Marolt: A little too much of nature’s stone grind on the skis

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic
Roger Marolt

Not only can sticks and stones break your bones, they can destroy a pair of skis in no time, too. And, while they say words can never hurt you, (which is not true, by the way) they can’t sharpen a burred edge or adequately fill a core shot either. I bring this up because, as you know, skiing has been mostly a pile of schist so far this dry and dusty winter.

The thing about rock skis is that you are so happy to have them when you inadvertently or unavoidably carve through a patch of barely submerged stone on the slopes, but then you pine for a sharp, smooth edge when you get onto the slopes well covered with an impenetrable layer of man-made snowish crust. Either way, whether you are skidding through piles of dirt or sliding sideways across patches of ice, when you have rock skis on your feet, skiing is all about getting fresh air, sunshine and good chairlift conversation. There is little other joy to be derived otherwise.

I have tried to describe my relationship with rock skis as a love/hate affair, but the truth is it is not that at all. I hate rock skis, purely and simply. What I love is not destroying expensive new skis by using them in terrible conditions like we have right now. That is not the same thing as loving a pair of skis that should be permanently stored in the landfill. … Wait, you didn’t realize that Volkls and Kastles are not biodegradable? Why do you think granola crunchers make ugly front porch love seats and alleyway fences out of them?

It is one thing to take out your favorite pair of skis during a normal year and catch a rock with your edge or ding the base a bit on a foreign object in the snow once in a while. Those unfortunate events are going to happen even in the best of snow conditions. It’s normal wear and tear. A good pair of skis will die of old age in this normal scenario. It is something else completely, however, to take out a perfectly good pair of skis in conditions like we have now, knowing that for certain you are going to inflict fatal blows with almost every windshield wiping turn you make.

I have heard people justify heading onto dubious terrain not covered by artificial snow on good skis by saying they paid over a hundred bucks for a lift ticket and so they intend to get their money’s worth with variety and challenging pitch, sparse conditions be damned. I don’t get that line of thinking. Do your really get more for your skiing dollar by venturing off the covered track and onto the runs less traveled and than do $400 worth of damage to a $1,000 pair of skis in the process?

I suppose one solution is to tune your skis every night so that at least a few runs first thing the following day are half-way enjoyable before the skis gradually degrade by way of Mother Nature’s natural stone grind. This still doesn’t solve the bone-jarring and nails-across-a-chalkboard wincing sensation that courses through the body like the effect of a dentist’s drill every time you hit a rock in the snow, but at least you can make those wretched white knuckle turns for a few hours with the confidence only a finely tuned ski can inure. The problem with this strategy, of course, is cost. At $80 per tune, if you get your skis professionally manicured every night, you will in essence have paid for your skis twice at the end of a week and a half and have nothing worth holding onto in the end.

The other solution is to go to the hardware store and buy a couple of files and do the tuning work yourself using a vice mounted to the kitchen table to hold your skis while you basically manufacture metal shavings. If you have a garage, I recommend performing the ski surgery there, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

In the end, whatever you do to make your skiing fix the most enjoyable possible in a drought year is going to cost you in time or money and aggravation. When someone mentions that you just have to make the best of it, I am pretty sure this is what they are referring to. It’s actually just mind over chatter.

Roger Marolt can’t afford to make another pair of rock skis. Email at