March 31, 2013

Skiing in Maine: You and your gear deserve a comfy summer

By JOHN CHRISTIE

All good things must come to an end ... even a fabulous ski season.

Although we can expect to ski a lot longer in the western mountains thanks to copious, and recent, snowstorms, some skiers and boarders are thinking about hanging 'em up and transitioning to summertime pursuits. And before too long, all of us will have to.

Painful as it is to leave the slopes, the inevitable will soon be on us.

Now's the time, I'd remind you, to take all the necessary steps to assure that your gear will summer as well as you do, and that it will be ready when the lifts crank up again late next fall.

It's not only the best way to assure a smooth start to the season, it can also provide you the peace of mind to both know that everything's ready to go, and that you won't get caught up in a mad dash to make sure it is when snow again falls.

For those of us who hang around on the hills until spring skiing's last gasp, and maybe venture to New Hampshire's Tuckerman in May or even June to continue long-standing traditions, our skis will have been subjected to some considerable abuse: dirt, rocks and other impediments revealed by the melting snow cover.

As Lionel Hering, ski tuner extraordinaire and owner of Happy Tunes!! up in the Carrabassett Valley recently stated to me in the strongest terms, "Putting your gear away for the summer in such a state of disrepair is NO GOOD!"

Why not? First, the edges will rust if your skis are stowed away less than completely dry, or if you store them in a moist environment.

Additionally, the bases will dry out if left exposed to air, resulting in a drastic drop in performance. And even though many binding manufacturers will tell you there's no need to release the tension on your bindings, prudence -- and Lionel -- recommend that you do so, and recalibrate them at the beginning of next season.

Lionel's strongly held convictions, honed by more than 25 years of hands-on experience, inspire him to make the following recommendations in respect to assuring that your skis will be in tip-top shape when you mount up for the first day next season.

At the very least, dry your edges thoroughly with an absorbent rag or paper towel. Even consider wiping on a little motor oil to further assure they won't rust over the long summer.

You should also consider, he says, cleaning and waxing your bases before storing. You can buy base cleaners manufactured by wax companies that are gentle enough to avoid damage and will do the job. Then, says Lionel, "Follow up the cleaning by ironing on a thick coat of soft wax to prevent the base from drying out. Don't be afraid to let the wax coat the edges as well, as long as they're completely dry."

A word to the wise: Don't use an iron that you also plan to use on your clothes, as the wax residue will persist and is difficult to remove.

Finally, for complete peace of mind, either completely tune or, as is the case with many of us, leave that in the hands of the professionals that abound at specialty shops all over Maine.

That should include base repair of any scratches, nicks and gouges, and a thorough stone-grind of the edges.

A storage route that's growing in popularity is one instituted at Happy Tunes!! that includes not only a complete tuning package but storage as well for only $70 -- worth thinking about. And I suspect other shops are providing this service as well.

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