Basics: Ski Maintenance, Tuning & Waxing

As we’re  over half way through the season, if you haven’t already,  it’s probably about time that you gave your skis some attention. The skis surface and edges are the interface between you and the snow and therefore influence your performance, which is why it’s important to keep your skis in good nick.  Here are a few tips so that you can maintain your skis yourself without having to fork out on a ski service. You can get all the relevant equipment you need at your local ski shop, but for a cheaper option you can get most of what you need from your local DIY store.

Before you start with anything else, you should first scrape off any old wax with a sharp scraper, working from tip to tail to rid  the base of old wax and dirt. Not only does this create an effective surface for the new wax, but it also means that you can spot scratches in the base more clearly. Excess wax  covering large scratches or holes are best removed with a sharp scraper. Next clean the base using a cloth and base cleaner.

Cleaning the base with a cloth

Once you’ve done that you can start to target any deep scratches or holes that need repairing. You can buy Ptex filler sticks for the base at most ski shops. The sticks have to be heated and then dripped into the hole. You can heat the stick simply with a lighter or matches. Once the stick is lit and starts to drip, hold it over the area that you want to fill, you should cover the surrounding area a little too. For small nicks it shouldn’t take long  for the PTex to harden, but obviously for larger gashes it will take a bit longer. Check that it’s feeling pretty solid and once it is, get your scraper and scrape off any excess Ptex. Once you’ve done that get some very fine sandpaper and gently smooth over the area.

When it comes to edges, this is where the paths of freestylers and freeriders split, as the sharpness of your edges will depend on the type of terrain you ride.

To get ready for sharpening your edges, place the skis somewhere secure. Ski vices are ideal, but not absolutely necessary – you can be creative with a couple of chairs. To lift your brakes out of the way a thick elastic band should do the job. First, you should tackle the edges with a grinding stone to get rid of burrs and rough ridges, which would make the edges harder to file. After the edges are smooth, take your file and at a steady pace apply pressure from tip to tail. This should be repeated two or three times in order to achieve optimum sharpness. Once you’ve done your filing you should go over it with your grinding stone to smooth off any roughness.

Tuning the edges

It’s a completely different story for freestyle riders, especially rail riders. Rather than sharpening your edges, you’re more likely going to want to detune them. This makes your skis less hooky on rails  and won’t be as catchy on landings. The fastest way to detune is with a  file, and roughly you want to hit the area 2″-3″ infront of your toe piece and 2-3″ below your heel piece. Pipe rider are more likely going to want to keep their edges pretty sharp on those bullet proof superpipes.

You definitely know it’s waxing time when your ski base looks covered in grayish-white bits, which are especially easy to spot on colourful surfaces. When you spot this discolouration, you might be tempted to keep topping it up with cold wax, but this is not a long term solution. While hot wax is more expensive, it’s also more sustainable and therefore worth the expense. To get going with a hot wax you’ll need an iron and of course wax.

Dripping hot wax down the length of the skis

Caution, a hot iron can burn your base! You don’t need your iron any hotter than a  temperature just above the wax melting point. Take a hot wax bar and put it to the surface of the the hot iron until the wax drips. Do not use too much wax, but drip it over the whole length of the ski. Next spread the dripped wax with the iron until the whole length of the ski is covered in a wax film. You should go over this wax with the hot iron straight away while the wax is still liquid, but be sure to keep the iron moving and not to stay static in one place for too long. This is where you want to be careful that the iron isn’t too hot, because otherwise you could end up blistering the base. It should also not smoke. Smoke happens when the base or iron is dirty or you’ve set the temperature too high.

After you’ve waxed your skis, you absolutely must wait until the surface is cold again, which could take about an hour. Only then should you remove the excess wax with a sharp scraper. It’s not the wax that sits on the surface of the base that’s important, but that drawn into the base. Therefore you can pull off excess wax after cooling off with a scraper. Finally, the base gets a brush to make the ski really fast, which should be done tip to tail.

Scraping off any excess wax from the surface

All this is not exactly exciting, but there’s nothing more annoying than being out in perfect condition and being held back by your own equipment, especially when you could have done something about it!


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