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Ski Care

A miscellany of tips on care of skis and associated gear.

 

Wax-room hygiene

This actually refers to how you avoid contaminating skis and gear with the wrong kind of wax (such as getting stick-wax on your skate skis), rather than looking after your health. The techniques are very similar to those used for changing wound dressings (aseptic technique). Some rules are:

  • Always have a bin by your waxing table
  • Always throw away any disposables contaminated with stick-wax or klister immediately - scraped-off stick-wax, bits of cloth used for cleaning, etc. Don't put them on the table as they will contaminate it, and next time you put your scraper or brush down it will get stick on it.
  • Clean contaminated tools immediately after use - scrapers, irons etc
  • If you are working on glide after stick-wax, clean your hands
  • Clean tools before use if there is any chance that someone may have used them for stick-wax (irons, scrapers)
  • Clean stick-zones thoroughly before working on glide zones
  • Scrupulously avoid getting stick-wax on brushes - eg by putting a hand over the ski where the stick-zone starts, to prevent brushing the stick-zone
  • Put brushes down with bristles up

Waxing Irons

It is very important to have confidence in your iron, as problems with it can have significant psychological and therefore technical impact on your racing, as well as scratching your skis.

Before switching the iron on, run your hand over it to check whether it is sticky and whether there are any rough or sharp bits on it.

The metal of an iron's sole is very soft, so it tends to pick up burrs if it is dropped. These can and should be removed with a fine sandpaper, as they will scratch the ski base.

You should always clean your iron before and after use: use a clean rag or fibrelene etc, while it is warm or hot. Obviously you need to be particularly thorough after ironing stick wax or klister.

Store the iron in something that will protect it from damage and dirt. A hat is a common trick - but the iron has to be cold before you put it away. The original box is fine. I use an purpose-made 'iron cosy' from Core Sport which is very good and somewhat heat-resistant.

Scrapers

Scraper edges need to be sharp and straight to work well. If you resent spending money on scrapers you will quickly forget how much easier a new one is to use. I try always to use a newish scraper on race skis, partly because it gives better results and partly because it is quicker, and when I am doing race skis there is usually a lot of work to do (rarely only one pair).

You can sharpen scrapers with the sharpener produced by Toko; this does not keep them straight, and you will find that after a few resharpens they get crinkly. You can straighten them by rubbing them along a file (one long enough that the whole length of the scraper stays on the file).

Or you can just buy new ones: they don't cost that much.

Brushes

You know when a brush is worn out as it bristles splay like a worn-out toothbrush. You can make them last longer by being careful to use them flat on the ski. You should take care not to twist the brush as it runs along the ski as that runs the bristles across the direction of travel (applies mainly to very hard brushes).

It is absolutely vital that you keep your brushes clean (of dirt and stick-wax). Therefore:

  • Always put them down with the bristles up
  • Keep them somewhere protected from muck
  • You can clean the wax dust from brushes by putting them in the snow, and then knocking the snow out; for bad contamination, put them in a little tray or bowl with enough solvent to cover the bristles, and leave overnight to clean. Rinse with water and allow to dry.

Base repairs

Big gouges in the base, going right through the black layer, are worth filling with a little extra material. Clean and warm the local area of base; drip new material from a repair candle in so that it is slightly proud of the base; trim it with a sharp metal scraper.

Smaller gouges are not worth filling, but it does help to smooth out the rough edges. If you can press bumps back in with a blunt plastic scraper that is ideal (it may help to heat the base up). A metal scraper is again a good tool for removing bumps, but you should try to squash them first.

Damage to the edges can have an effect on ski speed, especially for skate skis; trimming with a metal scraper will smooth out bumps and gouges. Take off hairs with fibertex.

Stone Grinding

Stone-grinding is a machining treatment that removes a little base material and puts a surface structure into the base. The point of this is that:

  • It can renovate an worn or damaged base
  • Surface structure is a very important determinant of glide speed, and grinding gives very good control of the precise structure of the skis. It therefore enables you to tailor your skis to certain types of snow conditions - this is why racers have several sets of race skis.
  • Grinding is a skill, and most of the ski manufacturers do not appear to have mastered it (and moreover bases need to be waxed straight after grinding to protect them: new skis have had bases exposed to oxidation ever since they were made)

Stone grinding has to be done by a good operator, and each operator has his own selection of grinds; there is no standard nomenclature for grinds. People have their own favourites, and the best way to find a good grinder is probably to ask local racers where they get theirs done.h

Poles

Check your pole straps occasionally, and always before racing: a broken strap makes a pole useless. You can take the strap out and move the grip points roundoccasionally to slow down the wear process.