If there’s a holy grail of downhill skiing, it’s finding a quick way to get better. Endless lessons, repetitive drills and hard workouts improve us, sure, but they’re not the fun part. We all want to schuss down the mountain, effortlessly banging off beautiful “S” turns, with perfect form, in perfect clothes, with perfectly white teeth…you know, like it always looks in ads and movies. I’m pretty sure that nobody I know quite manages all of those, although with an appropriate application of $$$, it’s relatively easy to have the right clothes and teeth, at least.
But…what if there were a way to improve your skiing cheaply, quickly, and effectively? The answer is a qualified “yes,” as Executive Editor Tim Jones and I found out last Friday at King Pine Ski Area. King Pine has long been one of our favorite small ski areas; it’s convenient, quick in/out from the base lodge, friendly, and inexpensive. And while the trails aren’t long, the backside trails (Red Pine, Jack Pine, Pine Brule, & Pitch Pine) are steep enough to provide a good challenge, and the shorter trails mean that you can really work HARD on turns and technique, beating it into your muscle memory. Do the same thing on a longer trail, and you’ll get tired and sloppy by the end of the run, and your body will remember all of the wrong things.
But, here’s the thing. If you’re trying to turn yourself into a finely tuned, efficient machine, it won’t work if your equipment isn’t in the same condition. Getting the feel of an edge carving through a turn doesn’t work if you don’t HAVE an edge. On that beautiful firm corduroy that groomers work so hard to achieve and we love so much, a dull ski edge means a skidded turn, period; Bode Miller can’t put an edge in if he doesn’t have one. I was once on a lift with Harald Harb of Harb Ski Systems, and he was talking about skiing World Cup races; every run, as he and other racers rode back up the lift, they’d click out of one ski at a time and take a file to their edges. Every. Single Run. Us normal mortals…oh, every 5-10 DAYS, we might get a tune, right? There’s simply no way we can get significantly better with edges that aren’t ready to take advantage of the conditions…and, we can’t get the most fun out of our runs, either.
But ski tunes are expensive, and it’s sometimes hard to get your skis to the tuner and back given workday schedules. And if you’re headed to your favorite mountain for a day, you don’t want to waste time and ticket prices on sitting around waiting for your skis to be done. What to do?
Here’s where King Pine solves the problem for us…their Rental & Tune Shop “10/10” ski tune is cheap and quick. As in…10 minutes, 10 bucks (yeah, that’s where the name comes from). Literally, drop your skis off with them, give them $10, no extra for tax or anything like that, and come back in 10 minutes to fresh edges and fresh wax. It’s that easy…but can it actually be good?
The quick answer is a resounding YES! After a half dozen runs, we headed in to drop off our skis. Mine had 4 days on the edges, Tim’s…well, let’s just say that the last person to tune them might have been Abraham Lincoln. It was a great test from our perspective…my skis were in good shape, bases looked relatively well waxed, so it might be tough to improve them, and Tim’s might be TOO much for a quick, cheap tune. Inside the shop, Robert Wheeler, the ski tuner on duty, warned us that since it was 10 degrees and we’d been out skiing, it would be more like 20 minutes than 10; he needed to warm the skis up before waxing them. Made sense to us, and we took advantage of the time to warm our toes by the base lodge fire and relax with a cup of hot chocolate from the cafeteria.
20 minutes later, back we went, and sure enough our skis were waiting. Out we went, and…literally, as we skied off the lift, we could both feel the difference. The wax was FAST, and that first quick turn off the lift to head for the trail we wanted was tight and clean. Both of us had a definite “wow!” feeling as we headed for Pine Brule. We’d finished there with a hard, fast run before going in so that we’d have a direct comparison when we came back out, and it wasn’t even a serious question; turns were tighter, crisper, much more fun. The skis felt more alive, easier to turn…we went faster with less work. One of the things I love about coming down to the Black Bear Triple at King Pine is there’s some wonderful space to lay down deep carved turns, just playing around, and it was pure joy doing that with the fresh edges.
Pure and simple, we aren’t aware of any other way to increase your skill & fun that quickly and that cheaply. We really hadn’t expected TOO much…I mean, it’s a $10 ski tune, right? But, it was so much better than we could have imagined; neither of us had any feeling like it was an “okay” tune (and we’ve had too many of those, at much higher prices). Our hope was that we could recommend the service; instead, we’re able to give it a RESOUNDING recommendation. And, pair that with King Pine’s modest lift ticket pricing, and it means you can get a tune and a full day of skiing for less than a ticket alone at many larger areas. That’s a bargain that’s hard to beat!