It’s been a long and snowy winter. I’m not complaining — it’s been a great season for all snow-related recreational pursuits.
There was great downhill, cross-country and backcountry skiing to be had in this season that went from October to April. But, there were lots of “snow chores,” too. Shoveling, snow blowing, sanding and repeat. If I don’t use a shovel again anytime soon, I’ll be happy.
It’s April and I’m afflicted with “spring fever.” Although I love spring skiing, I’m ready for the snow in my yard to go. I want to see the ground again.
April is National Poetry Month. According to Wikipedia, it was “organized in 1996 by American poets as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the U.S.”
When I went running this week, I could see why April is the perfect month for poetry. Everywhere I went, sounds and sights encountered sent my brain poetic snippets of spring.
“Snowbanks receding like a balding man’s hairline,” came to mind as I ran down East Main Street. “Pussy willows popping out” reminded me that spring was coming. Canada geese arriving from the South “honked hello” to others as they landed on Pequawket Pond. A Hobbs Street skateboarder skate-jouring behind two dogs told me seasons were changing. Everywhere, a cacophony of bird songs told me winter’s quiet was gone and spring’s symphony was back. Robins in the sumac told me spring was here.
Many Nordic centers are closed or closing, but friends are enjoying cross-country skiing in those still open. I’m thinking of heading out, too, for at least one more ski. Some are trying alpine spring skiing, too. Others are probably on their way to Tuckerman’s Ravine to participate in that spring ritual.
But, in the back of everyone’s minds, is the thought of warm weather, less snow and sand and getting out bicycles and motorcycles. It’s almost time to trade in skis for wheels. I’ve already seen a few diehard cyclists out there and heard the roar of motorcycles. My bikes are calling me from the basement.
But, before I change over, I have to complete the seasonal shift. I need to shake the skiing bug out of me with a few more spring skis to Prospect or Bear Notch. When I’m satisfied that I’ve had enough or the snow turns to mud, I’ll let it go. But, for now, the skis stay in the car.
Once I’ve said “goodbye” to skiing, but before I say “hello” to cycling, I have work to do. I just can’t toss the winter gear in a closet and leave the skis in the garage. If I want everything to be in good shape for the next snow season, I better take some time cleaning, organizing, and waxing. It’ll be time for the old CROP procedure — Clean, Repair, Organize and Plan for next year. If you have a family of skiers, multiply the effort times the number of skiers and skis.
Clean the family’s skis. Enlist the kids’ help in cleaning off that late-season gunk with a wet rag. If you have access to a wax bench, put on a coat of storage wax. Brush off those mud-covered boots. Wash all mittens, hats, socks and ski clothes. Don’t put anything away dirty or smelly or you’ll be sorry come November.
Repair — check the skis for damage to base or binding and fix. Make sure all binding bumpers are intact and replace missing or damaged ones. Look at the poles. Are the straps, baskets and pole tips intact? If not, fix or replace.
Organize skis — use ski bones, straps or rubber bands to keep pairs of skis together and group with appropriate poles. Find a dry place to store them. Buy a big covered plastic bin, label it “ski stuff” and throw in gloves, mittens, socks, hats and wax, old passes, etc — all the things you’ll be searching for next winter.
Plan — while you’re organizing the equipment, make a list of the sizes and types of each so you can plan ahead for next year’s ski swap. Predictably, over the summer, your kids will outgrow some of their equipment, so it’s helpful to use this list to plan what you need to replace next year.
Yesterday, a friend emailed me, asking how to prepare her skis for the off-season. That got me thinking about my own skis and what they needed. They’ve seen a lot of use this season and they show it. They’re sadly in need of some TLC. To answer her question and motivate me to take care of them, I did a little research. I know on a basic level that I need to clean them, repair any damage and put some storage wax on them to protect them in warmer months, but the details eluded me.
A little online search found them for me. Every serious skier I know has their own end of season ritual. Some are more fastidious than others. We tend to do at least the bare minimum. The site I found helpful for knowing what I “should” do is tinyurl.com/yxoutnmh.
In this blog, senior content writer Nate Tomlinson does a good job of explaining what equipment you’ll need, why you should put storage wax on your skis and what steps you should take to protect and store your skis. As he says, “How you treat your Nordic skis when the season ends makes all the difference in how well they’ll treat you at the start of next year.”
Tomlinson lists and explains in detail five steps for storage waxing Nordic skis. 1. Decide if you need a tune — check the base structure to see if you need one. If you don’t know, ask a ski shop tech. Maybe they need a fresh stone grind. 2. Hot scrape your bases — basically, you’re cleaning off the old wax and dirt from the pores, using a “cleaning wax”, waxing iron and scraper. 3. Brush your bases — use a two-step graduating brush process, first with a fine brass brush, then with a nylon brush to remove any remaining wax. 4. Applying storage wax — once the bases are clean, it’s time to apply storage wax.
Nate recommends a warm temperature, non-fluoro hydrocarbon like CH 8. We use this, too, figuring we’ll match what we think early season temperatures will be so all we have to do next winter is “scrape and go.” Be liberal with the wax — the bases will absorb much of it over the summer. 5. Storing your skis —look for a place that’s not too dry or humid, or had fluctuating temperatures and conditions. Who knew your closet was better than your basement or garage?
I’ve only summarized Nate’s advice. Read his article to get more details. If you feel overwhelmed or not equipped with the tools and know-how to storage wax your skis yourself, have a ski shop do it for you. It’ll cost you a little more, but it’ll be worth it to have skis well taken care of in the offseason and ready for next winter.
Enjoy skiing while you can, but get ready for spring. Cycling season is just around the corner. Feel the fever.
April 11: MWV Bicycling Club’s Spring Meeting, 5:30-7:30 p.m., North Conway Country Club in North Conway.
April 13: Opening day for trails — Rails to Trails Conservancy — check website for details: tinyurl.com/yy8fbx3b.
April 14: Great Maine Bike Swap, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., University of Southern Maine’s Sullivan Gym, Portland, Maine.
May: League of American Bicyclist’s Bike Month — Bike to School, May 8, Bike to Work Week, May 13-19, Bike to Work Day, May 17.
May 11: MWV Bicycling Club’s Kids’ Bike Safety Day at Story Land, Glen, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
May 17: Crank the Kanc Time Trial, Conway, 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m., to benefit Kennett High mountain bike team and MWV Bicycling Club programs.
Sally McMurdo is a cross-country ski instructor at Jackson Ski Touring Foundation. For almost four decades, she has explored New England's groomed and ungroomed trails on all kinds of skis.