Shad Nowicki demonstrating high-tech ski tuning at MSG’s Speed Factory.

By Jennie Acklin

A few weeks ago, I stopped at Mud Sweat n’ Gears and watched a training workshop going on in the back room for the new Speed Factory. I’ve watched skis being tuned before. I’ve heard the grinders going to work on roughed-up edges. My brother and I even used to work on our own skis as kids – dripping P-Tex on the bottoms, using my mom’s old iron to wax my skis before a race. I took a few pictures and asked a few questions, but this was definitely a new experience for me.

Anyone who knows shop owner Miguel Azcarate knows that he’s ALL about skiing and racing. This past August, MSG moved into their new location in the Marketplace Building in Ellicottville, and made an investment in top-of-the-line tuning equipment from Montana of Switzerland.

Miguel’s trained staff includes Shad Nowicki, who gave me a tour of the “Factory,” and explained that Montana of Switzerland equipment offers the “highest level of ski tuning at a retail shop, with more unique tuning capabilities.”

When I asked him specifically what that meant, he showed me the detail of the various base patterns, pointing out that most skis come from the factory with either a linear or a cross pattern. Having never seen such patterns, he pulled out the tech book, showing me endless options for particular snow conditions, temperature humidity and the customer’s skiing ability. Nowicki compared it to automotive tire treads – different patterns are designed to move water faster, allowing for better grip on the road. A ski pattern follows the same logic – less friction moves the ski over the snow faster, which allows for easier turning and a smoother glide, or a more secure grip even on icy slopes. That’s a long way from flat files and hot wax treatments!

For quite some time, professional skiers and racers have resorted to sending their skis across the country to a few select shops who could offer them this level of custom ski tuning. Now that we have this available at the corner of Washington and Monroe streets, racers, pros, and everyday Joes can experience the benefits of a custom base on their skis. Parents of our local race team members will certainly find it easier and more convenient to pick up freshly tuned skis the day before a race. And, as often as conditions change here in western New York, we all will benefit.

Nowicki said it’s time for a tune-up when your edge grip on hard and icy slopes becomes weak and difficult to manage, when it’s difficult to guide the skis and boards in a straight direction, or when the ski or board gets continuously slower in the flat areas and does not slide smoothly, as well as rusted edges or scratches, gouges and damaged bases. He also recommended a pre-season binding check. After about seven days of heavy skiing, especially in manmade snow, an additional tuning service is recommended.

How can you make that nice tune last longer? Nowicki suggested using wiping moisture from the base and edges of your skis or boards after use, waxing the base every three to four days of use (preferably with hot wax), and storing skis and boards in a cool, dry place.

Nowicki and Azcarate invite everyone to stop in, take a tour and learn about the new technology that could change their skiing experience. Pre-season tuning is recommended now, as well as periodic tunes throughout the season. The Speed Factory is located inside Mud Sweat n’ Gears new building at 28 Monroe St. For more information, call (716) 699-8300 or visit

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