Every year around late July and early August we get our annual influx of ski racers heading to the whiter pastures of the Andes and Southern Alps. Others are heading up to the summer camps of Mount Hood. This presents a good opportunity to take a look at your gear and see if it’s still up to the task. Have you outgrown your boots? How many holes are acceptable in race gloves? How about socks? What are the condition of my ski boots and skis?
We all have heard time and again that your boots are the most important article of gear- which is certainly true for ski racers. It’s hard to race when you’re hobbled in pain, or if your canting is catawampus. Summer camps are a great place to dial in gear and work on techniques or work on overcoming bad habits.
The following is a list of things we see and think are great items to be looking into at summer camps.
If you’re in the same boots as the previous season approach the obvious questions first. Have you outgrown your boots? If yes obviously shop for some new ones, if not take a look at them and examine their condition. If you’ve been in your boots one entire race season odds are your liner is shot. If you’re anything like the vast majority of the racing population your toe and heel plates are also on the endangered species list.
To be brutally honest we really feel like at the Far West racing level race boots only last one year. Yes even at the U10 U12 level- perhaps especially at the U10 U12 level. The fact is those lucky kids spend and extraordinary amount of time in their boots, it’s fairly obvious by looking at them that their simply worn out. Remember, with the amount of days in them the liner is packed out and the material inside simply isn’t holding the foot the way it should. That being said, it makes total sense with a growing kid to wait until the last possible second to spring for a new pair of boots, which is generally somewhere around the month of November.
For the older kids summer is a great time to play with canting. Canting is planning the sole of the ski boot to match the natural stance of the athlete, particularly the relation of the center of the knee to the center of the ski boot. Some of the tell-tale signs that an athlete needs canting is that one turn is significantly better, i.e. left footers are always better than the right or vise versa. Another symptom would be excessive A-framing or cheating one knee over in the turn excessively. Coaches will often have a few methods to play with to determine if canting is necessary.
There are a few things one can do to prepare skis for the season. If you’re lucky enough to pick up a new pair of speed skis, hot boxing them is a great idea. A couple of cycles in the hotbox will ensure that the bases are super fast and ready to rip. Remember: the more you ski a speed ski in the faster they will be. If an athlete were so inclined she could play with changing edge angles the off-season would be the time to do it.
Coaches in the Lake Tahoe area do a great job of determining what edge angles they would like their athlete’s skis tuned to. Likewise, Tahoe coaches have a handle on what lifts they would like between the bindings and ski. For example max height or some variation of ramp angle is generally prescribed. If you were unsure of edge bevels or ramp angle, summer camps would be a great place to try some variations. ***Disclaimer*** Ski bindings are a major safety issue. Only certified experts should be working on ski bindings.
In summation the point is if you’re going to play with gear, the summer camps is one of the best times to do it rather than mid season when you’re doing your best to get on the podium. Most importantly summer ski camps should be fun! Don’t ever forget that while you may take racing seriously, it also one of the most fun things in the world to do! Yes train hard, but remember to make the most of it and have a ton of fun.