Thursday, December 27, 2012

Is it too late to stone grind for the Birkie?

by Tony Mommsen
See our Stone Grinding Services

7 weeks to the  Birkie
You forgot to get your skis stone ground last fall. Last winter you thought they were looking a little scratched or not quite flat. You know “Flat skis are fast skis”. But you also know after stone grinding it takes time to build up wax layers needed for fast skis.

 Why stone grind
Skis get beat up. Rocks can scratch, irons can glaze or concave the bases. Fluoro and other materials can clog-up your bases and reduce their ability to accept new wax. Our first pass through the stone grinder is to remove these irregularities and give you clean, flat bases. The second pass we add micro-structure for the conditions (temperature) the skis are to be raced in. Structure controls the adhesion or cohesion also called suction or friction. For cold conditions we add less structure, for warm conditions we add more. 

If your skis are needing some love,
check out our stone grinding services

Grind now or wait until summer
Look at your ski bases today and if you see problems you should grind them soon or wait until the season is over. Grinding now will give you time to saturate your bases with wax and give you fast skis for the Birkie.

Race day for the Birkie (or any race) can be any weather condition: new snow, hard pack, cold or thaw. If you have more than one pair of skis, each pair should be assigned to the temperature range where they work best. You may have a cold, medium and warm skis. Grind them to match: cold skis will have less structure, warm skis will have more. During the season wax each pair for their temp range. A week before you should have a pretty good idea of the race day conditions and be able to focus your efforts on one (or two) pair of skis.

Step One - Select Race Skis
From on-snow experience, designate skis for cold, medium and warm conditions. We suggest cold and medium grinds. If weather is warmer on race day racers you can add more structure with a hand riller. Aggressive, warm weather grinds are difficult to remove the days before a race. Bring these skis to Gear West, we will confirm you made the right selections, and determine if stone grinding is needed.

Grind plan for two pair of race skis
a. Cold grind
b. Uni2 grind

Grind plan for three pair of skis
a. Cold grind
b. Medium - Uni 2
c. Warm - Uni 3

After the Grind
Hot boxing is included with all grinds -- this gets ski bases fully saturated.

Hot Boxing
Hot boxing is free with all stone grinds. We apply a layer of special soft wax to your newly ground skis and place them in a box where they warm for several hours. While in the box the wax penetrates the base.

Hardening off the base
Post hot box you should apply four to five layers of hard wax (like blue). These layers is called Hardening off the base and will make the base is more resilient to wear. 

The right company
The best knowledge! The best equipment! The stone grinder of choice for Gear West
is the Montana Crystal SR producing a superior structure that is fast the first time
you put it on snow.

Gear West Stone Grind Services
Stone Grinding - $59.99 pair.
Learn about our grinds below - bring your skis in and we will help select the right grind.

Cold C1
The Gear West C1 Grind is our coldest structure pattern. The ultra fine broken linear structure is designed to effectively ride over the sharpest of snow crystals (often seen on dry, fresh fallen flakes) at the expense of moisture management that "warmer" grinds provide. We suggest it for temperatures below +10F when the humidity is below 20%

Uni U2
The Gear West U2 Grind is the best all-around ski grind in the Midwest. While it won't perform quite as well in either very dry and cold conditions or exceptionally warm and wet ones, it's modest broken offset structure truly excels in "typical" conditions. It performs best in fine, transformed snow, which often occurs when temperatures are between 5 and 20F when the humidity is between 20 and 80 percent.

Uni U3
Providing some additional moisture control over it's sibling, the U2, the Gear West U3 Grind is an ideal all-around grind for high-humidity areas or for dedicated warm-weather skis. It runs best on old corn snow (which often exists when the temparature is between 20 and 30F and the humidity is above 40%), though it does not run as well in finer or fresh fallen snows.

Wet W40
The Gear West W40 Grind is designed to channel moisture and provide maximum break away speed in the wettest conditions. It's wide and aggressive open linear structure allows for remarkably fast skis in melting or moisture-dense new snow, though it may struggle in fine-grained or new snow.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Snowstorm Brings Excitement to Gear West Ski and Run

Snow affects mental health and Sunday's storm proves it. I have worked at Gear West Ski and Run for just a couple weeks and I have seen how snow puts smiles on customers and employees. Let's call it Snowstorm Happiness Syndrome. It’s contagious.

