Pre-Season 2005
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You're ready; is your gear ready?

In an earlier time, skiers, alpine skiers and cross-country skiers too, had special rituals that announced the imminent arrival of the ski season. Most involved getting skis ready for winter. Cross-country skiers in the age of wooden skis were almost addicted to the smell of pine-tar as they painted a new "base" on their boards... Just looking in the closet for all your gear — boots, gloves, goggles, sweaters, parkas, that favorite hat — seemed an act of sympathetic magic, designed to hurry up the arrival of snow. Round about October we all feel an overwhelming temptation to go out to the garage and look at our skis, to slip a wrist through the strap of a ski pole and flick a few imaginary pole plants toward a few imaginary moguls....

But nostalgia and eagerness for winter aside, in this high-tech age of ours, is there anything you really need to do to get your gear ready for the slopes?

Tomorrow was yesterday
In terms of keeping your skis in top shape from one season to the next, I'd say that what counts most is how you put them away at the end of the season. Rusty edges are definitely not cool, and so it is a good idea to put a little salad oil on a kitchen paper towel and gently wipe the edges of your skis when you put them away after that last day of spring snow.

But that was then, this is now. Here is a small checklist that you can go through before the snow flies:

Skis and bindings. At a minimum, you will want to have your bindings checked at a local ski shop. Bindings can seize-up in the off-season. And you don't want to start down the hill on your first run with bindings whose release function is set 2 or 3 DIN numbers higher than what you really need.

Do you have a favorite ski shop, with a ski tuner you really trust. You should. (And one way to find the best ski shop, whether at your favorite area or back in the city, is to as an instructor you know and trust). In that case, I would strongly recommend a basic ski tune-up, truing the base, honing the edges to the proper angle, and waxing. Your first turns, once the lifts open, will feel strange and disorienting anyway. Mine do, every season, after a lifetime of skiing. And it will sooth your re-entry anxieties, and smooth out your first turns to start the season on a well tuned pair of skis.

Boots. This may be the year, if you haven't done it already, to have your boots customized to your stance. You don't need snow, you do need a truly skilled boot alignment specialist. Fortunately there are more and more places around the country where you can find such boot specialists. They will measure your stance, and adjust the way your boots hold you, often by building a custom footbed, and, if needed planing the soles of the boots to compensate for an inward or outward tilt of the lower leg. Most boot alignment specialists work at ski areas and it is hard to find this kind of service in major urban areas. But if, for example, you lived in Denver, it would be well worth it to make a pre-season trip to Aspen to visit boot guru, Jim Lindsay at his shop in Aspen Highlands. I am hoping to publish a list of top boot alignment specialists across the country later this season. For now, just ask around, and try to find out who does boot alignment for the majority of instructors at your favorite ski area. If you can get your boots aligned before this season starts you will be miles ahead.

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