Grinding the burr

Knuckle dragger

Posted: Sunday, December 02, 2007

This time of year there is a whole group of skiers late to show up for the early season skiing.

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They're the classic type who in an effort to miss the early season all together, have just begun to pull last year's skis and snowboards out and feed them to local shops with work orders asking to have bases waxed, edges sharpened. They want skis and boards tuned for a winter they pray will come on the heels of a storm - any hope-riddled minute.

Another species of skier altogether is well into the season and has used the mountain itself to tune gear and get the most out of skiing before the snow arrives. Preseason skiing being what preseason skiing is, there seems to be a special tune required for good rock skiing.

Outside of ski swaps and abandoned Subarus, rock skis are hard to find and commercially unavailable. Presumably some twisted government safety conspiracy requires that you make your own rock skis, and most people screaming in the parking lot just made their own out of a brand new $700 set up.

Tuning your own is easiest done by running to the top of a local hill that is just tall enough to get you into enough snow for eight really good grin-splitting powder turns before sparks set your pant leg on fire as you hit the boulders and stumps really needed to tune your gear.

Even the best ski tech cannot seem to mimic the early season benefits of a naturally occurring six-inch splintered core-shot or the turn stabilizing improvements offered by a crushed and collapsed.

As your normally useful machete-like edges cut a swath through the blueberry bushes clogging the way, you can quickly detune those grabby rails with one or two hard edging turns on the rocks in the nearby free-flowing creek beds that separate one early-season snow patch from another.

Let geology and heavy flora do the hard work grinding large burrs into your edges that become evidently useful for serious breaking and the high-speed control needed to traverse the icy muskeg below.

During the first 10 turns in the crust of windblown snow you've scraped off last summer's storage wax. Keep going and get two years of gnarly built up wax and Dr. Zog's off and prepare the carbon Teflon B2000 diamond cut sintered base for an early season stone grind by skiing stumps and shattered dead-fall.

Professional base grinds can cost more than a pitcher of beer and have little use for skiing through stalks of devil's club.

To finish your tune, point your boards straight for a gravel road or trail with just enough broken ice to make the coarse crushed rock slickery enough not to stop you before building enough texture into the space-age base material. Done right, you can leave the skins home next time.

The result is a slightly more custom tune than a tech can provide, but it's just right for early season rock skiing.

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