The key to a great relationship with your ski equipment is simple; you get out of it, what you put into it. Regularly serviced skis will perform like the day they first hit the snow. Some of this service can easily be done by you and some should be left to your local ski shop. To help educate you about the process, the team at Elan HQ has put together this guide to keep your skis performing for years to come.
Skis are like your car; they need regular maintenance to ensure they run smooth. We recommend that you treat your skis to a full service at the beginning of each season. The more you ski, the more maintenance your skis will need, so adjust accordingly. This includes repairing and stone grinding the base, sharpening the edges, waxing, and having your bindings checked by a trained technician to ensure safety.
Most of you probably don’t own a stone-grinder or a binding tester and unless you’ve pulled miles of steel by hand (ski tuning slang for sharpening edges), this work is probably best left for a professional to handle. However, there are a few basic maintenance steps that many of you can do to help keep your gear in top condition.
From time to time, inspect your skis for damage and wear. When inspecting your equipment, there are a few things to look for. First, dry your skis thoroughly after use, this will help prevent corrosion of the edges. Next, examine the base for any damage and determine whether your skis need wax. The sign of a healthy base is a smooth, shiny finish. If you see grey spots (especially on a black bases) that’s a sign that your skis need wax.
Next, check your edges to see if they need to be sharpened. Chances are, you’ll notice this when you’re skiing but you can also check this by hand. It is the same principal as tires on your car; if they’re worn, you can still drive but you won’t have the same grip and control as you would with new tires. Carefully run your fingers along the edge to see if the edge is smooth. If you encounter rough spots called “burrs”, your edges need a touch up. To check the sharpness by hand, scrape the edge with the back of a fingernail. A small amount of your nail should come off on the edge.
Edges dull over time, but how long it takes for this to happen depends on a few factors. The number of days you spend on snow and snow structure play an important part. Artificial snow is more abrasive than natural snow and wears edges faster. Generally, edges grip well for approximately ten days of skiing on natural snow and about half that on artificial or icy snow. Competitive or more demanding users may tune their edges more frequently. Edges can withstand many sharpening’s, so the chances of the average skier using up all their edge material is minimal.
The last step of the inspection process is checking for damage. Pay close attention to the seam where the edge and sidewall meet. Over long periods of time, structural glue in the ski can let go, causing a void between the edge and sidewall which will allow water or moisture into the ski. It’s rare for this to happen, but if a defect is found early, the ski can be repaired. While you’re doing this, look at your bindings to see that all the hardware is intact and the parts where you boot contacts the binding are clean and free of debris.
Unfortunately, no ski is immune to damage. Trees, rocks, and rails in the park will almost always win a showdown with your skis. The most common areas we see damaged are the base and the edges, typically caused by impact with something other than snow. You might also find cracks in the edges or damage to the base if you’re hitting up the rails and boxes in your local terrain park.
Minor scrapes and gouges in the base are reasonably easy to fix. Smaller damage is filled with a material referred to as P-Tex, while major damage may require a section of base material to be cut out and replaced with new base material. Minor damage repair may be within your skill set if you have the correct tools; a stick of P-Tex, a lighter or propane torch, and a metal scraper are needed to fix minor base damage. Major damage repair is a task best left for your local ski shop.
Edge repair is a more daunting prospect. When inspecting the edges check for cracks, deformations, and scars. Most scars and certain types of deformations can be repaired. If part of the edge has failed completely, it may be beyond repair and it’s time to start looking for your next pair of skis.
If you’re experienced in caring for your edges, here’s a few things you can do on your own to maintain your skis. Remember, when it comes to edge material, once you take it off, you can’t put it back so it’s best to know what you’re doing.
We use a handheld diamond stone to touch up the edges almost every time we ski. This helps remove rough spots call burrs that can make the ski feel grabby, as well as preserve sharpness. The goal here is to remove minor imperfections in the edge without effecting the tune of the ski. Care must be taken during the procedure not to file down the edges and harm the tune. Using a file guide and clamp may help you with this procedure. After touching the edge up with your diamond stone, it should feel smooth and sharp.
The base has two main characteristics - structure and wax impregnation. Structure refers to small grooves cut into the base of the ski by a stone grinder, which aides in glide across the snow. Wax also contributes to glide but has a much shorter lifespan. Your skis should generally be waxed every few days of skiing for good glide.
Waxing skis is something most everyone can do. Remember to take care of all edge work prior to waxing, or else you’ll have a file filled with wax rendering it useless. Also, you’ll want a dedicated iron for this, unless you like your clothing covered in wax.
If you have ski wax, an iron, a plastic scraper and wax brush at home, you’re ready wax your own skis!
1st – Brush the base with a ski specific brush to remove any dirt or dust and open the structure. Your local ski shop can help you choose the brush that’s best for you.
2nd – Drizzle wax onto the ski with the iron, then spread the wax evenly across whole length of the ski, until the base is completely covered. Make sure the iron is set to the corresponding temperature for the type of wax you are using, (check the packaging for recommended iron temperature). Pay attention that you don’t “burn” the base, you should constantly move the iron along the full length of the ski.
3rd - If you’re preparing for your next day on the hill, use a plastic scraper to completely remove the wax from the base. When the wax is completely removed, brush it until the base is shinny and smooth.
Now you’re ready to rip! ;)
When you store your skis between use, wipe them thoroughly with a dry cloth and store in a dry area. This helps prevent corrosion on the edges and other metal parts of the bindings. The same applies both for temporary storage during winter and off-season storage over the summer. The skis should be stored away from sunlight, excessive heat, and kept in a dry environment.
To prepare your skis for summer storage, it’s best to take care of your edges and base before you put them away. Follow the inspection steps and note what your skis need for work. Touch up the edges as necessary, fill any base damage, then apply a good coat of wax making sure that the edges are covered. This will help seal the base from any dirt, dust or debris, and help protect the edges.
When you purchase a pair of skis you likely got a set of bindings, whether they came with the ski as a package or otherwise. They should be installed by a certified technician, as there are important safety factors that need to be considered. First, the bindings must be properly adjusted to the size of your ski boots. Each boot has a marked center and a notation of the length of the sole in millimeters. The bindings are then set to the corresponding length. The second step is to properly adjust the binding release value, aka: DIN setting. This depends on the height, weight, age, boot sole length, and skill level of the skier. Elan recommends that a technician inspects and checks the function of your bindings every season.
We hope you find this basic maintenance guide helpful. For us, ski tuning is a great way to stay in touch with gear and skiing. The tuning process is also a great form of self-care; it helps us get amped for our next day on snow, it’s a therapeutic way of unwinding after a great day on the hill with friends, and it’s rewarding to experience the perfect turn on a pair of skis that you prepared on your own. At Elan, we don’t just build the world’s best skis. We are avid skiers that enjoy the smell of wax in the air, a freshly sharpened edge, and always good times.