Making Skis Fast – Preseason Thoughts

The string of beautiful fall days here in the Twin Cities makes it easy to forget that winter is close. At Gear West, however, we are in constant motion anticipating winter and have seen a considerable uptick in ski energy on our ski floor. So let's check in about our current thoughts on:

1) What makes skis perform?

2) Once a fast ski is selected how to keep that ski running fast each year?

The first step as always is to start with the appropriate model and fit of a ski. We have a considerable amount of institutional knowledge here at Gear West and we use our experience to match the best skis to our customers’ needs. We are always in the process of adjusting how we work with our customers when they want the best ski possible. Skis change yearly and our fit, knowledge and process is always adapting to the new ways skis work.

Our upgraded Ski Flex Tester has continued to make our evaluation of skis consistent and thorough. The tester allows us to check and replicate the factory flex numbers that come stamped on the ski from the factories. It is a complex machine but replicates a fairly simple job of putting a load on skis. Having the flex tester helps us evaluate skis when a customer is not here by loading the ski at different points on the bridge. We see how the camber of the ski reacts as weight is applied and we look at contact zones and stop points on the ski. Our Flex Tester is often a more consistent tool than the fit bench as it allows us to keep the load on the skis more precise. To the interested customer, the Tester also allows us to have conversations about a ski camber at eye level and explain in intuitive terms how a ski might react on snow. Our flex tester is a unique replica of the many flex testers used at all the major ski manufacturing factories.

Ski Fit is the most important consideration when we discuss ski performance and Perfect Fit is our first goal with any ski sale. We are fortunate to work with ski manufacturers who make our job easier by improving the consistency and quality of skis yearly. However, we love to investigate and find a specific ski for your specific need. Bring it on! Such as skis that might give the edge to someone looking for stability or performance advantage in a certain snow condition. Any factor that a customer throws at us will be considered when we fit skis at Gear West and we love the challenge. The combination of ski fitting tools: factory flex numbers, our flex tester, our experienced hands, and our knowledge of how skis run, combined with our fit boards, allow us to fit a great ski for YOU.

Beyond fit, ski performance is always enhanced by knowledgeable base work. A stone grind, hand structure tool, or even an aggressive brush or scrub pad, can alter the structure of a ski base for performance benefit in different snow conditions. The structure is defined as grooves and textures in the base material. The correct structure is even more important for ski performance with the absence of fluorinated waxes. In warm conditions, an aggressive base structure channels moisture off the base to release the suction. In cold, dry conditions fine base structure creates more ski-to-snow contact.

A stone grind is the most permanent and effective base work. With our stone grinding machine, we turn tired and worn-out base material to a ‘like new condition. Skis pass over a fast-moving circular stone and with care and precision (and a sharp stone and diamond, both of which must be constantly upgraded) we peel thin layers of the base material from the ski. After the ski is flat and polished to mirror, we make one (or two or three) final stone passes to press in a final structure. With seemingly infinite variables to tweak on the machine, we are in a constant state of testing to keep our structure menu current and running fast. Our current LZ2 might not be the exact same LZ2 we cut in bases last year, but we guarantee that it will be the fastest version.

Lastly, ski bases must be conditioned and prepped with wax. With the right knowledge, the customer has the most control over this process. Maintaining an up-to-date and complete wax box is a fun and rewarding part of skiing. The wax aisle of our Nordic store should feel like a candy aisle for a kid We at Gear West we work hard to offer the best products from the best suppliers. We test with great focus and experiment with the new lines of fluorocarbon free waxes. This December we offer weekly wax clinics on Wednesday evenings where we share and educate on the things that we have learned. Ask questions! These clinics provide a great forum for you to ask questions and see how we apply wax, structure and explain the Why’s of waxing, to skiers of levels.

A huge reason why I enjoy Nordic skiing is the adventure it offers. Between travel, race weekends and workouts with friends (and my son!), a winter of skiing is so fun. Even a short night ski at a local venue on the way home from work offers up a day altering experience… if the attitude is right!

Great experiences however, spring from the right equipment. We make sure you leave Gear West with all that you need to feed your personal ski dreams.

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