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Ask Josh – September 2001

Ask Dr. Flake

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Dear Josh,

I’ll put you to the test, if I may. Where can I buy a set of summertime cross-country skis with wheels? Admit it, I stumped you. Ha ha.
Dr. Howard N. Stein
Tucson, Arizona

You are one bold mo’ fo’. You out and out challengeme to answer your question, and then ask an easy one like this? At first I found this question troubling because it implied that I’m arrogant and full enough of myself to need taking down a peg or two. That my smug self-satisfaction is so great that you’d derive pleasure from laughing at me while I floundered, squirmed and — you no doubt hoped — writhed on the floor in my shameful ignorance. But then, upon reflection, I found it troubling that the question itself was so pitiably easy. Did you honestly think you could stump me with this? So I moved from feeling humbled to feeling insulted — I come across as thisdumb? Then I remembered I’m a professional, so here’s your answer: There are several brands of wheeled cross-country skis for use in summer training. The most prominent are Jenex and Elpex, and both are widely available online (,, and many others), through catalogs, and at retail. Even in Arizona (Sweat Shop Bike and Ski up in Eager carries them). They’ll run you around $250. As you once said, ha ha.

I’ve been appalled at the steady escalation of lift-ticket prices: $57 a day for a Vermont ticket, even in iffy conditions. Is there any indication that the number of skiers is going up or down in relation to prices?
Daria Blackwell
Mahwah, New Jersey

This is a question that’s impossible to answer simply. Speaking personally, I’m intermittently depressed and outraged by the price of skiing. My wife and I went up to Vermont for the weekend last year and paid north of $200 for two days of lift tickets (and more than that again for food, gas, lodging, and comforting beverages). Would we go skiing more if it were cheaper? You bet. So personally, prices are directlyrelated to how much I ski. Recently many ski areas (not just those in Vermont) have experimented with aggressive discount programs and have seen a boost in attendance figures. But on the flip side, skier days zoomed up during the 1970s and early ’80s in lockstep with prices. And more recently, skier days have remained steady as prices have continued to increase. Interestingly, we pay only moderately more now, adjusted for inflation, than we did way back when, and we get more for it. For instance, in 1963, Butternut ski area opened in Massachusetts, charging $6 for a lift ticket. Adjusted for inflation, that’s $34 and change, not much less than the 2000-2001 price of $39. But we’re getting snowmaking and grooming that was unavailable in 1963. Not a bad deal. And the fact is, hardly anyone pays the full ticket price. While the average advertised ticket price in the northeastern U.S. last season was around $48, the average yield — what skiers actually paid — was just below $26. My advice: Simply refuse to pay $57 a day to ski. Either participate in a discount program or go to a mountain that charges less. Speaking from experience, it’s no less fun to ski at Pico than Killington, especially for $12 less a day.

Is there really much difference between a brand-name recreational ski wax and the wax you’d find in a $5 Wal-Mart candle?
Rob Wohl
via the Internet

I’d like nothing more than to tell you that you can subvert the Alpine ski-industrial complex by using candles from a major discounter to wax your skis. But you know what? Commercial ski wax isn’t so very expensive to begin with. You can buy a healthy chunk of proven ski wax for $5, whereas you haven’t the foggiest idea what kind of crap is in that $5 candle. While candle wax itself would be fine for your skis — it’s made of essentially the same paraffin compounds that people used in the old days — do you really know what essence of vanilla, buttered rum, or raspberry does to the coefficient of friction of polyethylene? So yes, you could probably iron some candle wax into your skis, and it wouldn’t ruin them forever. But it just doesn’t seem worth it to me; the savings and convenience aren’t great enough. If you really want to save money, buy your wax in bulk ( has a kilo of Toko Universal for $23 and 900 grams of Swix Universal for $24).

Do you have a question for know-it-all Josh Lerman? Send it to Ask Josh, SKIING Magazine, 929 Pearl St., Ste. 200, Boulder, CO 80302or We won’t be able to answer all questions.

Former SKIING executive editor Josh Lerman is now senior editor at Parenting.