Monday, November 30, 2015

Brian Gregg earns WC start for Davos 30K

Brian got a call notifying him that he has been selected for a discretionary start slot at the World Cup 30K individual start.  

This notification came just a couple days after winning the 15K skate race at West Yellowstone on Saturday.

Congratulations to Brian Gregg!  

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ski Season is ON

Nov 18th in the Methow Valley.
Are you ready?   Are your skis ready?  

Monday, November 16, 2015

Atomic Redster World Cup Skate

A quiet evolution?

Atomic has quietly made changes to their top-end skate skis in the past year or so.    I say "quietly" because I don't see much of a marketing blitz by Atomic, at least not here in the USA. 

Worldwide, Atomic seems to have focused their marketing toward the World Loppet events more than the World Cup.    That's easy enough to figure out, when big Euro events are drawing thousands of skiers (who have, incidentally, paid for their own skis) and lots of media.     However, to the citizens racers and recreational performance skiers in the USA, that marketing isn't particularly visible.     So for many people here in the states, Atomic isn't quite as visible as a few other brands 

Though Atomic isn't beating the drum loudly around here, I think the changes are noteworthy and I think it's a ski that should be on the radar for a lot of skiers.

First, let's start with the mundane business of the ski's name.    Gone is the "Red Cheetah Featherlight" name, and now the top ski is the Atomic Redster World Cup.

The Redster's construction is different then the Red Cheetah from a few years back.    It seems that Atomic has slowly integrated new design features over a few years, so stepping back to the Red Cheetah of a few years ago, and comparing the Redster to that benchmark is a good perspective.     These days the Redster is a flat-deck cap ski, and no longer has the distinctive deep top sheet trench that has been easily identifiable (the Beta Construction) since the late '90's.

Two grooves for the hard-track ski
One groove for the A2 Universal
The Redster has a Nomex core, which is light, with excellent dimensional stability over time and temperature (as opposed to, say, foam core skis).    The ski has laminate layers of carbon and fibreglass, and also light wood sidewalls under the skin to build a torsionally strong box cross-section.   Wood!   "How novel", you might say, but yes wood is still used extensively in the ski world because it has material properties that are competitive with any of the man made stuff, in controlled conditions.   And all that is hidden under a cap sheet that wraps all the way around to the edges, with new graphics.

Additionally - and a bit unique in the realm of modern skate skis - the Redster has a thin titanium sheet laminated in the mid-section to dampen the ski (attenuate high frequency vibration), strengthen the camber and create a super strong binding interface without too much added weight.

The Redster is still a cap ski with a hard edge that extends about a millimeter.   The result is very good edging in any firm conditions.

Atomic is building the Redster skate ski in three different flavors:

  • The "A2 Universal" is the workhorse.    The A2 Universal is a very broad-spectrum universal camber ski that covers the bulk of our skiing conditions.  It's truly a "quiver of one" ski, handling everyday conditions beautifully, while not being a dog on the soft snow and still maintaining dignity on the hard tracks as well.
  • The "A1 Compact" is a ski for those bullet-proof conditions; if you can get away with roller-ski tips on your poles, that's what I'm calling a hard track.   It has a firmer tip flex and a little lower camber and a bit more contact area under full body weight.   It's got 2 grooves on the bottom to aid the tracking, sort of like a Rossi skater, but these are deeper, wider grooves
  • The "A2 Plus CB" is a white base ski for soft snow and moist conditions.   It has a more flexible tip and tail and the base material is intended for moist and soft ski-to-snow interface.
The top sheets are the same except for the small identifyer.
 I appreciate that Atomic has brought to market a well thought-out group of skate skis that can take care of the spectrum of conditions for the citizens racer.  While the A2 Universal version is really the workhorse here, there are a couple of very specific quiver skis to get the serious skier the right tool for the job.

The top sheets of the 3 versions are basically identical, except for the small identifying label.    But from the bottom side there's no mistaking which ski you've grabbed.   Also the hard-track ski has a slightly squared off tip, which helps you recognize which ski you're pulling out of the ski bag.

