Get your equipment ready for ski season
November 14, 2012
Most of the Tahoe ski resorts are now open and running, thanks to the early snow dump we’ve enjoyed. Heavenly, Northstar,Kirkwood, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows as well as Mammoth are spinning bull wheels. All it takes is a little wax and some elbow grease. You need to tune your skis or board. Yes, you can do it yourself for a modest investment and elbow grease. If you don’t want to get wax on the workroom floor you might want to visit CV Sports at the shopping center on the south side of town. They’ll do the job, for prices ranging from $25 for basic and $50 for a major tuning. And one thing that CV can do for you that almost noone can do at home is test the ski bindings. Snowboard binding are prettymuch open for inspection, but ski bindings are more complex. After sitting round all summer the springs and lube in the bindings can no longer give free release so a bindings check is smart. If you do the tuning yourself at home you can take your skis to the resort of your choice and they’ll test the bindings for $5 or $10.
But you can do it yourself. Here’s what you need to do the job:
A jig or fixture to hold skis base up (never did a snowboard so don’t know how to hold one in place, but I’m sure you can work it out)
Ski wax, a good hunk will cost around $20
A plastic scraper tool, usually free at ski shops
A quality file or an edge precision sharpener tool; the tool is tricky at times and not easy for amateurs to use
A heating device:; you can pick up a used laundry iron at second-hand shops. Or buy a pro tool off the Internet if you’re serious and rich
A Colorado stone or soft stone
A wire brush, Brillo-type cloth
A steel straight edge or ruler
OK, so you’ve got one ski base up and firmly locked in position (one at a time, please). Take the plastic scraper and going from tip to tail, scrape off last season’s wax. Do it until you no longer get old wax curling up.
Then heat up the iron (not too hot; wax should not smoke when touched to the heel of the device) and holding the wax against the hot iron surface dribble melted wax onto the base, just splattering along moving quickly. Just dribbles are enough. Idea is to get the wax on the base roughly in blobs so that during the next step it will spread and cover the base.
Let the wax cool and then with the heated iron go over the base, melting the wax smoothly, the width of the base. Keep the iron moving; stay in one place too long and you risk popping the P-tex base. Make sure the melted wax covers the width of the base. Put the ski outside for an hour or so to let the wax harden.
Back inside, with the ski again base up, use the plastic scraper going from tip to tail, scrape the wax off the base. Go over the base several times until wax is smooth and spread over the ski.
OK, I know. What’s the sense of adding wax and scraping it off?
What the melted wax does is fill in the pores of the P-tex, small openings that when moved across the melted snow suck up water and slow ski movement. You scrape off the wax to force it into the pores. Waxing skis makes them go faster, of course, but more importantly the skis will move easier across the snow making turning less tricky. You wax not just for speed but for better control and more fun on more demanding runs.
Next step is to eyeball the skis. Holding one at an angle, sight along the edges, looking for bulges. If you spot such or if the ski seems to be misaligned, you’ve got problems you can’t solve; take the skis to a pro shop.
If not, run a finger along the ski edges, feeling the burrs or gouges. You’ll want to take those out with your file. Be sure not to change the bias of the edges; the manufacturer put on the right bias (that is, the angle of the edge to the surface of the base) for the ski there and you don’t want to change that. (This may not hold for racing skis; bias is tied to a skier’s style and preference.)
After smoothing out of the edges, take the Colorado stone and smooth out the edges again.
Also take the straight edge and hold it across the base of the ski; it should show that the base is flat. If the center is high, the ski will tend to skid and pivot; if the edges are high, the ski will tend to move as if on railroad tracks. In either case, the calls for a ski shop resurfacing the ski to flatten the base; can’t do that at home.
Then take the wire brush and run it down the length of the skis; you’ll pick up wax anew. This is coming from the cross hatching of the base, designed to funnel the melted show out from under the base as you ski. Finally, take a Brillo-type cloth and go over the bases once again.
And that should finish the job. Don’t forget you have to repeat this process several time during the season; wax doesnot last a whole winter season.