11:30 A.M. Sunday snow was falling hard and roads were in rough shape. Dana pulled into the Gear West parking lot to find four customers waiting for the store to open at noon. Each of the customers had all-wheel drive and they were on their way to the ski trails. They were picking up new hats and gloves or their newly waxed skis.

Even with difficult travel the shop was busy all day on Sunday. Those who bought new skis waited for bindings to be mounted so they could use them that afternoon. They would be skiing on the trails at Baker Park or French Park.

Brian demonstrates scientific measurement of snow depth - "See. Exactly 12 inches"

Gear West employees were as excited to see the snow as our customers. Lynne skied before coming to work Sunday, Brodie didn’t work Sunday but explored the back roads of Brooklyn Park on his fish scales during the peak of the storm. I had Sunday off so I skied from my house  to Theodore Wirth Park. As I skied I enjoyed seeing the snow pile up on the fences and branches. These are the days we Gear Wester live for. 

Gear West Ski and Run wrapped in snow

Monday.  The sun is shining and snow is deep around the store. The parking lot is half full with customer cars. I can feel the excitement as I walk into the store. Everyone is smiling. The phones are ringing, Speedy is helping customers with new skis and Brodie in the shipping department is boxing up new orders.

From my desk I can hear Speedy talking with customers. “I want skis I can break trail with or ski in set tracks” the Speedy says “These skis will work great, they are wide enough for breaking trail yet they fit in the track without rubbing on the sides.”. This is a break-your-own-trail kind of winter and we are all loving it. 

Speedy love touring on the Salomon Elite 5 Grip.
Speedy says "These skis make winter fun. You will get great performance wherever there's snow. 51mm wide in the shovel - makes it ideal for breaking trail yet goes in a set track nicely without scraping the sides all the time. 3D core better lift in the waxless area so the fish scales don't drag. G2 Plus waxless pattern gives a great kick and still a good glide. Very low maintance but you can apply Toko Grip and Glide over the the entire base and you glide through the snow. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Matt Liebsch - Early Season Race Recap

This year was my first time making an effort to jump into the race season “all-in.” In the past, I have trained through the early season, skipped races, and spent only a little time at altitude in preparation for the early season altitude racing… mostly this was due to financial constraints.

My 1st goal of the season was to qualify for Canmore World Cups. Fortunately, this season I have great sponsors and better funding so I could get to altitude early in the season and race fast at the opening SuperTour weekends.

The first weekend on the SuperTour schedule was West Yellowstone. This year was tough because there was very little snow. Ski enthusiast and athletes had to drive 40 minutes each way on a forest service road to get to the snow. This added a lot of extra logistics and travel, but the race organizers rallied to pull off a great race.

The course was a tough 9km point-to-point freestyle race that had a net gain in elevation. Chris Hall provided fast Fischer skis waxed with Swix SuperCera. I was blessed with fast skis, good race feelings and managed to pull out a win, one step closer to Canmore!

This was my first race trying a little shorter pole than I have used in the past. A shorter pole helps my technique as I can get over the pole better and have a stronger angle of attack when initial pole plant happens. I feel a little longer pole fights me initially and ski technique is all about that initial impulse.

With one race in the bag and one sprint race rescheduled for Bohart Mountain Ranch (due to low snow in West Yellowstone), my family and I traveled up to Bozeman for 3 races in 4 days.

In Bozeman, Bill Pierce with F.A.S.T. helping me with waxing… and with fast skis I still had a tough time with my first skate sprint race. I missed qualifying by 1-2seconds and I never got comfortable on my skis. It was tough not making it to the rounds where all the fun happens!

Ready to start the 9k point-to-point at West Yellowstone. Brian Gregg right behind

The second race was a classic sprint and due to low snow, and the race was moved to the upper trails. The upper trails of the sprint course were flat enough that almost all the men double poled the qualifier and heats. I was perfectly OK with this as I love double poling. I felt a little flat in my qualifier but got in with an 18th placing.
Waxing for the Bozeman sprints

In my quarter-final, I finished 4th in a stacked heat… the 3 guys in front of me included USST members Skyler Davis and Erik Bjornsen and Olympian Torin Koos. I had a little bump and go in the backstretch that slowed me down, otherwise I skied about as well as I could.
Sprinting at Bozeman as the sun sets in the west.