Skiing on the Atomic Redster World Cup



Although we're not skiing on the valley floor here in the Methow Valley yet (Nov 16th), I did get a chance to put some time in on the A2 Universal this past spring.    I used the ski in conditions ranging from perfect corduroy, to ice, to slop, and it handled all of it well.     I did not get a chance to ski on soft new cold snow.  I found the Redster to be stable and predictable, with good edge engagement while climbing, and good secure control on a flat ski.    (here's a little video clip that i snagged from YouTube, and it's just blatant advertising, but it looks good to see someone on skis, so here you go...)

The Redster is virtually a straight-sided ski, with only one millimeter of sidecut (44-43-44).   With a well fitted pair, you get good tracking and the skis roll edge-to-edge confidently on a fast open field skate without feeling like they're wandering away from you.

The Redster has definitely evolved a bit more spring underfoot compared with the "cold" ski from a few years back.    The new skis are lively but confidence inspiring.  

Ski fit and binding placement




Picking the appropriate flex will be important for performance, as always.    The Atomic Redster skate skis need to be picked on the firmer side compared to the old Red Cheetah versions, due to a different camber construction.    Typically I'm picking these at about 120% of body weight for closure.


If you're using Pilot bindings, care is needed with binding placement (typically 1-1.5cm behind balance point).    Or you can put screwed-down NIS plates on them and have some fore/aft adjustability. 

The skis in this fall's selection have been really well matched, and the bases are flat and clean.    As usual, the Atomic skis are the easiest skis to tune - the bases stay flat and are easy to work on.
Atomic Redster World Cup Skate
see NordicUltratune.com
to get some.

Bring on the snow!

As they say, "just add water" - but in this case make it fall from the sky white and deep.   Ski season is upon us, and I think everyone is ready to be on snow.   

Atomic has improved their skate ski line-up with the Redster World Cup skis.    The evolution of their skate skis has been measured and incremental, but has seen a series of improvements over the past few years.   The Redster is really a great skate ski and is worth considering if you're looking for a new pair of skaters.

Want some?

If you'd like to get some of the Atomic skate skis, or have any questions, just send an email  (xcGrind at NordicUltratune dot com).

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Making Tracks at Washington Pass

There's two feet of snow at Washington Pass, which sits at 5500 feet and is 30 miles from home.    For the past week, a good Samaritan has taken a snowmobile and track-setter up to the pass and laid down a short loop.

Each year the first skiing for us is at Washington Pass.    This is the northern-most road across the north Cascades in Washington State.    The highway closes for the season almost every year, and I will be surprised if it remains open another week, since cold temps and more snow are expected almost every day through the extended forecast.

In the next few weeks, skiers will be heading to West Yellowstone and SilverStar Mountain for the annual ski camps.     Lots of new snow has arrived at both locations in the past couple days, and it looks like it should be a great week of skiing for everyone!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Snow Fall

video
Almost 2 feet of snow at Washington Pass ushers in the start of 
skiing for Methow Valley skiers on Nov 1, 2015.   
(Reddington photo)



Snow in the Methow Valley high country.

View of Goat Pk, which sits directly above the tiny berg of Mazama WA,
on Nov 1st.
November 1st.   Snow in the mountains last night!

With two feet of snow at Washington Pass, it means there will be the first early season "rock skiing" starting Nov 1, with a groomed loop.

Snow is ringing the Methow Valley up at about 4000 ft. this morning.  From Blue Buck Pk, Lucky Jim Bluff, Goat Pk, and all of the western skyline.     It's beautiful!

Also, Nov 1st is the end of daylight savings time.    Around here, in the Methow Valley, it means it will now be dark at about 5 p.m.     

So get after it early, and don't forget reflective vests and lights if you're on the roads and trails after work this week.

Grinding Season is On

It's a good time to get your skis in for pre-season service work.

Precision grinding with the
Mantec Skinumericontrol 140
Before things get cold and snowy, you might want to get those skis in for a grind.   Whether it's a good pair of racing boards that need to be brought back to their best form after a season of waxing hot with powders and cold waxes, or a pair of skis with some nasty scratches that need to be cleaned up, it's a perfect time to get them serviced.

