that will tune your skis this way and give you back a ski that is almost as good as the day you bought it, maybe better. His name is Jerry Scheinbaum, a ski professional with Aspen Skiing Co. whose ski-tuning work also is sanctioned by Skico.

I’ve tuned my own skis almost all of my skiing life, but through a case of laziness, I started relying on ski shops to do the job for me. When I discovered a broad range of inconsistency, I began asking around for recommendations. Scheinbaum’s name came up time and time again. His work is reliable, and he makes you love your skis each time you get them tuned.

Be ready for next week or next season! Leave your skis with the overnight ski corral at the bottom of Aspen Mountain, and request that Jerry tune them. You’ll get them back in the morning, ready to fly.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at