Sunday was the big one. One last race to decide who would qualify for the distance races in Canmore. I started with bib #1 in the front of the chevron and I thought “there is no chance I will have a problem getting out of the start clean”… wrong!?! About 5 seconds into the race I had my pole stepped on, which pulled me sideways and then someone skied through my pole and broke it. Ouch! Almost a repeat of last year at Green Acres, but I was the only one held up. I got moving and I eventually found a suitable replacement on my 4th pole. I dug deep to try and ski back to the front from 90th place. The wheels came off before the finish from all my exerted adrenaline dumped at the start. I finished 14th which happened to be good enough to secure a start at Canmore World Cups in December!

More updates coming once I am in Canada

Thinking snow,


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Utah Ski Pick 2012 - Matt and Sven Pick Skis in Ogden

Park City, UT
Last week Matt Liebsch and I had the unique opportunity to pick Gear West's preseason orders of top end skis from Rossignol, Atomic, and Salomon. We arrived in Salt Lake City on Wednesday and hurried to get our bags and rental car. Matt made the executive decision to upgrade our car to an under-powered midsize SUV to accommodate all of our ski gear, and then we were on our way to the Rossignol Distribution center! But first, we had to stop at Taco Time!

The Rossignol Distribution center is part of a warehouse district located in Ogden, Utah.  Salomon and Atomic are also distributed in a nearby warehouse. Our high-end ski inventory is selected from these warehouses, as well as the skis for many of the top athletes in the country.

Rossignol distribution center
When we arrived, Ryan Green (Nordic Division Manager) and Paul Clark (Nordic Racing Manager) met us in the upstairs warehouse, I named the "The Birds Nest" to go over the lay of the land. We set up our fit bench and we were off to the races!

Matt & Paul conversing over proper ski fit
In order to select our full inventory of X-ium skis, we had a check list of characteristics we were looking for in terms of ski quality.  If any ski did not meet our requirements, it was discarded and we moved on. The next two days were spent unwrapping, flexing, and testing over 600 pair of skis.

Sven Cam
 After two days of squeezing skis, we wound up with very sore forearms, a slight case of carpal tunnel, and had thinned out our ski selection to 53 pairs of top quality skis. Both Matt and I were extremely happy with our selections and are grateful that we had the opportunity to select the best Rossignol skis in the United States.  We would not have been able to pick our inventory without the help from Rossignol.

Matt Pumped
Celebratory taco stand tacos were had by everyone!


The very next day we were back in action, picking through the Atomic Worldcup FL SDS Classic skis and Salomon Soft Ground skate skis to find the best quality available.  When all was said and done, we had a sizable ski count with a high standard of quality.  It is safe to say that no stone was left unturned when we were done.

Fun fact: Atomic and Salomon skis only distribute race room skis from Ogden. 

Salomon SG ski inventory

New homeowners and newlyweds Josh & Kristina

While picking skis in Ogden, we had the privilege of staying with Salomon employees Josh Korn and Kristina Owen. All-in-all it was a very fulfilling experience. Thank you to everyone who made our ski picking trip a great success!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mini Gear Preview

SDS stands for “short distance step”

We had the opportunity to test this ski early last February, and were immediately impressed by it's ability to provide phenomenal kick without compromising on glide. Atomic has achieved this with the use of a plate that runs the length of the ski's kick pocket. This plate is made of a very supple material called “ABS”, and is also featured in Atomic's extremely popular “Skintec” waxless classic race ski. The World Cup SDS has a relatively low camber, and the plate keeps the skiers weight lifted off the snow while gliding yet allows for an easy compression during the kick phase. If you are looking for a new classic ski this winter, we highly recommend this one.

