Temperatures are dropping, the snow is flying, and you realize that ski season is just around the corner. As you lay your equipment out, filled with anticipation, you notice some rust on the ski/boards edges. Upon further inspection, the bases also have some discoloration and are scratched. Retrospectively, maybe that spring skiing base depth wasn’t very deep. There were just a few rocks, right? We've all been there with our gear so let’s talk about ways to ensure your equipment is ready for the season, focusing on what you can do at home and when it's time to come into the shop.
1. Storage is Important
Before diving into the tuning itself, where equipment is stored directly relates and is equally important. Where do you store equipment during the off-season/ summer months? If the answer is your basement or garage, this means more work to get them ready for the season. These non-climate controlled spaces aren’t so friendly to metal edges. Over the course of a few months rust will begin to appear, ruining that sharp edge you tried so hard to keep during thin spring conditions.
There are two ways to prevent this. What I do is keep skis underneath my bed. The space where you perhaps spend the most time is often the most climate-controlled, whether it be an A/C or opening the windows. If under the bed isn’t an option, a coat of storage wax is necessary. Waxing will be discussed below, but, applying storage wax follows the same process save for scraping and brushing. Having a coat of wax over the bases and edges keeps them protected from moisture and other climate conditions.
Storage during the season is something important to consider as well. Imperative is not leaving equipment in the roof box or out in the cold overnight. While equipment is watertight for the most part, it is possible for moisture to get its way in during activity. If left outside, the water can freeze inside the ski/boards core or underneath the base and cause a whole host of issues.
2. At Home Tuning and Maintenance
Not all tuning requires a trip to the local service center. In fact, there are many simple things one can do at home. Primary to this is getting comfortable with waxing. Not only is it relatively easy to get the hang of, but it will save time and money while noticeably increasing performance. For the most basic at-home waxing set-up, these are the things you will need:
- An Iron
We carry several waxing specific irons here in the store, ranging in price from about $50 to well over $100. If on a budget, a residential iron from the thrift store will do the trick, but use caution so as to not overheat the bases.
Waxes are defined by the snow temperature they are designed to be used with. The higher the number, the softer the wax. This gives it better hydrophobic properties, making it ideal for warm spring conditions with snow that has a high moisture content. Lower numbers are formulated for lower temperatures, where the snow crystals are smaller and harder. Because of this, the wax is made harder to increase glide and prevent the snow from grabbing at the base. If you are just a recreational skier, an all-around universal wax is available.
While simple a sharp scraper makes a huge difference! I recommend using a plastic scraper. You can get a good one for about $5 from most any ski shop.
A waxing brushing is most often made with brass and/or nylon bristles. It ensures that you are getting all wax off the base’s surface.
- Tuning Bench and Rubber Bands
As a makeshift stand for the skis a couple of pieces of wood, such as 2x4s, can be used. While not as efficient as an actual bench, they work on a budget. A purpose-made bench from a company such as Swix, is best though, especially for Nordic equipment.If you have alpine skis, the rubber bands are used to hold up the brakes while waxing.
Second to waxing, cleaning up your edges is the most important at-home tuning one can do. There are several different options here. If you are just looking to clean up small burrs/dings on the edges then something called a gummy stone would suffice. But if you would like to resurface and set the edge a file, file guide, and diamond stone are needed. Additionally this is when you would want to invest in a tuning stand that can clamp the ski or board. Files and guides, which help you keep the same angle along the whole edge, come in at a variety of price points and types.
To find what's best for you, I would recommend stopping by a shop to discuss what your needs are and what they recommend.
3. When it's time to go to the shop
Whatever amount of tuning you choose to do at home, some work requires you to come into the shop. I recommend that you bring your equipment in at least once a season, if not more. From repairs to base resurfacing, shops have specialized equipment that at-home tools simply can’t replicate.
- Base Grinding
Around this time of year I often see posts on social media by people advertising that they’ll tune your skis for less than the shop and quicker, etc. Yet, unless they have access to tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment, what you're getting is not the same. A quality base resurface and stone grind is one of the single most important factors for a skis performance. This should be done at least once a season. First, the base is resurfaced, opening up the pores, allowing wax to better penetrate, while also getting rid of those small scratches. Next, the base is flattened on a specialized stone, making for predictable on-hill performance. Lastly, a structure is ground into the base using the stone. Structure is imperative to allow the ski/board to glide properly. A good one allows moisture to escape from underneath the base, reducing friction, and making you go faster.
- Binding Work
Just don’t. Leave any adjustments, mounts, or repairs to the professionals. We have the certifications, equipment, and experience to safely ensure this vital piece of equipment is set for you. Alpine bindings should be tested for proper function annually.
- Extensive Base and Edge Repair
Let’s face it, no matter how hard we try, there's always that “one rock” which puts a gouge into your base or even pulls out the metal edge. If the base gouge goes all the way to the core, called a “core shot”, it is imperative this be fixed or moisture can get in and rot the equipment over time. Here at the shop, we have the equipment to weld a new piece of material into that spot or hardware to pull the edge back into place. Time and again we see home repairs come in with less than ideal results.
Long - story short, there are several things one can do at home to tune their skis, saving money at the shop and time on the slopes. Yet no matter how handy one may be, some things are best left to the professionals. At Skirack, we’re here to do those major repairs or base grinding, but also to provide the tools and education for your own home tune shop.
- Nick Gauthier,
Skirack Service Department