Merv's Ski Waxing and Maintenance Tips
CHECK YOUR GEAR
Safety and enjoyment are enhanced by checking your skis and other equipment before you head out. This should be done prior to each trip, and at the end of each day. Don't have the energy I hear you say? Regular maintenance often resolves issues before they require outright repairs. And these are almost always more costly and time consuming for you.
During these regular checks you should look at for any obvious scratching, rusting, dry patches or loose components. Below, in more depth, are the are four areas to keep an eye on.
Firstly, check that the binding is fixed securely to the ski. Are all the screws tight? If the bindings are loose you have a few options. You could remove screw or screws and re-glue using ‘flexible’ glue (two part glues, such as araldite, set hard and do not flex with the ski). But just be aware that undoing the screw can turn the ‘blob’ of glue in the ski base and create a large hole.
Also, most screws in ski bindings are best removed using a ‘posi-drive #3’ screw driver. If you want to remove a screw that is particularly tight you will need to heat it using a soldering iron or similar to break or weaken the bond of the glue around the screw.
If bindings are ripped out, you will need to plug the holes and remount the bindings with new holes at least 1 cm from any current holes. This may change the performance of the ski. It is best if holes are drilled using a mounting jig to ensure accuracy of the hole locations...it may be worth handing the job over to a professional. An alternative is to drill out the old holes and insert ‘helicoil’ screws. The binding screw then attaches into these...again, probably a job for a professional.
It is important to ensure that the fit of the binding is as solid as possible. Ensure that the mechanisms are functioning properly and that the attachments are firmly attached to your boots, particularly at the toe. On alpine touring boots there are often critical settings – the binding DIN (release pressure), the toe fit, the heel fit, etc.
Are they dry? Are there white patches? If no, enjoy your skiing. If yes, they will not glide or turn well which makes for harder work. This is because there is a greater chance they will cause the snow to ‘ball’ up underneath your ski. This can be simply remedied with an application of glide wax.
If your skis have a grip section, typical on touring skis, this area should not be waxed. You could, if you particularly determined, apply a thin layer of paste wax. But be careful not to fill in the grip areas. Another option would be to apply a layer of a silicon type spray, but these are not very durable and may also result in suction issues on wet snow. If the grip is worn out or you want more grip you can use skins, usually a 'kicker skin’ suffices. A kicker skin can help you ascend a slope more directly than a base pattern.
If your bases are scratched then you will need to hunt down some p-tex. Big ‘dings’ are best fixed professionally using a hot p-tex iron. If you would like to have a go at it yourself then a ‘base candle’ (a.k.a. p-tex candle) can be used. It is often hard to get the p-tex to hold when scraping it back flat with the base. If the ‘ding’ extends right through the base and into the core of the ski it can be very difficult to repair. You can try using a ‘p-tex’ candle, or you can hand it to a professional, depending on the performance you want from your ski.
Some Basics on Waxing
If the base is dirty, you can use a base cleaner (or wax remover) which will do the job but dries out the base. This is not a problem if you wax the skis straight afterwards. Alternatively you could apply a hot wax straight away. The wax is applied and scraped off while still warm and lifts off the dirt.
If there are dry patches on your skis and they are clean then wax them and let them sit for the wax to cool. The skis can be left in a warm location for a period of time so the warm base absorbs more wax. Scrape the excess wax off so the base looks smooth and shiny.
The paste wax is a quick and convenient way of keeping the glide section of the ski ‘waxed’. Just apply a thin layer. But remember, the easier it goes on, the easier it comes off! For summer storage, clean the bases and apply a layer of wax, but do not remove it until the beginning of the next season.
A sharp knife or blade can be used to cut off the lifted piece of top layer. But this is more for aesthetic reasons rather than any improvement in ski performance.
Check regularly for 'dings'. They will noticeably lower the glide and turning performance of the ski. Smaller ‘dings’ can be removed using an edge sharpening guide. These normally have a couple of angle settings. While you could use an ordinary (bastard) file, take special care. Even if they are used whilst in a mounted in a guide they can cut aggressively and shift their cutting angle. Diamond files are expensive but better.
If you happen to have non metal edge touring skis there is nothing you can do to sharpen them. But you can use a sharp knife or blade to trim off the loose bits. Be sure to cut from the front to the back of the ski.
Check that the baskets are not too damaged, and are well secured. To remove a basket place the basket end of the pole in very hot water for a few minutes and then twist and pull the basket free. I find the easiest way to do this is to place the basket between my feet and pull upwards on the pole. To refit a basket you need a little hot glue in the top of the basket hole, and then quickly replace the pole end before the glue sets. Make sure the pole handle and basket tip are aligned correctly if it is an offset arrangement. Hot glue guns are good for this.
Check the handles and straps for damage and corrosion. Handles can often be removed using hot water to soften the glue that holds them. Hot air guns can be used instead of hot water, but it is very easy to cause damage to the plastics and materials from which the baskets and handles are made.
Enjoy your skiing, and take care out there!
Bogong runs a series on in-store information sessions on a wide range of topics. All are welcome. Details on the latest program here.