Atomic WorldCup Skate And Classic Boots

 The Atomic WC Skate and Classic boots have been entirely redeveloped for the 2012-2013 season. The boots feature a new full 3D carbon chassis and carbon cuff that improves lateral stiffness over previous models.   A new wrapping lace system secures the foot and provides a very snug fit.  If you like the Salomon system and find the S-Lab boot too narrow, this is the boot for you. 

The new X-ium boot is 50 grams lighter than it's predecessor with a new 100% carbon fiber cuff, and new extremely low profile sole that brings your foot closer to the ski for improved control & responsiveness. This boot is also features asymmetrical lacing to keep your foot snug and secure, and is thermo-moldable for a fully customized fit.

Now built on the same last as the award winning carbonlite skate, this is by far the most comfortable classic boot Fischer has ever produced. This boot also features a new form-fitting upper, with a bold, fast graphic. This boot is available in both a men's and women's specific design.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My Fun Visit to Salomon France by Jan Guenther

Gear West Ski & Run has sold plenty of Salomon “S-LAB” products, however I had a limited idea of why the “LAB” title was placed on their top end products. Brian and I had the unique opportunity to visit Salomon’s design center in Annecy, France, just one hour outside Chamonix in the Alps. The Salomon ‘think tank’ is a fascinating study on how athletes, designers, researchers and engineers collaborate their efforts to invent super cool products.

After being in the ski business for twenty years I was very surprised to find there are still things that I do not know. For example, did you know there are 70+ pieces needed to construct a top race ski boot? Or that the cost of producing a larger foot mold to accommodate size 15+ feet is several hundred thousand dollars? Also, Salomon has every sponsored athlete’s unique foot mold, and can make one custom prototype at the design center for said athlete to use and provide instant design adjustments.

Pick your athlete
Another interesting fact I learned was the reason Salomon decided to to expand into trail footwear. After several winters of poor snow conditions, they decided something had to be done in order to continue and employ their seasoned pattern makers. For six months they developed a new concept for fit utilizing new materials along with existing Nordic foot technologies to design hiking shoes. The first pre-production boot was called the Adventure 7, these were used by  French Alpine Military specialists.

Inside Salomon’s  design center, sponsored athletes of all disciplines (downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, trail running, snowboard) work with a Salomon design team to bring new products to life and to redesign current products to meet their own personal needs. For example, ultra trail running phenom Killian Jornet was directly involved with the design process surrounding the heavily anticipated S-LAB Sense – a super light, low profile racing flat that has won several prestigious races, including the the Western States 100 and Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc. Salomon Senior Project Manager Patrick Lieck put it this way, “the S-LAB process and products are primarily designed to enable athletes to win. But they are also a source of inspiration for the range. The next generation of products is based on these shoes (skis, boots, and poles).”

Killian dominating the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB)
What we saw throughout our tour of the design center was the spirit and excitement of a creative team inspired to design the best products for their athletes and challenged to produce it internationally for the consumer.  The Salomon building complex is truly a “LAB” that produces products tested right outside the center, on the snowy slopes of Mont Blanc and the mountain trails. 

For me, Salomon products now have more depth as I now understand the authenticity behind the development of an S-LAB shoe, ski, or boot. I am excited as a retailer to explain the hows and whys of the S-LAB classic boot, or what makes an Equipe 10 skate ski work so well, or why the Speedcross trail shoe is so much fun to own.  It’s this well designed and well thought out equipment that makes it so much fun to race, train or tour.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

What It's Like to Run in an Olympian's Shoes

 by Jenny Beckman & Wendi Morin

(Source: Johnny Hanson / Houston Chronicle)

In my experience as a salesperson, there are two major misconceptions surrounding racing flats. One is that they are used strictly for racing, and the other is that only the super-elites run in them. With the rise of the “minimalism” movement, we are seeing more and more people don light weight shoes. I sat down with Gear West gait analysis expert Wendi Morin and hashed out some answers to the most common questions we hear surrounding these shoes.

“What is a racing flat?”

Racing flats are shoes with very little cushion if any, they typically have a low heel and are lightweight.  When you look at these shoes you can’t help but think “where’s the beef?”  Or if you’re a vegetarian, “where’s the veggie burger?” There is also a category of shoes called racer-trainers that some people might consider racing flats because they are still very light-weight, but this type of shoe has a little more cushion and a little less flexibility. A racer-trainer is a good choice for someone who wants to run longer distances and have more protection from the road.