Pre-season service on your skis has the advantage of not being quite so time sensitive for you.   There is still plenty of time to get skis tuned up before the Thanksgiving trips to Silverstar or West Yellowstone.

Nordic Ultratune uses a six step process to assure that you get skis that are well prepared and ready to race.

So check out the grind menu, download a work order form, ship your skis, and then you can relax through the summer knowing that you're a step ahead of the game on preparing for next season.

Hand Selected New Skis from Nordic Ultratune

Nov 1, 2015
Are you looking for new skis to go along with your desire for improved performance? It doesn't matter what level of skier you are. We all want to hit the trails with skis and a grind & wax that are going to give us the best experience. Nordic Ultratune offers skis and world class grinds that help you achieve your best. Yes, we continue to offer our custom ski program tailored just for you this 2015-16 season.

Get the skis you want, selected just for you, from the best possible selection. Check out our available new skis from Atomic, Madshus, and Rossignol on our website!

I work closely with the ski companies, knowledgeable World Cup skiers, coaches and servicemen to get the best possible information on ski fitting for each brand and model that Ultratune sells.

All skis are selected using the Ultratune Digital Flex Press in our shop. Whether you choose a ski from Atomic, Madshus or Rossignol, you'll get a well-fitted ski with a fast base finish that will result in great performance.  Email for info or with any questions!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

October Stone Grinding Schedule

You've been training this to get the most from your skiing, so make sure your skis aren't a limiter.

Prepare all of your skis to run their best with a fresh grind and hotbox service. At Nordic Ultratune, a grind batch starts every Thursday and those skis are ready for shipping on the following Monday -- just 4 days later.

Return shipping is by FedEx, which is typically 3rd day delivery. So, skis that are shipped out on Monday will arrive back to you on Thursday.

Here's the upcoming service schedule at Nordic Ultratune. Use these dates to make sure you get your skis ready before your most important races.
  • Skis in by Oct 8th will ship out on Oct 12th.
  • Skis in by Oct 15th will ship out on Oct 19th.
  • Skis in by Oct 22nd will ship out on Oct 26th.
  • Skis in by Oct 29th will ship out on Nov 2nd.
You can see that there are still service batches scheduled before the Thanksgiving ski camps. There is still time to get a fast grind on your skis before the season's biggest races!  But don't delay... ...fast boards are a joy to ski on, and they're a real advantage.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Wildfires in North Central Washington

You might have heard that there has been a big wildfire here in North Central Washington, including the Methow Valley.  

The Okanogan Complex - the name given to a group of about 5 fires in the region - has burned over 400 square miles (260,000 acres).  

The Twisp River fire, part of the Okanogan Complex, started and grew rapidly last Wednesday, and led to evacuation of our community.   Lives were lost.   Homes were destroyed.   Tragic.

The worst seems to be past, but we are still at Level 2 alert ("be ready to leave at a moment's notice").  The towns of Winthrop and Twisp and Mazama are back up and running and most residents have returned home and also back to work.



Everyone is helping friends and strangers alike.    We'll get through it; that's what we do in the Methow Valley.

The air here is still smoky (smells like bacon!).    There are over 1000 fire fighters here in the area fighting the fire and getting things under control .    Helicopters, water bomber airplanes, a DC10 dropping retardant.   Hundreds of wild land fire vehicles.

Power is on at Ultratune.   Email is working.   The web site is up and running.  The phone works.      No damage at the shop, and everything is fine.

There's nothing like hot, dry, smoky weather to make you dream of skiing!

If you've got skis that need service, send them any time.   FedEx & UPS are delivering, and I'm back in the shop catching up on grinding!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Spring Ski Cleaning

Okay, the 2014/15 ski season is definitely done now. It's been a few weeks since the last crust cruising, and even though there was a freak snowstorm at higher elevations this week, there's no snow in the forecast. It's time for some spring cleaning...

