Roger Marolt: Losing your edge mid-season
A reminder that we actually do need to tune our skis from time to time
I never heard this ski tip, so I am going to claim it as mine: Sharpening your ski edges will help you feel stronger on the slopes. It’s better than weekly squat sessions at the gym. It’s more effective than a HIIT routine. Even my father, forever full of incredible skiing advice, never let on about this. While it makes perfect sense when you think about it, apparently nobody has. With stiffer boots (yes, stiff boots are an energy saver, too, if you can stand them) and sharper edges, it’s possible to ski longer and harder. And better, I should add.
I was feeling great on the boards around the holidays. Lots of skiers felt the same. It was an incredible series of storms bombarding us with feathery heaps of fresh snow day after poofy day. Remember? It was a profusion of fluff for about 10 days straight. Many visitors, who prefer sunshine or shopping to skiing in fog banks, stayed cozy in the restaurants and boutiques and we pretty much had the slopes to ourselves. We were the champions! You couldn’t make a bad turn. Doughy bumps moved out of our paths as we cascaded effortlessly through the miracles that are mini piles of snowflakes. The ones that didn’t move exploded playfully onto our rosy cheeks.
Then Mother Nature joined the day after New Year’s exodus and our snowpack has gone from about 130% of average to around 7% below in a month’s time. The slopes aren’t exactly hard, but they’re not soft either. Most rocks are still ducking their heads under adequate cover and nobody is complaining about the threat of a vitamin D overdose, but I have felt a tiny bit sluggish on the skis. I can hardly recall the last WHOOP! I let out. My legs feel less like steel springs and more like lead sinkers. I’m standing up straighter on my boards. My skis are popping less often than doors ding in the City Market parking lot. I barely muster enough energy to catch my breath up there.
OK, perhaps its not as bad as that, but I have lately been feeling a little sluggish on the slopes. To address the issue, I cut back drastically on Christmas fudge and holiday deserts. This admittedly has less to do with willpower than availability. I’ve added extra cardio to my workouts. I’m drinking less. I sleep more. And still, I felt flatter than Adams Avenue.
Then a funny thing happened on my way to the NASTAR course. I skittered and slipped through my first trip through the gates in years and remembered that we actually do have to tune our skis from time to time. I haven’t hit a rock since the day before Christmas, so I’ve been waxing up and heading out the door without a second thought about the mill bastard files gathering dust on my tuning bench.
This is not only about old age memory lapses either. Modern shaped skis are an engineering wonder that has revolutionized the sport. They have transformed carving turns from art to automatic. Wide tips and tails are a little like cleats. You put the ski on edge and they dig into the snow, preventing the skis from slipping sideways far more than old, straight skis did. While extra sidecut is wonderful, it also makes it easy to forget that frequent visits with your favorite ski tuner are necessary for happy skiing, which used to be more common than writing letters to the editor in ski towns.
After my disaster at NASTAR, I was disgusted enough to tune my skis. I cracked a beer, cranked the tunes, and hit the workbench. It felt good to hold a file in my hand again. It was the first time all season. I let the metal filings fly and land where they may.
Skiing on freshly tuned skis is magical. Seriously! Edges and bases generally degrade so gradually that we don’t notice the slow, steady performance drop in our equipment. After a month of neglect our skis are sliding ever so slightly off our intended lines. The result is thighs pressuring the edges slightly longer than normal and our core muscles tensing more often to right almost imperceptible body imbalances. It’s not a big deal until you’re spent after cranking out several hundred turns in a morning of skiing. Then we feel like rag dolls by lunchtime and head home to self-administer a COVID test, desperate for an explanation for our listlessness. We have literally lost our edge. Now, go get them sharpened.
Roger Marolt is singing a different tune on the mountain these days. It’s’ got a faster, snappier beat to it. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.