Staying in Tune: The basics of ski tuning and waxing

Skinny Skis shop
Stone Grinding a skate ski

Whatever your skiing preference, all ski equipment requires a certain level of maintenance (and sometimes repair) to maximize your performance.   Efficient, comfortable and predictable performance is only achieved by focusing on these three critical yet basic areas of maintenance:  bases, edges and wax.

While seemingly obvious, it is critical that the base of every ski be flat and smooth from edge to edge.  If your skis are new, then they should have been checked for this during the final base prep in the shop.  If your skis are older, and perhaps not properly maintained, the bases may have expanded and compressed during hot and cold cycles creating an disproportionate center.   This will cause an unpredictable glide or unstable turning and can compromise your control.  If this occurs,  your skis should be checked and will most likely require a stone grind or sanding to eliminate uneven areas.

Skinny Skis has a Montana Nordic Stone Grinder that will flatten an uneven base, as well as add a patterned structure on your skate or classic skis.  (Nothing refreshes skis and enhances performance like a stone grind!)  Any gouges or core shots in the base will also create an unreliable performance and can cause permanent damage to the ski’s ability to perform if not properly repaired.
The next step of basic ski maintenance is monitoring the structure of the bases.  Skis should have a specific pattern running the length of the ski base.  This pattern is essential to ski control, glide and wax absorption.  You can discern the base structure with visual inspection or by using a fingernail to feel the pattern across the base.  The pattern will be linear from tip to tail.  It could be a deep, wide pattern for wet conditions or a fine shallow pattern for colder conditions or somewhere in the middle.  The structure can come in a general or universal pattern for most snow conditions or it can be fine-tuned to enhance performance and speed (even on your alpine skis).  Skinny Skis can help determine which stone grind will allow you to reach your maximum potential.

Skinny Skis waxing
Waxing Nordic skis

Next, your skis should have smooth, consistent and/or beveled edges.  All skis have edges, some are steel, some are simply part of the p-tex base and sidewall.  No matter the material, the metal edges on skis are vital for maintaining control and keeping them in tune is essential for flawless performance.  If rust is present, it needs to be properly removed before it spreads and degrades the quality of the base.   If an edge is cracked or broken, Skinny Skis can easily repair the damage and preserve the life of the ski.  While the edges on Nordic and Nordic Race skis are less likely to be compromised, their condition and appearance is still very important for performance and speed.

Finally, the most important thing that can be done to skis for preventative maintenance is proper and routine waxing.  Despite modern technology, ski bases dry out quickly and this immediately compromises your ability to glide and turn.  Long-term neglect will eventually cause the boards to wear out.  The longer you wait to wax, the less wax the ski will accept.  The best application is hot wax where the wax is manually melted into each ski with a wax iron.  Other applications are available such as paste or liquid wax, but these do not provide the durability or penetration of a solid hot wax.  These alternatives are more suited for a quick fix during an outing and should not replace routine hot waxes.

Recreational skiers should be satisfied with hydrocarbon waxes, which are inexpensive but provide good base protection and performance, and a universal or all-temperature wax is the easiest choice for most snow conditions.  Competitors can worry more about wax temperature and fluorocarbons, which Skinny Ski’s shop techs are happy to discuss.

It is worth noting that even waxless skis still require wax.  The “waxless “ term refers to the hard grip wax that is used on classic Nordic skis.   This style ski has waxless grip pattern under foot of the ski and works best when an easy liquid wax is applied on the grip pattern, as well as having a glide wax at the tips and tails of the base.  Regardless of style or brand, routine waxing is best for performance and longevity.

Skinny skis has a full service shop with decades of combined experience to help you from core shots to technical waxing and boot work to binding repair.   Come by the shop and ask for Ryan, Alex or Scott with any questions.