Asics DS Trainer 17: Same last, more sole

Asics DS Racer 9: Less sole=lighter weight

“Why bother using them? I have a comfy pair of trainers that fits me just fine”

Why should you use them? It's simple. Running in a lighter shoe will result in less fatigue and allow you to go faster over a long distance – with proper training of course. Putting on a pair of light weight flats will not make up for lack of training.

That being said, racing flats should be worn by people that have an efficient running gait and are less prone to injury. If you are unsure about how efficient you are, or want help in becoming more efficient you should consider having a gait analysis.

Wendi Says: “If a runner doesn’t have a real efficient gait, they may find that they actually can run a race faster in a regular running shoe instead of a racing flat because they use less energy being better aligned.”

“If I purchased a pair would I use them strictly for racing?”

No. We recommend that you use the flats when doing any sort of speed work. Log your regular miles in your trainers, and use the flats for speed work such as strides, intervals, or tempo runs. Give your body time to adjust to the shoes, that way when race day rolls around – you'll be ready to rock!

“How long will it take me to get used to them?”

It all depends on the runner. Racing flats are minimal shoes, so we recommend working into them the same way you would with a minimal trainer. Most running experts recommend runners who are new to using flats log 10% of their normal distance in the light weight shoes. For example – “your normal tempo run is 10 miles, wear the flats for 1 mile, and then switch back to your trainers.” says Gear West & The Fix Studio's “Gait Analyzer” Lev Kalemkiarian.

Wendi Says: “Racing flats use more of the small muscles that may not have to work in a less flexible shoe and therefore if they are worn on occasion they can teach your body to recruit more muscle. This will slowly help you to become more efficient as a runner.”

How to choose the right flat for your foot:

Wendi Says: “To choose the right racing flat for you, make sure to consider what has worked for you in a training shoe when choosing a racing flat. A lot of times there are toned-down versions of training shoes that are lighter weight for racing. You want to try on several different brands and see what feels comfortable on your feet. Get an idea of what you like and what you don’t like in terms of weight, amount of cushion, amount of stability, room in the toe box, and color (for some people). Keep in mind what race distance the shoe is best for, and if you have questions ask a Gear West sales person! We are all trained in providing proper fit and can send you on your way with a great fitting pair of shoes.”

 Olympian's Shoes:

Nike Luna Racer+ - Worn by Kara Goucher in the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon. This shoe is also Jan's weapon of choice. She looks for a shoe with a “close snug fit, like a second skin.”
Asics Hyper Speed - Olympian Ryan Hall in the 2012 Olympic Trails Marathon
Brooks T7 Racer - Desiree Davila 
Source: Brooks Running

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Ski to Sea Experience by Matthew Liebsch

This past weekend I was able to race in the Ski to Sea multi-sport relay race. 500 teams with 8 racers per team compete in the following order: cross-country ski, ski mountaineering, running, road bike, canoe, mountain bike, and sea kayak. The event is huge! 50,000+ people come out to either race, support, or spectate. 

Ski to Sea race Start
 I was privileged to race for Team AeroMech.  AeroMech Incorporated provide industry leading aircraft engineering and certification services to aircraft manufacturers, airlines, operators, modification shops, and military customers worldwide.  After all 93 miles, we finished in 2nd place, only 7 seconds behind, in the closest finish in the history of the race! 

2nd Place Champions
The cross-country ski leg was a lot of fun with competitors of all backgrounds. I saw everything from first time skiers on 40-year-old touring skis to elite racers. 

Lead Pack - Matt Liebsch and Brian Gregg
 The same is true for every leg of the race. On the elite side you have pros with $10,000 carbon bikes, surf skis, and carbon canoes – then on the recreation and family teams you have heavy wooden boats and bikes with banana seats! The diversity of competitors is vast, but everyone is keen on having fun! The race atmosphere is great and I am already looking for to coming back next year.

