The following article is a guideline to help racers prepare their skis for training and race events. Most people think of tuning their skis as a task too difficult, and better left for a local ski shop to take care of. When in reality, with the right tools and an old iron , you are more than capable of making your skis race ready! Not only will you have a tuned pair of skis, you will also have a feeling of accomplishment, and trust in your edges knowing that they will be sharp enough to hold on the slickest of race courses!
Follow these guidelines and you’ll be well on your way to some fast skis!
New Skis. . . Ahhh! New skis, everybody loves new skis.
But don’t think for a minute that a new ski just out of the wrapper is ready for hill. When in fact most new skis have minor imperfections in the base that a good stone grinder can cure with little effort. Take your new skis to a reputable shop, and ask them to flatten your skis, and structure your bases for our average snow conditions. This process allows us to start with a zero degree base bevel. To make sure your skis are flat, take a true bar and lay it across your base. Look down the base of your ski toward the true bar. If you see light coming from underneath the middle of the true bar, and none at either end, then chances are your skis are “edge high” or your bases are “concave”. If you are seeing light at both ends of the true bar, and none in the middle, then this means your bases are, “base-high”. If you see either of these symptoms indicating a not so flat base, it’s time to go back to the drawing board to get those bases flat. Make sure that every once in a while you go back and check your bases with the true bar in order to maintain a nice flat base.
If your working with an existing pair of skis, taking them to a shop for a good stone grind back to flat will get you up to speed for the guidelines to follow. Any base repairs are usually easily taken care of when you bring your skis in to be flattened. Take note of any gouges In your bases and be sure to mention that they need to be filled. If you feel comfortable using a p-tex candle to fill in those gouges, you might save a few bucks at the shop.
Do not have your skis ground the night before a race. You will need to train on your newly tuned skis to be sure all of the bugs are worked out, and are performing up to your expectations.
Bevels and Tools
What is a bevel? And why do I need one on my skis? Your skis will need two different bevels. A side edge bevel, and a base edge bevel. The definition of a bevel is: The angle or inclination of a line or surface that meets another at any angle but 90 degrees. According to this definition, our edges would be the “surface” Once we come from the shop and get our skis home to work on
them, our bases are flat, and it is from this point we put our file on the base bevel tool (Tools listed below) and begin to file the base edge down to achieve our desired bevel. The reason we use a base edge bevel is to allow our skis to extend more laterally before “hook-up” with the snow. Skis that are flat (No base bevel) have tendencies to be “hooky”, “grabby” and for some
racers not a good feeling. Another reason why tuning your own skis can be fun is to try out different bevels, and see what works for you.
The end result can be seen with the true bar. What you will see is the true bar flat (no light) across the base, with light showing through at the edges.
Achieving the proper side edge bevel is just as easy, except we won’t be using a true bar. Instead, just a plain old marker!
With your ski in the vise, side edge up, take the marker and make a dotted line down the edge of your ski. Now with your file and side edge bevel tool, file until the dotted line disappears evenly from your side edge.
The tools needed to produce accurate side and base bevels can be purchased at most ski shops. The tool I like to use are:
Winning Edge File Guide (Made locally!)
Tools available in-1, 2, and 3 degrees.
Sun Valley Ski Tools Pro side edge bevel tool
Tools available in 1, 2, and 3 degrees.
Sun Valley Ski Tools The Final Cut base bevel tool. This particular tool is very accurate, and stops cutting when the appropriate base bevel is achieved by the tool itself. You may want to pick up a 1/2 and a 1 degree If you only get one, definitely grab a 1 degree!
One small spring clamp to hold the file on your side file guide securely.
A couple of 6 and 8 inch files.
The reason for the two different side edge tools is to create a more acute edge angle for harder snow. The more acute edge
angle will produce a much sharper edge. For instance, a 1 degree base edge bevel and a 2 degree side edge bevel will create the acute angle needed for harder snow.
Stoning and Polishing Once you’ve filed your edges to the desired bevel, it’s time to polish. Why polish the edges on a ski?
When you finish filing your edges, there are marks that the file leaves that need to be smoothed out. First you will need a coarse ceramic or diamond stone to knock down those larger file marks. Next you will need a fine ceramic or diamond stone to put the finished polish to your edges. Use a little bit of water to lubricate the stone from friction created against the metal edge.
Be sure to use your file guides while polishing your edges to make sure you maintain the desired bevel.
