Last week was all about preparing for the season. But I didn’t discuss one unavoidable activity, reading about our sport. What used to be perusing the ski magazines has expanded to websites and email newsletters.

One of my favorites is realskiers.com, which is put out by Jackson Hogen, who compiled ski tests for Snow Country for most of that magazine’s existence. Knowing Jackson’s background with actual ski companies and having skied with him, I can trust his judgment on skis. It helps that his recommendations agree with my own choices so I do look forward to his emails.

Dave Irons, Ski Columnist

For some years now, the ski magazines have been recommending wider skis, which I can understand for those who ski in the West. And I would qualify that. My first experience on a very wide ski was the Atomic Powder plus, at least 6 inches under foot.

We were heli skiing out of Valemount, British Columbia, and the skis were perfect. The flotation made skiing two or more feet of powder easy. At the time I was in shape to have skied the powder on my own Atomics, a 209 cm GS, but the wide boards made it a lot easier, and I have watched intermediates handle the deep stuff with wide skis.

If by, some chance, I wind up once again departing a helicopter in the Canadian Bugaboos, I would certainly be on wide skis. But even out West, if you stick to groomed runs, why go wide? And we surely don’t need them skiing groomed runs here in the East.

THE CASE FOR RACE SKIS

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Regular readers of my columns must know by now that I have always recommended race skis, and today’s recreational race models are easier to ski than ever. While I wouldn’t recommend those 209 Atomics, they were the easiest turning ski of that length I ever skied. They still occupy space in my office, but with the old ESS bindings they will never see the slopes under my boots again. The GS models I just finished tuning are 175 cm Volkls with a tip Rocker. Obviously, a ski in that length is easy into the turn. But with today’s construction, the skis are surprisingly stable.

This is an area not usually cited when comparing skis. Today’s skis are different in more ways than just width, sidecut and length.

The materials within the ski and the way they are put together give us flex patterns that never could have been achieved with the old materials and construction methods. That’s why we have skis that are easy to ski but still stable with good edge hold.

Hogen made a special point earlier this fall in making the case for race skis. He talked about the focus of the ski designers in Europe, noting that they are obsessed with racing. These are their favorite skis, the ones that get the most attention. They are tested repeatedly by the world’s best skiers, the World Cup racers.

Hogen tells us that is why these are the best skis in the world. No expense is spared in the construction of today’s race skis, and while it is true that we can’t buy the exact same skis the World Cup skiers use, today’s recreational (Hogen calls them non FIS models) race skis are the best you can buy.

There are some distinctions. For example, Volkl lists the Race Tiger series and separates the more serious race skis as Race stock. One significant difference is camber. My Race Tigers have a tip rocker, but my Race Stock GS models are full camber. The Race Tigers are more forgiving and the Race Stock more demanding. I take out the Race Stocks when I want to go a bit faster on perfectly groomed runs mid-week. They are 180s, while the recreational Race Tigers are 175s. My first few days will surely be on the 175s.

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While I ski on race skis and recommend them for advanced skiers, I suggest trying some the next time you’re thinking of new skis. The only problem is finding them at demo days. A lot of shops no longer carry race skis and often they aren’t available at demos.

If you can find a shop that caters to racers, they are likely to have some. Two such shops are Ski Depot in Jay and Myrick’s Skiers Edge in Auburn — places both equip a number of racers, especially high school. Sport Thoma in Bethel does a lot of business with the kids in the Gould-Sunday River Program. These are shops where you might find some race demos to try.

LOST VALLEY EXPERIENCES

On another topic, I don’t know how many readers know that I have written a few books. My histories of Shawnee Peak and Mt. Abram are available on Amazon, but to support more local skiing get signed copies at the Maine Ski Museum and the New England Ski Museum. Signed copies are also available at both mountains and the Bethel Historical Society.

Now that I have that shameless plug out of the way, I am going to enlist your help with my next book. With the goal of having it in print by the beginning of the 2022-23 ski season, I am gathering material for a book on Lost Valley, which means I will be skiing locally a lot this season. If you have stories on skiing or learning to ski at Lost Valley, contact me at [email protected] I am interested in meeting Lost Valley skiers at the ski area, whether it’s to take a few runs or chat in the base lodge.

 

Dave Irons is a freelance writer and columnist who hails from Westbrook. He has been contributing to the Sun Journal for many years and is among the most respected ski writers in the Northeast. He also is a member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame. Write to him at [email protected] 

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