Matthew Edward Liebsch

Gait Analysis By Lev

Two Thumbs Up!
As an avid cross country skier I spend a lot of time obsessing over technique and making myself as efficient as possible. It's staggering to compare the amount of time I spend cross training versus the amount of time actually spent on snow in the winter. I don't know about you, but besides rollerskiing the two cross-training activities I engage in the most are cycling and running. I decided that having a gait analysis with Lev would be beneficial, because becoming more efficient in the activities I enjoy 75% of the year will all in all make me a stronger, faster skier.

The Gait Analysis process takes about 30 or 40 minutes, and is based on your own personal goals. Many people use the information they receive for injury prevention, rehabilitation, and to determine a good shoe fit for their feet. That being said, if you are just starting to run or a seasoned competitor - everyone can benefit from this service. Lev starts off by taking some initial video footage of your running form, and administers some basic strength tests. He then demonstrates and helps you practice drills and exercises that help improve your running style. This is followed by a second video which you will view side by side with the initial footage. It is absolutely incredible to see the changes you are able to make in such a short span of time!

Lev goes over the finer points of Jenny's run form
Advanced Motion Capture!

The main component I realized during my gait analysis is that everything my parents and teachers have told me is true – I am unique. Everyone is! We all have different running styles, and issues. Some natural tendencies we have can lead to injuries later down the line. Having your gait analyzed using video is extremely helpful in the sense that it makes these tendencies visibly apparent. I am one of those people who imagines herself running as flawlessly as Carrie Tollefson, however seeing myself on video helped me discover that is not exactly the case. But! Making changes is incredibly simple with the help of a knowledgeable professional. Lev has given me some daily exercises and short drills to add to my routine before running.

Run Strength Drills
For the cost of $40.00 this is a very affordable option and an incredibly good investment. Personally, I would much rather pay a one time fee versus paying the medical bills for an injury later. The bottom line is - whether you run competitively, for cross-training, or just as something to get you out of the house gait analysis is something that runners of all levels can benefit from – it makes the activity significantly more enjoyable!

Lev is awesome because:

He has a Masters in Exercise Physiology from the College of Saint Scholastica and is a member of The Fix Studio team. The Fix Studio staff has 45 combined years of experience working with athletes training for events from local 5k's to the Olympics. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hello Midwestern Community!

Jennie Bender here.

Matt and Jennie - Twin Cities Champions!

I know I have been missing in action on the Midwest scene for quite some time, but chasing winter will do that to a skier! It’s now time to start gearing up for the most important season in my professional career thus far.

Since the Birkie, I had an altitude camp in Canmore, Alberta with my fellow CXC teammate Sara Hewitt who lives there. The area has a high cost of living, but I HIGHLY advise going if you ever want an incredible winter vacation. The grooming is immaculate, and their race course is one of the hardest in the world.

Then I headed to my homeland on the East Coast for Canadian Nationals in Mont Sainte Anne, and Spring Series/Distance Nationals in Vermont. My best results from that excursion were a 3rd in a skate sprint at Canadian Nationals (two Canadian Olympians were 1st and 2nd), and a 3rd in a classic sprint at Spring Series against Chandra Crawford and Jessie Diggins.

Spring Series was actually the only week of racing all year where ALL of the top American women attended, so although they were the last races of the season, the week held a lot of merit. I still need to work on my consistency of distance results, because there are a lot of fast female sprinters in the U.S right now, meaning that competing for World Cup sprinter spots is quite challenging.

It has been satisfying to see my training pay off this year, as I had a nice jump in results from the past. I was 3rd at the skate Birkie, won a few of my first Supertours, and ended up 2nd on the over all Supertour standings list.

Fantastic Finish

This brings much anticipation for the future. As weird as it is to say, I now feel that I am training for the 2014 Olympics. It is actually possible if I have another big jump this next season. I have my list of weaknesses I need to work on, and am ready to go. I am hoping to make my first World Cup in Canmore in December, which is decided by this seasons spring results and next fall competitions.

When I come back next week, I am getting a roommate, going to try and make some money, and am looking forward to getting on my road bike. I am going to my first on snow “summer” camp middle of May in Bend Oregon (yes… season 2012/2013 is already starting!) and still have my CXC training camps up at Telemark Lodge each month in the summer.

I hope we meet up soon,
Thanks for reading!


Jennie Bender