Summer Grind

Zen and the art of ski maintenance.
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Come right about now, with summer not yet fading into fall, one corner of my garage becomes a shrine to skiing—and guilt. The edges of my skis rust in their racks while the black P-Tex, still scarred by rocks and roots of last season, oxidizes from neglect.

It wasn’t always that way. In my early 20s, I wouldn’t hang up the sticks until mid-July, and only after one last whiskey-fueled tuning ritual put my skis to rest in pristine condition for the next season. A few camping trips and backyard BBQs made for some fun flings while my true love headed to the Southern Hemisphere. But by early September, I’d yearn for cooler temps and the comforting embrace of my Gore-Tex. With Gear Guides on the toilet tank, I’d carefully plan my Tour de Labor Day sales trips. Skiing never slipped far from my mind.

Ode, Sept 2017 Illustration

Now, the flecks of iron-oxide on my boards mock me, telling anyone with eyes that my seasons have gotten shorter. Life has gotten in the way of skiing more than I care to admit. Work, house projects and, yes, a shiny new mountain bike have all created distractions to my once single-minded obsession of sliding on snow.

My buddies, unmoved by my self-deprecating whininess, give me grief when I call myself a has-been because I’m not getting 40 days on the mountain anymore. They’re not wrong. By most measures I’m still getting out there, but the born-and-bred skier in me thinks skiing deserves better.

The realization that I’m not as rad as I used to be is tough to accept. I’m probably reading too deeply into these rusty edges, but I see a not-too-distant future where time comes even more at a premium and the fun casualty list grows beyond skiing. Hell, I just turned 30 and just got married. Giving my skis a respectful tune to tee them up for next season should be the least of my worries, right?

This isn’t the first year I’ve felt anxious over the summer state of my skis, but it is the first that an internal dialogue developed. While shuffling around my garage doing some chores, I found myself inspecting my quiver, pulling each ski off the wall, meticulously checking the bases and edges. While I had no intention of buffing them out properly like old times, touching my skis fired up memories of the last season.

The battle scars on my skis, though not fresh, offered proof that I had a few great days of getting after it: a base gouge from a rocky landing off a cornice at my local hill, some edge burs from countless
billy-goat traverses during a storm-chasing weekend in Crested Butte. A few months separated from winter, I’d mostly forgotten about missing the historic January storm cycle due to work commitments and the six-week dry spell that followed it up.

I still had a brush sitting on my tune bench, and without even thinking, I grabbed it and started to scrape down my skis. Dry, oxidized wax flaked onto my flip-flop-adorned feet. With some elbow grease, the grind structure returned to the undamaged areas of my bases, as did the rich black hue. I nicked my fingernail across the edges. They weren’t sharp, but my previous tune was holding up nicely and I felt confident they’d hold an edge on early-season corduroy. When I placed them back on the rack, my skis looked fast again, ready to glide.

The small gesture unburdened my inner ski bum from the trappings of an evolving lifestyle, and its ensuing string of new responsibilities, and from summer itself. For a few seconds in my sweltering garage, I felt a faint cold wind whipping against my face and subtle vibration of snow sliding under my feet. For a moment, I couldn’t have been more stoked for winter.

A former editor at Skiing Magazine, Kevin Luby no longer travels the world on other people’s dimes to ski and call it “work.” You should feel bad for him...really. 

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