Middlebury Ski Tuning is a new business in the campus community, located at Old Stone Mill and founded by Tom Crocker ’11.5. It offers full tuning for skis and snowboards as well as door-to-door service.
Crocker will sharpen base edge, side edge and add coat of wax that acts as a “buffer between you and the snow, making your skis extra smooth by avoiding friction with the snow.
“Tuning skis can be pretty simple. There are two ways you can do it — a ski shop with expensive machines or hand tuning,” said Crocker. “Hand tuning involves files and clamps and is a more fine-tuned art in the sense that you can really change the ski and you’re not just running it through a machine.”
As a proponent of the more personalized tune, Crocker, with his hands-on approach and use of high-end race wax, tries to tune skis to the highest precision possible.
“You can tell me exactly how you want your skis tuned, or if you’re not sure, I’ll talk to you to find out what kind of skier you are and figure out how your skis should be tuned to you,” said Crocker.
Crocker had never been to the Old Stone Mill before he actually set up shop there. He knew it was a space of “innovation and creativity” and that it had hosted student entrepreneurs, so he decided to check it out. Crocker went onto the Old Stone Mill website, submitted an application and within two weeks of applying he received his workspace.
“The space is gorgeous,” Crocker said. “It’s right above Storm Café, I have a view of Otter Creek. It’s bigger than my dorm room, so there’s definitely room for expansion if need be.”
Crocker’s idea for his ski-tuning business has been in the works since he was in high school, where he was a USSA alpine ski racer at New Hampton School in New Hampshire. New Hampton School had its own tuning shop, and before a big race, Crocker’s teammates would want their skis tuned so that they could race well. However, they did not want to pay what a ski shop would charge them. Instead, they wanted personalized tuning with the highest precision possible for exactly what they wanted to do, and this is something Crocker could offer them.
“I thought, well I’m tuning my own skis the night before a race, why not tune my friends’ skis too and get them to pay me a little bit?” said Crocker.
Crocker is also a relatively experienced entrepreneur in areas other than skiing. During high school he started an interior painting business with some friends. His team began by painting dorm rooms and eventually moved on to private houses and private businesses in the area. Four or five years later, the business is still going strong, showing the lasting impact of Crocker’s first business attempt.
“I absolutely love working for myself,” said Crocker. “I have worked several jobs where I had bosses, but I don’t like being told what to do, when to do it, how to do it [etc.]. I like to figure those things out on my own. I think being an entrepreneur is a great way to do your own thing and really enjoy what you’re doing. If nobody else is telling you want to do, you’re only doing what you want to do.”
Crocker has plenty of experience in the world of skiing: he has worked as a snowmaker in Vail, Colo., as a member of the Cannon Mountain Ski Patrol in New Hampshire, as a member of the Snow Bowl Ski Patrol, and he has been tuning skis for eight years. He has also worked with several ski shops and professionals to perfect his tuning skills and he has the highest quality tuning equipment available.
In the town of Middlebury, there are only two places to get your skis tuned: the Ski Haus (formerly the Alpine Shop) or the Snow Bowl, so Crocker saw the need for a business that offers door-to-door service.
“Here at Middlebury, we don’t have time to go drop our skis off, wait a few days, go back and get them,” said Crocker. “I came up with the door-to-door thing where I pick up your skis, tune them, and bring them back. I can get it done within 24-48 hours.”
However, there was a time when Crocker thought his business might be shut down by the College administration for competing with the Middlebury Snow Bowl’s Ski Shop. After filling out a student vendor contract, which is a new form for student entrepreneurs as of last May, Crocker was asked to prove to the administration that his business is not in direct competition with the Snow Bowl. His main arguments were that his ski tuning business offers door-to-door service and hand tuning, which are services not offered by the Snow Bowl. With door-to-door service, Crocker hopes to reach students who do not ski regularly at the Snow Bowl and who instead frequent places such as Mad River Glen, Sugarbush and Killington.
In addition, Crocker’s business is in fact symbiotic with the Snow Bowl Ski Shop, directing students there for services he cannot offer.
“I don’t stone grind skis, replace base structures or mount bindings,” said Crocker. “When I’ve been asked about these services, I tell students that the Snow Bowl is a great place to have these things done.”
Crocker is not the only student at Middlebury interested in setting up shop. The first day he advertised his website, go/skitune or go/skituning, was the day of the first snowfall of 2010. By the end of the day, he had already received four e-mails from students interested in getting involved in the tuning business. Many of Crocker’s friends have also expressed interest in helping out with the tuning, pickup and delivery, and the general management of the business. For the time being, he is feeling out the market and trying to see how busy his business will get.
“Luckily, the busiest time [for my business] will be the least busy time in my schedule: J-term,” Crocker said. “Ideally, business is going to grow enough that I will need to hire people. It offers a service that Middlebury kids would really like to have — cheap tuning where they really don’t have to do anything.”
According to Crocker, the biggest challenge he faces with this business is in scheduling.
“Everyone’s so busy here that just finding a time that someone can be in their room that aligns with my schedule can be difficult,” Crocker said.
To learn more about the Middlebury Ski Tuning business, view a detailed price list or to arrange to have your skis tuned, simply visit go/skitune or go/skituning.
“It’s something every student who owns a pair of skis should take advantage of,” said Crocker. “Let me take care of it so that you can make the most of this winter.”