Editor’s note: For the second-straight year, we’re presenting another 12-day holiday gift guide, brought to you by the one and only “FBD”, our gear-review guru. Kicking the series off, recommendations for recovery gifts to keep you and your ski buddies on the trails and injury free. See also: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6
Day 7: Nordic Tech
Since no one has more style, steez and flow than the FBD, we’re going to mix it up a bit today and bring in, for lack of a better expression, an expert guest speaker to help walk us through today’s gift suggestions for Nordic Tech. I actually tapped into two experts for today’s gift ideas, Nathan Schultz from Boulder Nordic Sport and Zach Caldwell from Caldwell Sport. Spoiler alert, the Colorado guy was super chill and low-key. The guy whose Twitter handle is @GrumpySkier, was, well, grumpy. And surly. And at times, just plain mean. But, since all of you are probably as tired of reading my labored prose as I am of producing it, I thought I’d offer up someone new about whom you can complain.
A few important points here:
- For those of you out there who think I can dish it out, but can’t take it, you are in for a treat, as one of these so called experts comes at me pretty good. That’s OK though, I’m a big boy (especially “South of the Border,” if you know what I mean) and I can handle it. In fact, most of this doesn’t even count as abuse in Philadelphia, it’s called just a normal day.
- Remember my quip on Friday about “special” people? Well, I swear to God that the comments that you will hear from Zach shorty were not staged because, A.), I would never lie to you people, I am too good a man and B.) if you know my boy Caldwell at all, you know that there was no way in hell that he would deliver this hilarious video on schedule, allowing it to be carefully reviewed and edited. Oh no, that would be too easy. Instead, Mr. Caldwell elected to sent it to me at 11:30 p.m., the night before publication (and the night in which I was leaving for the airport the next morning at 5 a.m. Awesome). The point here is that I had already published my column in which I refer to “special” people before he submitted this video. All of these events do, however, raise several serious questions about his time-management skills and most importantly, who really is the “special” one in this relationship.
- Furthermore, I am greatly intrigued with Zach’s assertion that I take myself too seriously, as he clearly has not been following my earlier detailed descriptions on awkward and hopefully fictional encounters with my family physician regarding problems “downstairs,” allegedly related to dirty tractor seats and improper Speedo use. Does this sound like the work of a man, albeit a great, great man, taking himself too seriously? I’ll let you all decide, as I trust you people to do the right thing here.
Once you have drawn the correct and logical conclusion that Zach is clearly out of his mind, please send all angry comments to zach@CaldwellSport.com. Suggestions for the subject line include, but are not limited to: “FU Zach”, “FBD is a god”, or even “Leave Brittany Alone,” have we learned nothing from Anna Nicole Smith? I know it’s hard to see FBD as a human being, but trust me, he is. He’s a person. He’s like you or I. (Well, actually, much, much better, but you see my point).
So without further ado, we are now going to shift gears a little bit and depart from our wonderful, established format and let an angry Vermonter and my good buddy Zach Caldwell, take cheap shots at me while prattles on about how to properly tune skis.
Watch this video in its entirety, then find the links to all of the products shown in the categories below. Please note, as usual, I have better visibility on the nordic world than Zach does from his remote outpost in rural Vermont, so please don’t just listen to Zach’s demanding and bossy tone, as the other products listed here are also top notch, they’re just being presented with a little less fanfare, which is no way, shape or form is a reflection on their value or efficacy.
Red Creek Groove Scraper
Don’t let Zach fool you on this, I have tested about 20 different models and I called HIM about this, since naturally he didn’t have it on his website (the things I do for that guy). Regardless of how much he badmouths it in the above video, since not all of us have relatives slaving away on a lathe to create custom tools for us, I think this groove scraper is the best one out there. As much as I can tell, so does Zach, I guess? Buy several, as everyone is going to borrow yours and never give them back.
(Note, these are also not yet available on the Caldwell Sport website, as apparently he needs to spend less time busting my balls and more time running his business. This tool is sweet though, so email Zach directly. Be sure to give him a hard time about not putting the products he is trying to sell in a place in where potential customers can actually purchases them. #Business101
$2.50 each via email zach@CaldwellSport.com
This baby made the cut last year and is getting a rare “FBD retweet,” just because it is that good — it’s pretty rare that you can find an extremely high-quality product for under $10, so when you do, you get as much mileage out of that beast is possible. I mean, if you can’t spend $10 on someone’s gift, you probably shouldn’t be buying them a gift in the first place.