If your skis don’t have wax on them – skate skis for instance - give them a good brushing, tip-to-tail with a copper brush or other soft metal brush. The purpose of this brushing is to clean out the base structure, removing the old wax and loose dirt.

If your classic skis still have kick wax on them, remove it. I use a plastic putty knife and then Toko Gel Clean wax remover for this. Scrub a bit with a paper towel and a bit more wax remover, and wipe them clean and dry. While you've got wax remover and paper towels handy, go ahead and clean the sidewalls and tops of the skis.

Now “hot scrape” the bases: rub a layer of a soft paraffin wax down the entire length of the ski (yes, on classic skis, too). Now drip a lot more on – I usually run a continuous stripe down both sides of the groove. Iron quickly about three passes. While the wax is still molten, or at least soft, scrape the wax off with a sharp plexi scraper. Let the skis cool completely, then brush thoroughly with a stiff nylon brush.

The hot-scrape process lifts dirt and pulls old wax residue from the ski, into the hot molten wax, and the scraping will remove it. The brushing then helps clean out the structure. After the hot scrape, drip on and wax in (a couple passes will do) some of the same soft wax over the whole length of the ski, including the kick zone. The skis are clean, protected, and ready for summer storage. You might put a piece of tape on the skis and write which wax you used; it saves confusion next November.

Skis that have been stored clean and with a good coat of wax will be ready to go when the snow falls next winter.

If your skis have some damage or they are old “rock skis”, you might think about sending them in now for stone grinding. Often a pair of “rock skis” can be transformed into race quality skis (or “rock and roll skis”). If nothing else you’ll have good training skis for the early season.

If you left your klister-covered classic skis in the bag for the past few weeks, and have discovered a mess, then cleaning your ski bag is another job; I suggest some kind of alcohol solution, chilled, to help with that process.

While you're at it, maybe it's a good time to clean up the wax bench? ...well, maybe that can wait.

Spring & Summer Stone Grinding

Stone grinding work continues through the spring summer. Naturally, the pace and schedule are a bit more relaxed. Typically the turn-around in the summer is a couple of weeks instead of the same-week service that Ultratune provides during fall and winter.

Pick a grind, fill out a work order form, and ship your skis.

Monday, February 23, 2015

First Look - Toko T18 Digital Wax Iron

The power cord exits from the side instead of the back.
Toko has a new digital T-18 wax iron that they're rolling out, with commercial availability scheduled for mid-2015.

I got my hands on one a bit early, and have been using it here in the shop at Ultratune, for evaluation, and thought I'd share some information and my impressions.

The new T-18 is a step up in performance and price from the Toko T-14 digital iron that has been very popular the past few years.      The new T-18 is clearly a different design and fabrication entirely.      In fact, it shares a lot of the design with the translucent blue Star digital iron, but is updated. 

The T-18 has a pretty stout aluminum base plate, smooth, with no grooves.    It's beveled along the rear edge for ramping up on wax (or powders) without "plowing", but the beveling is on the back edge only -- no bevels on the sides or front edge.

The T-18 is an 800W iron.   With the big base plate and a very good thermostat, I find it to be very well regulated and accurate, and in fact I feel that this is the biggest improvement in performance over the T-14.

In addition, the power cord exits from the side instead of the back.    If your wax bench is set up so that the ski tip is on the right side, and you drive the iron right-to-left (using the beveled edge), then  the cord hangs out the front, nicely out of the way.    I really like this little feature.   Not a huge deal, but if you're using an iron a lot, then little details like this make a difference.

The smooth face of the T-18.
Another feature that I like is that the T-18 remembers the temperature setting you're using.  

T-18 has a thick base plate.  Beveled back edge.
With the less expensive T-14 iron, every time you power-up the iron you need to adjust the temp setting.   This can be good or bad.   If you were cooking some high temperature top-coats into the skis (at, say, 160 C) and then shut down the iron, and then re-start it tomorrow to do a simple cleaning wax, then the T-14 will re-boot at the regular 130C setting, and you won't smoke your yellow hydrocarbon wax.     On the other hand, if you're commonly running the iron at 120C, then it gets a bit annoying to have to turn down the iron every single time you power it up.