Coarse ceramic or diamond stone Fine ceramic or diamond stone.
Remember this, if you have trainers they will need to be gone over lightly with a stone only at the end of each day
to keep that precise bevel!
Cleaning the ski base Before waxing your skis for the hill. You must remove all of the small filings that get in your skis base from tuning. Fiberlene paper is the best way to remove the large surface debris. Wrap a piece of Fiberlene around a file a couple of times. Run the file flat on the base from tip to tail to remove debris. Use a new part of the Fiberlene piece for each pass down the base until no more dirt comes off on the Fiberlene paper. The next step to getting the base free of debris is a method of hot waxing(see Ironing sec.) the ski, and scraping the ski while the wax is still hot. Then brushing (more on brushing later.) out the base structure. This method allows the debris to cling to the still hot wax, and therefore pulling it from your base. Don’t use your good wax for this, pick up some cheap universal wax that’s pretty soft so it can pick up a lot of debris.
Waxing and Brushing These are the final stages for making your skis the fastest that they can be! Some times it’s not
always who hit the wax that wins the race, but having a properly waxed ski will help you link your turns with more fluidity over the snow.
This section is a guideline for waxing your skis for different snow conditions and temperatures. Changing air temps. change
the consistency and snow structure.
Deciding the wax selection. New or cold snow! Cold air temp When the air outside is cold and crisp, that usually means that the snow is hard and squeaky under your feet and skis. This type of snow requires a very hard wax. Believe it or not, but these types of conditions create the most friction between the ski base and the snow surface. Also new or cold snow crystals are sharper then other conditions and require a harder wax to keep those sharp crystals from biting into the ski base. If you’ve ever experienced your skis dragging on cold days, you can thank those sharp cold snow crystals for that. Waxing with a cold , hard wax will prevent that. Within the Swix wax line, this wax is CH-4 and its color is blue.
Old snow! Moderate air temp
This temperature range is usually around the 15 to 35 degree air temp. These types of conditions do not require as hard of a wax as the colder conditions do. This wax is easier to dig your fingernail into then the cold wax. In the Swix line these wax’s come in a couple of different temp ranges so you can get as close to the correct snow conditions as possible. The two that will be used most are CH-6, and CH-7. Their colors are violet, and white.
Wet snow! Warm air temp
Warm air temps mean wet snow. Snow that has alot of moisture in it. This type of snow is usually coarse and doesn’t create that much friction. You’ll need a softer wax for optimal performance. The Swix CH-1O, it’s color is yellow will be the proper wax for these conditions.
Most wax companies list the different temp ranges for different snow conditions on the box for your convenience.
Now that we have been outside, looked at the snow, at the hill preferably. Maybe even taken a temp. with a snow
thermometer, and selected the wax for the conditions, its time to plug in the old iron and get ready for the meltdown!
I can not tell you in enough words how important it is to wax your skis! The more you ski, the more you wax. It’s that
simple. New skis after a stone grind are very dry and can’t be waxed enough in my opinion. Your skis base is comparable to a sponge. Both a porus medium. A sponge accepts water through its pores, the same way a ski base accepts wax when the wax is in a liquid form.
When a ski is carving down the hilt, alot of friction is created between the ski base and the snow. This is the main reason for waxing your skis, to help reduce the drag caused by the friction created. With all of the friction created on cold days, everybody has seen those bright white stripes down the base near the edges. Often called `freezer burn’. Failure to maintain wax in your bases will cause excessive `freezer’ burn’, and eventually cause your base to burn or flake away near the edge, leaving a gap between base and edge.
Well enough talk, the iron has got to be hot by now. Try to use an iron that doesn’t have any holes in the bottom. They have a tendency to hold alot of dirt. A ground rule for ironing in wax is- A smoking iron is a bad iron. If your iron is
smoking, hold your breath, turn it down, and please be in a well ventilated area. If not, get out! Temperature settings on your iron for your wax selection shouldn’t vary much. With the exception of your harder cold temp. waxes, which may require a touch more heat. Start out at a low temp. on your iron and turn it up a little at a time if you have to.