It has two beveled edges that peel away kick wax quickly and effectively and it is small enough to fit almost anywhere, in particular in your new wax box (more on that in a minute). It will change your kick-waxing life. Really.
Remember my assessment on Friday of coffee nerds? Well, move over coffee losers, as there’s a new sheriff in town, and he’s saying things like, “All professionals prefer a 3 mm scraper width.” How you can utter a phase such as that while maintaining even a shred of dignity is beyond me, but I don’t have a shirt that says, “You’re doing it wrong”, so what the hell do I know? Baller shirt, too, by the way: look for those in next year’s 12 DOFBD.
As for the thicker scraper and how to properly scape ski sidewalls, oh my God, could a person possibly be more patronizing? I can’t believe I let this guy grind my precious skis, as YES ZACH, I know to use the side of the scraper. You see the sh*t that I have to deal with, people?
Having said that, please also let the record note that I did buy the 5 mm scraper, as it does in fact work better for ski “technicians” of my very limited aptitude. DEMAND that he send you one with the custom FBD logo though, as this are already a collectors item. If he says no at first, just keep asking: he likes that.
Holmenkol Natural Wax Fluid is a truly “universal” wax for all snow types and temperatures. This wax not only performs well in the cold (unlike most universal waxes), it is made from sustainable sources (no petrochemicals) and is 100-percent biodegradable. Application is easy with an integrated sponge applicator and polishing felt. Use it for training or on waxless skis tip to tail to improve glide and protect the bases.
Also a great way to travel wax when when you are leaving from the venue with your hair on fire, you have 60 minutes to catch your flight at an airport that is 70 minutes a way and there isn’t an iron in sight. This magic goo got the FBD race fleet home safe and sound from Switzerland last year after Master Blaster Worlds and I never leave home without it. That is, when I remember it. #NotAlwaysThatPro
$30 – $99
Star Liquid Paraffins
Have I told you how much I hate it when Zach is right about something, anything? Ironically, for a race just a few weeks ago, I had a few of the very knowledgeable people who Zach name-checks at the end of his hate-rant video prep my race skis with this product, and the skis were fast. How fast? Two podiums fast. If you buy them and don’t podium, call Zach, as he loves to field calls like this and he’s a very, very lonely man.
On a related note, if you send your skis in to him for a new grind (which you definitely should), please be sure to also demand that he return your skis with the EXACT SAME skis ties you send out. If you receive any other ski ties than the ones that you shipped, as always, keep calling until he finally returns the correct ones.
Star Liquid Paraffin Waxes (50 ml spray bottle. Each bottle is good for 15+ pairs of skis):
This was featured at 6:29 in the video and is also a personal FBD favorite. I don’t know what else to say here — use it, don’t use it, but I like it and Zach likes it, so take that for what it’s worth. I’m guessing that my recommendation carries more weight than Zach’s, mainly because I weight more than Zach and that’s just simple physics people. Either way, it’s a nice brush.
This might be more than many of you are willing to pay for a groove scraper, but it IS really nice, especially for ski brands with wider grooves. It is simple but unbelievably effective.
And before anyone gets all huffy about the price, this thing is bomber. It has two different diameter aluminum cylinders that never dull at either end of a solid plastic handle and it removes wax so well it will shock you the first time you use it.
Universal wax is ubiquitous in the ski world, but previously its performance has generally been only good enough for recreational skiers looking for a simple solution. SkiGo has shattered that barrier with a truly “universal” racing wax. Available in HF and LF versions, SkiGo Universal wax is a high-quality racing wax that works well in aggressive cold snow AND warm, wet, soft snow. Many teams use it in all conditions as a reliable base layer and focus their energies on testing powders and topcoats instead of paraffin layers. The LF version ($70, 200g) is a great training wax and also good for wax standards in races that are LF-limited. HF Universal ($80, 45g) is an excellent racing synthetic paraffin. -18C/0F to +5C/41F.
Let’s assume that you’re drinking the Kool-Aid and you are going to get styled out with the latest and greatest swag shown here. How the hell are you going to get all of this crap to races? As usual, *I*, NOT ZACH, have you covered. Toko just released this amazing Soft Wax box and it is da bomb. It’s just the right size to transport essentially everything you need to your next local, national or even international race, yet it is also perfect for your bench at home. Load’er up once with all of the crap Zach is droning on about and boom, all of your problems are solved. Well, all of your waxing problems.
