On Skiing: Random musings about New England's history and tuning skis

0

Last Saturday, I visited Mount Cranmore for the annual Meister Cup, an event that celebrates Hannes Schneider, the 10th Mountain Division and the history of skiing, especially in the Mount Washington Valley.

The 10th is represented by veterans and today’s active military. The division is based at Camp Drum in upstate New York and each year brings a team to the race. The current members and the veterans take part in presenting the flag at the opening ceremonies.

The race fills the morning with a strong field of locals who regularly participate in the weekly Mountain Meister Races. Inside, there is a silent auction and at 1:30 p.m. a parade of skiers in vintage ski wear, some carrying vintage equipment as well to a snow platform at the base of the slopes. A Tyrolean Band provides music with frequent blasts from an Alpen Horn.

This vital fundraiser for the New England Ski Museum is always well attended, but this year showed what a foot or more of new snow will do. Every parking lot at the mountain was completely full. This kind of support for anything skiing, and especially the history, is a tradition in the North Conway area, and it’s one of the reasons the New England Ski Museum chose the town as the location for its new satellite museum.

The community raised over a million dollars to purchase the building and set up the displays. Earlier, on a trip trip over to New Hampshire, I got to visit the new North Conway version and was duly impressed. I expressed my regrets at having missed the grand opening the week before, and was promptly informed that I was better off being there on a quiet weekday. They had 200 visitors inside and another 250 outside waiting to get in. The location couldn’t be much better. The building is next to the common in front of the railroad station, just a matter of yards from the light that marks the town center.

The displays are highly professional and tell many of the stories of New England skiing. Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont are well represented with individual displays for each state.

Advertisement

The story of the 10th Mountain Division is there along with samples of early equipment and ski wear. Whether you’re looking to learn about skiing In Tuckerman Ravine or the beginning of Sugarloaf, you can find it.

It’s interesting that the building is located next to the train station where Hannes Schneider and his family arrived in 1939 to bring his Arlberg Technique to America. His 19-year-old son Herbert was also there and went on to serve in the 10th Mountain Division. Until his death a couple of years ago, Herbert Schneider was a fixture at the ski area he had owned.

Fine tuned

I learned a bit about tuning when I attended the demo at Loon. In talking with Brent Mohr from Stockli, we got on the subject of tuning. Obviously, the skis at these events are finely tuned as the reps want to send out their skis out with the best possible performance. In all the years I have skied at these demos, I can recall only one instance of a poorly tuned ski, and it was so long ago that I don’t even remember the brand.

How do they prepare these skis? No rep has the time to hand-tune them. Brent told me he takes his skis to the Montana distribution center in Massachusetts, and the machines there do 25 pairs of skis in an hour.

I have to admit that I haven’t paid much attention to the machines being used in ski shops today. I have everything I need, and set up my basement work bench for tuning each winter.

By bringing the skis in every two or three times out, I never have to have them machine-ground. All they need is a diamond stone to take out any burrs, a multi-tuner to make sure of the edge geometry, a device to create the structure and a hot wax.

Brent said he tells the Montana guys the specs he wants, edge angles and structure, and the machine turns them out. The wax machine applies and buffs the wax and the skis are ready, all 25 pairs, in one hour. Having skied on the results of this machine tuning, I can say you can leave your skis to the shops with these machines. And remember, if that expensive ski is left untuned, after a number of days it won’t ski any better than a cheap ski.

While I didn’t race, I watched the first annual Legends race at Sunday River on the March 6. The idea of the race was to have a few members of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame who could be challenged by skiers 50 and older. Of the 30 skiers pre-registered, more than 20 actually raced on near-perfect conditions on Monday Mourning, and after the awards in the Barker Base Lodge nearly all said they would be back. Greg Sweetser and Bob Harkins represented the Hall of Fame, and the fact that neither won in their age group tells us that there were some serious racers on hand. Watch for the date for your calendar next year.

I chose Monday before the storm as one of my ski days this week and skied in the morning at Shawnee Peak. The groomed runs were smooth, packed powder and the forecasts look good for these mid-winter conditions to continue.

I saw the usual turnout of senior skiers where a regular group of skiers well past social security age can be found mid-week. I even noticed one with a patch on his parka, “90 Plus Club.” I know 70s and 80s are common, but 90? I guess there isn’t any limit.

See you on the slopes.

Advertisement