Now that we have the wax of the day already dripped on to the base, it’s time to spread it out to liquid. Leave the temp. on
the iron at the low setting. Make sure you do not clamp the ski in the vise when ironing. Put the iron flat on the ski, constantly moving it to avoid burning your base, and bubbling the base material beyond repair. Failure to keep the iron moving will even break down the bonding agents within the skis core!! Be patient and don’t be in such a rush to get the wax melted. You want to heat your ski slowly so the wax can spread evenly and the skis base can soak it all up like a sponge. Once all of the wax is spread out evenly, watch to see how far behind the iron the wax is staying liquid before is starts to cool and harden. If your using a warm, softer wax it will leave a liquid trail longer than a cold, harder wax. Approximately 10 to 12 inches behind the iron. While moderate and colder wax’s will leave a 6 to 8 inch trail. A little tip to help prevent `freezer burn’, take some cold, hard wax and drip it down the base along the edge tip to tail. Iron it in lightly then put on your wax de jour! This added layer of harder will be more resistant to friction in those areas applied.
Once the wax is even spread out, feel the top sheet of your ski. Is it cool? If so keep ironing until when you feel the top
sheet starting to get warm. A visual aid that will tell you when to stop ironing, besides watching the wax trail off the iron ,is to look at your ski in the vise, it should be flat or in reverse camber. If so, your ready for the other one. When your done with that, let them cool, and go find something to keep you busy. Feel the top sheets of both skis to see if they are still warm. If they are, go do what you were up to and let your skis cool to room temp. Once your skis are cool enough to scrape, its time to make a mess. To keep your ski bases properly waxed, 3, yes 3, coats of wax per wax session is required. Any more is just a waste. Don’t worry about making a drastic temp. change in wax for a change in weather. The 3 new coats of the wax de jour will overflow the old wax and allow the new to soak in. The whole concept of scraping wax from your skis is pretty simple. Use only a plastic scraper, never metal for scraping wax! A sharp scraper works best and easily removes the wax from the base. We want to get as much wax off as possible. Remember the whole sponge concept. Well the wax that we want to ski on is already absorbed into the base. That why we want to keep scraping until all of the wax has been removed. It even helps to brush your skis with a brass brush to clean out the stone grind structure in your base between scraping. (There will be more on brushing later.) There is an old racer saying,’ Thick to stick, thin to win!!’. Meaning, the more wax clumps on your base the slower you will be. The better you scrape your skis and be sure to remove all surface wax the faster your skis will be!! How fast do you want your skis to be?
I’ve talked about brushing here and there, and didn’t get into detail to much. Knowing that this section covering all that you will need to know.
What you need for brushing
Brass brushes – Long/Short bristles
Nylon brushes – Long/Short bristles
Horse hair brushes – Long/Short bristles
Brushing was first mentioned in the base cleaning process, where we are extracting debris from our bases. The best bet is to
have a couple of brass brushes, one for cleaning, one for waxing. Brushing skis is done to accentuate the structure in the
base to maximize the water dispersion from friction, and minimize the amount of drag from left over wax and scraper
marks. Remember,’Thick to stick, thin to win!!’. If you look at all three different types of brushes, you will notice that they all have different stiffness’ to their bristles. Brass being the most rigid, nylon being of a medium stiffness, and horsehair being the softest. Sound a lot like our selection of wax and how hard or soft or soft each is huh? However we don’t brush in the same order. Depending on what temp. wax you are using depends on which brush to use. The following are guide lines for you to customize to your brushing pleasure.
Brass – This brush should be used first every time to clean out the base structure, and the only brush used for a warm wet
snow day where a soft wax is being used.
Nylon – On days where a moderate temp. wax is being used, a brass brush followed up by a nylon brush will make your
skis slide nicely.
Horsehair – This is the softest of the brushes and the most effective for the cold hard snow. Once you have brushed your skis with both the brass, then the nylon. Follow it up with a lot of horsehair brushing until your bases shine! This will be the most effective for keeping those skis gliding nicely over that cold hard snow.
There are other brushes out there that do a superior job at preparing your bases for skiing/racing. Those brushes are called
Roto-brushes, and attach into a drill for high speed brushing, leaving a super shine to you bases and makes the really fast!
These brushes can be ordered though most ski shops.
Remember if you are using trainers, they will need to be waxed and tuned more than your racers! In other words everyday. Train the way you race, and race the way you train!! A day on skis not properly tuned is a wasted day!!
One more thing before I go, and that is to make sure to keep your skis covered with wax without scraping them when you
are not skiing on them. This will keep your edges from rusting and your bases moist with wax during periods of storage.