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Carey Kish

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island has been adventuring in the woods and mountains of Maine for, well, a long time. If there’s a trail—be it on dirt, rock, snow, water or pavement—he will find it, explore it, and write about it. Carey is a two-time Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, Registered Maine Guide, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide (10th ed.), and has written a hiking & camping column for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram since 2003. Follow his outdoor travels and musings here, and on Facebook/CareyKish. Let Carey know what you think at MaineOutdoors@aol.com.

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Maineiac Outdoors with Carey Kish
Posted: January 5, 2014

Your skis and boots need love too

Maine’s ski season is off to a great start with a goodly amount of natural snow and plenty of cold temps for making tons more snow. You’ve been out on the slopes a few times by now I reckon, enjoying the best of the still early season skiing. That’s good! (If not, where’ve you been?)

But what about your ski gear, those all-important skis and boots? Have you thought about showing them a little TLC, you know, so they treat you right over the course of what we hope will be a long winter?

Yep, it’s time to get your skis and boots into your favorite shop and have an expert tech give them a good going over. I had mine in recently, so I know they’ve been taken good care of.

Skis tuned and ready to go… Thanks Fred! Photo by Carey Kish.

“There are two things with skis,” said Dave Palese, general manager and certified Masterfit boot fitter at Gorham Bike & Ski on Congress Street in Portland. “You want to get your skis tuned and get the bindings checked.”

A good ski tuning will sharpen the edges for better turning and control. And the stone grind will flatten the base of the ski and remove and distortion that may have occurred in storage over the summer. A flat base will make for a more stable ski which will turn and glide better.

The stone grind also puts structure or pattern back into the ski.

What’s that and why is it important?

On the base of your skis are tiny channels across its width and along its length.

“You’re actually skiing on a thin film of water,” Palese said. “And these channels let the water go straight out the back of the ski.”

The stone grind put those all-important channels back into the base of the ski.

No kidding I say!

Next up, you want your skis finished with a hot wax, which helps reduce adhesion and makes the ski run fast.

When you bring your skis in for a tune be sure to bring your boots as well. That way you can have the bindings checked too.

“The ski should release when you want it to and not when you don’t want it to,” cautioned Palese.

A good shop will ask you what type of skier you are, as well as your height, weight and age. These four things work together to determine the proper DIN rating for your bindings. That number then gets entered into a digital ski release checker, which tests for the proper release.

You should get a printout of the results, which will assure you that your bindings are set properly.

A good ski tune is a great way to start the season. Above, a Gorham Bike & Ski tech in action. Photo courtesy Gorham Bike & Ski.

As for boots, there’s not as much to consider, unless you’re out for the first time this season. In that case, hopefully you’ve been kind to your boots and stored them with the buckles closed inside somewhere so they don’t warp from too much hot or cold. Otherwise…

If the boot soles are worn they probably won’t pass the release check. Then you’re looking at new boots.

If you’re still skiing with the same insoles that came with the boots, well, dig them out and toss them in the garbage.

“You want to drop in a good footbed like Superfeet,” recommended Palese. “This will help stabilize the foot inside the boot and solve 50% of comfort issues.”

Another option is to get a custom footbed. Superfeet cost about $40; a custom footbed will run you $150. It depends on how much you ski; a lot and it’s worthwhile.

Do you get cold feet out there on the mountain? Then you might want to try a boot heating system, something like Hotronics.

On your drive to the slopes, Dave recommends putting your cold boots in the foot well of the passenger side of the car to warm them up. Or plug in a boot heater like Hot Ratz into your cig lighter.

Bring two pairs of socks with you, one for the morning and a change for the afternoon. Why ski in damp socks after all. And I’ve found a third pair to be helpful, one to wear for the drive up.

If your boots have are feeling a little loose – it happens over time as the lining breaks down – try adding some pads to secure the fit. You can even replace the entire liner with an after-market liner if you want.

Bent ski poles should be replaced. Baskets and grips too if they’re broken or worn, and if your poles are still in good enough shape to bother. Poles are pretty cheap these days and most folks seem to just toss them.

Finally, Dave recommends a couple of items to carry with you, a pocket edger for keeping an edge on, and universal wax to keep up the glide. SWIX is the big brand for both of these.

“Sunscreen, lip balm and a pair of thin glove liners” are good things too. The glove liners make it easier to get your hands in and out of wet gloves.

Thanks for all the great advice Dave!

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