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STAYING IN TUNE: Local ski shops help keep skiers and snowboarders sliding down the slopes

March 12, 2009
RICHARD ROSENTRETER, Lake Placid News Editor
     LAKE PLACID — The ski season is coming down the home stretch, and although many skiers generally do not think about tuning up their skis or snowboard at the end of the season,  a tune up is vital to maintain skiing performance.

    “Many people don’t even realize the difference a tune up makes,” said Robin Keysor, owner of Maui North, a ski shop located on Main Street in Lake Placid. “There’s a big difference between skiing on tuned and untuned skis. Having tuned skis will allow you to ski with more confidence, and after a tune, your skis or snowboard will perform as it did when it was new, providing they are in decent shape.”     Keysor said that many skiers or snowboarders don’t know they can rejuvenate their skis or boards with a tuneup.

How do you know it’s time for a tune up?

    According to Keysor, you know it is it is time for a tuneup when you feel like you’re skis (or snowboard) are not carving on hard packed snow or ice, you’re not gliding that well on the snow or not moving as fast as you used to. He said the cause of this is because the structure at the base of the ski or snowboard has deteriorated, the edges are no longer sharp, there are burrs along the edge of the ski or the skis are dry from the lack of wax.

    “You may feel that the skis are not skiing the same as when you first bought them, or maybe you feel that you’re not skiing as well,” he said. “It’s hard to be a good skier on an untuned ski.”

    The times  between tune ups can vary.

    “It could be one day or one month,” he said. “It depends on the varying conditons the skis are used on.”

    Keysor said the mountains in the northeast are steep and icier, which can usually lead to a more frequent need to tune up equipment.

    “If you ski all day in icy conditions, your skis will dull quicker,” he said, adding that sharp edges make navigating icy slopes much easier.

    Keysor said you can tell your skis or snowboard needs to be sharpened if you run you finger along the edge and feel a lot of scratches along the edge, which are called burrs. He said that if you run your nail lightly across the edge, and the nail doesn’t scrape, your edges aren’t sharp enough.

    Since the amount of time between ski maintenance depends on several factors, it is important to pay attention to how the skis or snowboard are performing, Keysor said.

    “It all depends on how much and how you use your skis or snowboard,” he said. “More snow will correlate into less tune ups and less snow will correlate into more tune ups.”

    According to Keysor, the ski workshop gets busier the icier the conditions are at Whiteface.

    “People come in and we work on the skis at night,” he said. “They’re usually ready the next day.”

The tune up process

    Keysor said the tune up process begins when the gauges on the bottom of the skis or snowboard are filled with p-tex, which is the material the base of the ski is made from, and ski technicians run them through a machine that planes or flattens the ski base. The machine will give structure to the p-tex, which will break the suction between the ski and the snow and help make the ski glide better.

    “That will give you more control to ski better,” Keysor said.

    After that, the edges on the skis or snowboard are sharpened. Then the base is waxed with an iron and then scraped and brushed.

    The average tune up takes about half an hour to an hour and prices range from basic $20 to $50 for racers.

The racer’s edge

    Paul Kotecki, a ski technician for more than 25 years, primarily does race tunes at Maui North.

    “Racers perform at a higher level, so it is more important for them to have sharper skis,” Kotecki said. “For them, it’s more of a precision tune. They are very demanding.”

    Much more labor goes into a racer’s tune up, he said, and the race skiers’ edges are tuned up by hand rather than using the machine.

    Because of the higher maintenance an longer time  involved to perform the maintenance work, a racing tune up costs slightly more than a regular tune up.


tune ups

    Keysor said there are many products available on the market, such as ski waxes and edge sharpeners, that help a skier or snowboarder maintain their equipment at home.

    He said there are waxes that come with applicators that a skier can rub onto a ski or snowboard, and wipe with a cloth.

    “Depending on how much you put on, it can last a while,” he said. “If you on too much on it will come off easily, so you don’t want to over wax. It actually works quite well.”

    Keysor also said a multi-tuner, which sharpens edges, works great to maintain edges, and at a cost of about $29, “it’s a great item to have.”

    “It allows you to get a good edge on your ski and not spend a fortune,” he said.

    Keysor said that although self-tune up products will keep skis and snowboards performing well during the course of a ski season, it is still a good idea to get them tuned professionally at least once a year.

    “(Home tune up) doesn’t give the same results as when a ski is tuned up on the machine,” he said.

End of season

    Keysor recommends several things when the season ends. First, he said it is a good idea to get your skis or snowboard tuned up professionally at the end of the season.

    One reason is that many people put off ski maintenance until the start of the next season, but before you know it, the snow is flying. Also, the getting fresh wax at the end of the season will allow it to resonate on the ski during the summer months.

    “It impregnates the ski with wax,” Keysor said.

    Keysor also said that the springs in bindings should be sprung down to lowest number setting and the skis should be stored in a dry, humid-free environment.

    “And don’t scrape the wax off the ski, he added.


A specialized shop

    Another local shop that performs ski maintenance is High Peaks Cyclery on Main Street in Lake Placid. The shop has a high-tech computerized stone grinder and specializes in cross country ski tune ups, according to ski technician Bill Preece.

    Preece said High Peaks uses a softer, specialized stone grinder that doesn’t take as much off the ski base, which is perfect for cross-country skis that have less of a base than downhill skis. The machine is only one of about three on the East Coast, he added.

    According to Preece, the ski shop at High Peaks performs service to a variety of skiing equipment, they get about 30 skis a week delivered by  mail from those who desire the specialized service on cross country skis.

    “We get a lot of orders from Division I cross country ski schools because of the stone grinder,” Preece said.

    The cost for ski tune ups range from $25 to $70.


At Whiteface

    Whiteface Mountain also provides ski and snowboard tune ups right at the mountain inside the base lodge. Like Maui North and High Peaks, they use a stone grinder and offer a variety of ski maintenance services and packages.

    Prices range from $20 to $40, to a season tune package that costs $200 and includes 10 tune ups for any pair of skis or snowboard. The mountain ski shop also services racer’s skis and repairs, and tune ups are usually finished by the next day.


    “A lot of people think they don’t have to get tune ups done, but it makes a big difference in performance,” Keysor said.

Article Photos

Ski technician Paul Kotecki waxes a ski at the Maui North ski shop.



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