There's plenty of news to tell about our featured sponsor SlideWright, including a redesigned website, a new and expanded line of products, and some super deals for EpicSki members. I want to tell you in detail about all these wonderful things, but first I'd like to tell you about the person who is SlideWright.
Known around here as Alpinord, Terry Ackerman started skiing at the age of six on a hill in the back yard of his family's home at Kansas City, Missouri. "My dad was from Wisconsin," Terry explained. "The skis were from Sears." Ever since then skiing has been a major part of his life and lifestyle. It brought him to Colorado for college and has kept him in Durango ever since.
After a year in KC, the family moved to western New York for a few years and then back to Minnesota where Terry was born and then to New England where he went to high school. Skiing (and junior racing) was always the weekend priority. "My dad turned me on to base repair, edge filing and waxing early on. Design school at CU was my ticket west to softer snow and big mountains, much to the chagrin of my parents and classmates. (Back then, you just didn’t leave New England to go to college.)"
Terry founded SlideWright in 2005 out of a desire for greater efficiency. "I'm always looking for ways to increase efficiency," he said. "Where I live I can ski out the back door. Nordic tour and skate skiing taught me to appreciate an excellent glide. But when I got married and then later when we had a kid, I found that being more efficient enabled me and my family to ski more, with less stress and time spent." The need to be more efficient led him into ski tuning. He found that maintaining his own equipment saved time, money, and having to drive to a ski shop to get his boards tuned -- a plus for the environment.
Thus what began as an expedient hobby grew into a sideline to his business in energy efficient, custom home design, where his "super high level experience in CAD design," along with an extensive background in the hands-on work of construction, site work, and carpentry, have carried over into what he's done with SlideWright. His ability to create 3D models, animations, and renderings, and 2D graphics enables him to explain technical concepts in a visual way so it's easier for people to understand how to use his tools and products to best advantage. His tactile sensitivity has been honed through years of finish carpentry. His understanding of process allows him to communicate as effectively with novices as with experts.
He describes himself as a problem-solver and adds, "You might say I'm curious." You're likely to find him "putzing around" on projects in his shop behind the house -- when he isn't exploring the mountains around Durango on skis or bike, running the web-based Slidewright business, or designing environmentally sound buildings for discerning clients. With a strong math and drafting background, at CU-Boulder he studied some engineering with an emphasis in problem-solving and design, but interestingly, he credits his 10 years of bartending while in college (and a 3-year sabbatical at Winter Park) for instilling the values of efficiency, precision, and accuracy that continue as his guiding principles. In his lifetime he also spent enough time teaching skiing to gain an appreciation for basic principles of learning, such as breaking complex subjects into understandable parts, that are evident in the training videos and articles he produces for his site and has generously shared with us at EpicSki.
As a bartender, designer, and instructor Terry has learned that people differ in their tolerance for complexity and simplicity. "The key is to listen to your clients," he said. He aims to communicate effectively with both the people who love to delve into the complexity and the people who just want it simple, easy, and cost-effective. He gives this specific example, "Most people don't want to put in the time, so they're going to be interested in rotobrushes, where some guys may be very particular about getting the bases structured and they will prefer the hand brushes. Time is a factor in the cost of anything, that is, how much you feel your time is worth and how much you're willing to spend."
It may surprise you to know that Terry finds the notion of the always perfectly tuned ski to be kind of over done, given all the variables in skiing. However, he notes that a well-tuned ski will minimize those variables so that the skis perform optimally in most circumstances. He worries that ordinary skiers are intimidated by the notion that ski tuning is fairly consequential work. He said, "I've worked with all kinds of materials in my career from metals, to woods, to plastics, and I can tell you flat out: a ski is not the hardest item to work with. It's just plastic and metal. All you have to do is keep it true, square, and flat. I mean, you have to try really hard to screw it up." The ski is not made of glass: "The amount of force you can exert on the ski on a bench with tuning tools is probably not nearly as significant as the daily forces and impacts the skis endure while you're skiing," he said.
This is where he feels education can make a difference. "If you think about it," he said, "for every 100 skiers, maybe 5 will tune their own skis. Of the 95 who don't tune their own skis, a few will have their skis tuned at a shop from time to time, but most will not do anything at all with their skis nor do they have any awareness that their experience would be vastly improved if their edges were smooth and their bases were flat, along with well-prepared and waxed bases."
Terry's educational approach with his weblog and video tuning tips on his website is: "How to work tuning your skis into your life without making it your life." When to tune your skis is determined by: 1) conditions (how often you ski, how abrasive is the snow, your own time and priorities), and 2) the quality of the wax. A poor quality wax simply will not last as long as a high quality product. You don't need to tune your skis unless they need tuning. Mostly it's a matter of paying attention to how the skis are sliding. Can you feel when your skis are grabby, drifty, or slow? They're telling you it's time for a tune.
If you carry a stone in your pocket you can do small repairs on the go. Terry recommends that ski instructors also carry a true bar to assess the condition of their students' skis. "Never assume the student's skis are tuned," he said. "Checking the condition of their equipment should be part of the overall assessment."
When you purchase a new pair of skis, Terry advises not assuming that they are ready to go out of the box and to give them an assessment. You should first see if the skis are flat with consistent structure, edges consistently sharp, and thirdly you should wax the skis at least a few times. "You don't know anything about a ski until you put it on the bench and take them for a test drive," he said. The basic tools needed to get started tuning your own skis starts with a metal true bar to test your work. "Edge geometry and turning is relative to the flatness of the ski," he said. Next comes having sharp edges which require guides, files, and stones. Then comes the wax and the iron (resist the urge to use an old clothes iron for this purpose as it can get too hot and this is the one place you can screw up badly).
Finally are the scraper and the brushes. It's important to keep your scraper sharp so it removes the wax one layer at a time. You want to remove most of the wax that you applied with the iron. Thicker and smooth finish is not better. "Don't waste time and money by putting too much wax on your skis and waxing more than necessary. You want to cover the little nooks and crannies of the bases with a consistently thin layer of wax." The final step is brushing -- and if you skip giving the skis a brush finish, you'll have effectively wasted the time and effort you put in to this point, because the suction of flat wax impedes glide.
In closing Terry said, "Don't be paralyzed by the minutiae of tuning. You'll learn by doing, and honestly, it's really hard to screw it up if you use the right tools, common sense, and take your time. Don't be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them." He has an altruistic motive as well: "If people take care of their gear, maybe they will put off buying new skis or someone else will want to buy their used skis, and then the sport of skiing might have less of a negative impact on the environment."
What about the deals SlideWright has for EpicSki members?
Up to 20% off!
The prices at Slidewright start with a 10% discount. If you set up an account with your EpicSki username you can be eligible for an additional 5% discount for active members or an additional 10% discount for Supporters. See SlideWright's page at EpicSki for all the details.
Sales & Deals
The savings compound when you buy these current-year products with your EpicSki discount.
Clearances & Closeouts
The savings compound when you buy from larger discounts on last year's inventory.
This Week's Steals
Here's where sharp shoppers can find specials on items discounted up to 50%!
Loyalty Points Program
For every purchase you make at Slidewright, you can bank 5% of its cost for a future purchase. In other words, you'll get 5 cents back for every dollar you spend! This is for all SlideWright customers and is in addition to your EpicSki discounts.
What else is new?
Terry's added whole new categories of great stuff for people who play outdoors!
- Products to care for your outdoor gear
- Backcountry gear
- Bootfitting tools and accessories
- Helmets, goggles & eyewear
- Bike tools