3 Step Tuning - for skis and snowboards
A waxed snowboard or pair of skis turns more easily, gives a smoother ride, is less tiring and easier to control. This means that you will have a better time in the mountains and you’ll be safer! You pay a lot for your sport so it is sensible to ensure you enjoy it as much as possible. The second reason for using wax is to make your skis or snowboard go faster – particularly important if you are racing (even against your friends) or training. Finally wax helps keep your equipment in top condition – new gear is expensive, so take care of it!
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Step 1 - Bases
Are there gouges or scratches? If the gouges are next to the metal edge or very large then it may be worth taking your skis to a reputable dealer to have them patched - otherwise you can do it yourself.
Take a ptex base repair candle and light one end. It is better to use a lighter or a small blow torch than a match as there is less carbon in the flame. Let it drip onto your metal scraper until the flame is blue (no carbon). Be careful not to let it drip onto your skin as it is VERY hot! Then move the burning candle over the gouge and let it drip until the hole has filled and a little bit more. Let it cool for at least 30 minutes. Use your metal scraper to scrape off the excess. You may need to repeat the process. Finally, slightly roughen your repair with a brass brush or a course structure pad- this will help the repair absorb wax later.
Step 2 - Edges
Remember each edge has two aspects - the base edge (level to the base) and the side edge (perpendicular to the base).
Many people like to put a small base bevel on the base edge of 0.5° to 1°. This makes your skis/snowboard less catchy and allows a smoother initiation of the turn. This is an easy process using a base bevel tool and needs only to be done once, while side edging needs done regularly.
There are many different side edging tools available (you cannot do this freehand without a guide!) from the very easy to use DataWax "Get a Grip" to more advanced tools. Choose one and use it regularly. Common Edge Angles include 90° (stays sharp longer) and 88° (better grip on icy pistes).
To use your edging tool, place the file on the edge of the ski or snowboard with the guide on the base. Press firmly on the base and draw the file guide along the length of it. Make sure your equipment is held solidly in a vice and keep the base facing away from you. This allows you to press firmly on the base. Don't press too hard on the edge - you don't want to remove too much metal!
Once your edge is sharp a diamond stone is often all that you need to keep them sharp.
Edge Angles - In Depth
Many skis and snowboards come out the factory with the edges already cut at a specific angle. A 1° base edge bevel means the edge is not totally in line with the flat ski base, but is ground so that the bottom surface of the edge angles away from the snow at a 1° angle, allowing it to rotate more easily during turns. A 1° side edge bevel means the perpendicular vertical edge of the ski is ground so that it angles toward the center of the ski at a 1° angle.
On the other hand the side edge requires regular care. It is often common to use a 90° file guide which will keep the side edge vertical (removing 0°) cutting back the metal to take away burrs and defects from the side edge. The other common file guide is an 88° (removing 2°) so that the edge is a more acute angle and therefore sharper. Racers will often have an even sharper angle but this can make it difficult to "get off the edge". 90° is fine for softer conditions but 88° will give you better grip - particularly on hard pistes and ice! The only disadvantage of choosing an 88° file guide is that the edge becomes blunt faster as the edge is more acute and not as hardy as 90°.
Step 3 - Waxing
Waxing is critical to the performance of your skis. Waxing helps your skis slide more smoothly and turn more easily, giving you more control. The end result is that you have more fun, more enjoyment and it's less tiring.
Rub on waxes or liquid waxes in a sachet are great but nothing beats a hot wax! Hot waxing allows the wax to penetrate the base, keeping them in the best condition and it also lasts longer.
There are many waxes to choose from, Universal All Mountain wax is a great starting point.
To hot wax - touch your chosen wax to the iron and drip it all over the base of the ski or snowboard. Then iron the wax until smooth. It is very important to keep the iron moving.
Make your last pass of the iron from tip to tail. Leave the wax to cool for at least 40 minutes and then use a scraper to remove the excess (it is the wax IN the base not ON the base that has most benefit). For a perfect finish brush the freshly waxed base with a nylon or horsehair brush or use a soft structure pad.
That is it! Quick, easy, and very satisfying. Best of all your skiing and snowboarding will improve as if by magic!