Ski Racing 2012 Buyers Guide
Zach Caldwell on stone grinding, apples
and 50,000 pairs of skis By Tim Reynolds
Zach Caldwell has been a longtime
coach for Kris Freeman (left, in Oslo).
Kinetic friction, adhesion-cohesion, pressure distribution, energy response
of mechanical work…Nope, it’s not an advanced physics lecture at a university. It’s a visit to Caldwell Sport in Putney, Vt. The “professor” is Zach Caldwell,
a former NENSA program director who began a ski tuning business in 2002
upon buying his first stone grinder. After living in Whistler and Boulder, he’s
now returned to the Green Mountain State with his wife, Amy — an All-American cross country skier for Middlebury and amateur world champ in triathlon
— their son, and his trusty Tazzarri grinder.
And all that fancy physics talk matters. A lot. Just take it from Kris Freeman
(whom Caldwell also coaches) or hundreds of other nordic racers who rave about
their newly fast skis. “Zach knows more about ski construction and grinds than I
ever care to know,” Freeman says. “Of my 11 top- 10 finishes on the World Cup,
six were on skis Zach picked for me, and eight were on skis he had ground.”
When Caldwell picked up his first stone grinder nearly 10 years ago from well-known Swedish service tech Lars Svensson at the Salt Lake Games, he’d already decided to go for a new career path from NENSA.
He’d never had a pair of his own skis stone ground before — because there
was no one he trusted to do it. While there were a handful of folks doing nordic-specific grinds in the U.S., according to Caldwell there was as much misinformation as fact out there about the process. Would skis be fast after grinding? Or
would it take years to get them fast again? How do you go about picking a grind?
Matching a grind to a ski?
Caldwell set out with the goal of demystifying and legitimizing that process. “I
thought if I set a standard that was acceptable to me, it would be a good service
and a good business model,” says Caldwell. “Part of that meant showing that
process of to the world.”
The first grinder found its home in a big truck that Caldwell drove around New
England, picking up skis from customers and grinding them on the spot. While
it was part show, an added advantage was bringing his service straight to the