No snow, but plenty of tuning time

Hard to believe that a year ago this Monday Heavenly Ski Resort opened for the season. No such luck this year as the warm weather has prevented even the beginning of making snow. Earliest date to start the snow guns may be this Sunday, Heavenly said, but don't count on it.

Of course, hiking is still dandy with warm days and uncrowded trails. But for skiers it is a good time to do some of those preseason chores. Like exploring the mysteries of canting. Canting adjustment can be especially helpful to women who have a leg condition caused by the wider pelvis in the female anatomy. This often results in a knock-kneed condition.

You start in a ski shop (no way to do this at home) where the expert technician puts you in your ski boots and has you stand on a couple of aluminum foot beds with long vertical rulers attached.

Those rulers expend up past your knees and allow the techie to find out if you're bowlegged or knock-kneed or have perfect leg stance.

If you're perfect, pass GO and keep on skiing. For the other two conditions you have a choice. You can install wedge-shaped lifters under your bindings on your skis to compensate or you can have your boots planned at an angle to achieve the same results.

Or you can do nothing. If you've been skiing for years with bowlegs, which put your outside edges on the snow, or knock-knees, which put your inside edges on the snow, you've learned to compensate for the condition. You probably weren't even aware of the problem.

And any corrections you make may force you to learn skiing all over again as your brain continues to look for those off-centered legs. If you're not a racer or an extremist or someone who wants to do everything exactly right, you may opt to just keep trucking.

However, if you decide to correct the situation, you have a couple of questions to consider.

If you put wedges on your skis, an easy task once you've been measured, that means you can't run off and demo other skis which will not have your wedges in place. On the other hand, if you find that you can't adapt to the wedge-changed stance, you can remove the wedges and go back to your old stance.

Not the case if you grind down your boots. Yes, you can demo ski to your heart's delight, but if you find that the boot change is not to your liking, you're stuck with canted boots.

And canted boots usual void the warranty on bindings and boots because of the changes to the product. The canting can destroy the "purchase" between your boot and the bindings.

Notes Andy Poscic of Rainbow Mountain ski shop in South Lake Tahoe, "When the DIN system of bindings came in in the 1980s, much of the old canting adjustment methods became obsolete. Most of the time by using the boot's cuff adjustment you can correct for stance."

You can compensate with the canted boot to achieve the correct parallel purchase between the boot and binding by adding tape or plastic inserts to the TOP of the boot toe and heel. But this can be a tricky affair as it takes truly skilled and dedicated boot fitters to make this work.

So what does it all add up to? Maybe not a lot. If you're comfortable now and don't want to be King of the Mountain, perhaps well enough is well enough. If you find that you're in a wider stance than desirable, well, try the cuff first. If you're on skis five days a week, you would want to look more deeply into the matter.

While you're in the ski shop you might want to have your skis along so the edges can be checked for bevel. That's the degree off 90 degrees that the edges and adjusted. All ski makers recommend certain degrees of bevel for their skis. Angles are usually less than 90 degrees so that the ski won't be too grabby.

While you can do this at home (if you know what the maker suggests or what you past preference has been) it takes a bit of equipment and a steady hand. Beveling devices can run from about $20 up to $50. But if you're getting a ski tuneup the bevel will be checked at that time.

And speaking of tuning, never think that new skis are ready for the slopes. New skis almost always need a tuneup. Reasons are obvious: skis get shipping around, put on display, pawed and inspected by potential buyers. And they were usually made last spring. So do your new skis right: have them tuned.

--Sam Bauman


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