Easy to read digital display.
With the T-18, the iron remembers the thermostat setting you were using when it was turned off, and re-starts at the same temperature.     For me, that's a very minor little detail, but here in the shop where I'm laying down a base layer of soft thermo-box wax on lots and lots of skis, it's handy that the T-18 remembers my basic setting.

What do I not like?    I think the front and side edges are abrupt, and could have a little bit of a bevel to make it easier to use the iron in a variety of orientations.   As it is, straight from the box, the T-18 really needs to be driven down the ski in one orientation only.      For myself, I will likely bevel the front and side edges myself with a bit of careful hand-tool work.    This is really minor, and I definitely plan to continue using the T-18 as my primary iron here at Ultratune at my wax bench.       

The T-18 is not an inexpensive iron.  It will sell for roughly two-and-a-half times as much money as the T-14 iron (yes, somewhere over $300 but exact pricing is TBD).    Is it a better iron than the T-14?  Yes it is.    Will it inherently make your skis faster than another iron?   No it won't. 

For me, the Toko T-18 digital wax iron is a very nice professional-level tool that I'll be using in the shop here at Ultratune, and I'll have a few on hand in the shop for sale, too.     But I expect that the T-14 will still hit the sweet spot on price and performance for most skiers.


Friday, February 13, 2015

Mid-Feb Methow Valley Skiing

The ski season here in Washington State's Methow Valley has been the best in quite a few years.   We've been very fortunate to get abundant early snow, and have kept it.    While much of Washington and Oregon (and NorCal) have been clobbered by repeated warm wet weather systems, the Methow Valley has gotten snow and cooler temps.   So far, the season here has had about 75 days of uninterrupted grooming, and the end is not near.

Here's a pic from my morning ski today.
Feb 13th.  A few high clouds, a little ground fog,
but fresh grooming.
At the junction of Powers' Plunge & MCT.


This weekend is the annual Tour of the Methow, and a Biathlon intro event.    If you're nearby, hop in the car and bring your skis.

New skis?


Are you looking for new skis to go along with your desire for improved performance? It doesn't matter what level of skier you are. We all want to hit the trails with skis and a grind & wax that are going to give us the best experience. Nordic Ultratune offers skis and world class grinds that help you achieve your best. Fortunately, we continue to offer our custom ski program tailored just for you this 2014-15 season.

Get the skis you want, selected just for you, from the best possible selection. Check out our available new skis from Atomic, Madshus, and Rossignol on our website!

I work closely with the ski companies, knowledgeable World Cup skiers, coaches and servicemen to get the best possible information on ski fitting for each brand and model that Ultratune sells.

All skis are selected using the Ultratune Digital Flex Press in our shop. Whether you choose a ski from Atomic, Madshus or Rossignol, you'll get a well-fitted ski with a fast base finish that will result in great performance.

Stone Grinding Schedule at Nordic Ultratune


You've been training this fall and winter to get the most from your skiing, so make sure your skis don't limit all of your hard work!


Prepare all of your skis to run their best with a fresh grind and hotbox service. At Nordic Ultratune, a grind batch starts every Thursday and those skis are ready for shipping on the following Monday - just 4 days later.

Return shipping is typically FedEx Express Saver, which is 3rd day delivery. So skis that are shipped out on Monday will arrive back to you on Thursday.

Here's the upcoming service schedule at Nordic Ultratune. Use these dates to make sure you get your skis ready before your most important races.
  • Skis in by Feb 12th will ship out on Feb 16th and arrive back to you by the 19th
  • Skis in by Feb 19th will ship out on Feb 23rd
  • Skis in by Feb 26th will ship out on March 2nd
  • Skis in by March 5th will ship out on March 9th
  • Skis in by Mar 12th will ship out on Mar 16th
  • Skis in by Mar 19th will ship out on Mar 23rd
    You can see that there are still service batches scheduled before the marathons. There is still time to get a fast grind on your skis before the season's biggest races! But don't delay! Fill out our Work Order and get your skis ready! Fast boards are a joy to ski on and they're a real advantage.