$100 – $299
After seeing that terribly mean-spirited video and reading just these few short item descriptions, I’m sure you can imagine how much it pains me to admit that Zach is right about not one, but two things, but what the hell, here we go: I bought this brush from him last year and even with the hurtful, tech-shaming sticker, and his most-recent, very unnecessary, spiteful commentary, this is without a doubt my favorite brush. I use it to groom the Great Dane, my hair (head, back and “elsewhere”) and promise to some day try it on my skis.
Like every good nordic skier, I am a glutton for punishment: I do intervals with elite skiers, knowing full well that they are going to destroy me, yet I somehow feel the need to make myself miserable anyway. I ask some of the most hyper-critical coaches in the sport for technical feedback on my skiing, knowing full well that it will be delivered with searing sarcasm and bitting commentary, and perhaps worst of all, I somehow think it is a good idea to post another one of Zach’s videos, again, knowing full-well that I am going to take an absolute beating:
Zach does a pretty good job describing how this system works and why you should have it, and thusly I only have a few things to add, the first one of which is by far the most salient. When I was staying at Zach’s house just a few years ago, I asked him when he didn’t use Roto brushes. I’ve spent my fair share of time in World Cup wax cabins (as a matter of fact, I just did so this past weekend), so I’ve seen some of the best techs in the world prep skis. Almost 100 percent of them use Roto brushes. Sure, they are usually preparing lots of skis in a short period of time, but their ultimate goal is fast skis, so those guys follow whatever protocol yields the best possible outcome. This means using Roto brushes almost exclusively.
Armed with this knowledge, I asked Mr. Perfect a few years ago during my stay in Putney which one I should get. His response? “Goddamnit, FBD, you don’t need those stupid things, regular brushes are much better.” Ah, how the tables have turned … it’s been a wonderful journey watching the student become the master. Confronted about this very point yesterday via what was I’m sure a very painful phone conversation for him, he confessed, “Yeah, I was anti-roto for a while, but I have come around. Part of this is because drills are now much better, as are the Roto systems. Yes, I wasn’t that into them before, but this is my ‘must-have’ for this season.” All fair points.
I’ll even cut Zach a lille slack on this (very little) and allow for the possibility that he was correct on both occasions, as the technology has come a long way. What this means to you, is if you are also a stodgy Vermonter, or Midwesterner, or whateverner, and are one of those, “We never used those back in my day….” type of people, that’s OK, you probably did have a valid point “back in the day,” but the technology has improved significantly across the board in all aspects of the system and you can now produce better skis, with less effort, and in less time. I think that’s a winning formula for skiers at all levels.
If you’re a guy like me to loves skiing, but hates working on his skis (and is terrible at it, though not nearly as terrible Zach is laying out), this is a slam dunk, as I am out of the fume-choked garage faster than even, doing what I truly enjoy — skiing — on skis that are faster than ever.
If you’re into the tech side of the sport, you are even crazier if you don’t take the plunge, as ZC has about 50 combinations of brushes, felts, steels, cottons, tweeds, licorice, and other crazy compounds, diameters, durometers, and all of that crap, therein allowing you to lock yourself in your garage away from your annoying family for longer periods of time than ever before. Everyone wins. Your poor family doesn’t have to listen to your disjointed, rambling theories on the under-appreciated value of a good structure tool and you don’t have to listen to whatever the hell it is that normal people talk about these day. I literally have no idea, as about 99 percent of my conversations ultimately come back to structure tools for some strange reason.
As to how you execute this transaction, you can stick a toe in the water, wade in, or dive in head first to the deepest water that you can find. As you all know, I’m of the belief that is something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well (not to mention the fact that there’s no such thing as going too far), so my advice is to not just dive in, but go full “Acapulco Cliff diver” on this mo-fo and get the big-daddy set. That’s what I did and I don’t regret it for one second. Sure, I probably won’t use most of the attachments, and yes, the ones I do use I will most likely do so incorrectly, but I’ll have the best, and that makes me happy. Since I’ve been marooned in Philadelphia for WAY too long, I’ll also derive a perverse amount of satisfaction from knowing that I have a better set than most of you (in more ways than one). I know this is wrong, and this is most certainly not something that I am proud of, but it’s true.
Sure, you can chintz out if you want to and not go with the “professional package” (insert your own ‘package’ joke here), but don’t come crying to me when everyone at laughing at you behind your back as the guy with the incomplete Roto brush set. I have nightmares over stuff like that and I would hate to see this indignity befell you.