Just like sharpening a pair of skates every year, prepping your skis for the snow season ahead makes sure that your wintertime adventures don’t go, er, downhill.
Here’s how to do it yourself in four easy steps.
Step 1: Inspect your gear
Before you hit the slopes or trails, carefully inspect your bases and bindings to ensure everything is in working order. Make sure that nuts, bolts and screws are tight—including those on your boots.
Pay careful attention to your bindings, as well as wear-and-tear on the toe and heel of your boots. Without the proper settings, a ski could either come off too late or too early, resulting in injury. If you suspect it’s time for your bindings to be adjusted—which is recommended at least once a season—take them to a professional for a function test. Ski shops are equipped with machines that test both toe and heel release, determining whether bindings are safe to use.
Step 2: Clean
Before you can wax on, you’ll need to channel the Karate Kid and wax off. Counter-intuitively, the easiest way to do this is by applying a layer of warm paraffin wax. Once it’s solid but still warm, you can take a scraper to the new layer. In addition to taking off the old wax, this will help to remove any build-up of dirt or grime.
Your skis aren’t the only thing that needs cleaning, though. Take the liners out of your boots and if possible, you’ll want to give them a wash or an air out. Once they’re fully dry, put them back into the boots and buckle them up, which helps maintain their original shape.
Step 3: File
Sharpening edges not only removes rust, but improves grip on the snow. Starting by checking your skis for pockmarks by running your hands along their edges.
Once you’ve determined the problem areas, your skis can be filed with fine sandpaper, a steel file or a diamond file. Start out with a very light hand and only focus on the rough spots. Any major dings? Again, it’s best to take your skis to a professional, who can also make sure the tips and tails are filed so they don’t hook in the snow.
Step 4: Wax
Not sure whether you need a new coat of wax? If there’s a white colour to the base where it looks almost like dry skin, it’s time to freshen up.
Unless you know you’re going to be skiing in specific conditions, an all-weather wax should do the trick. Make sure your brakes are retracted so they won’t get in the way (a strong rubber band can aid with this) and start by cleaning the base of your skis with a clean rag. Then, hold up the wax to the bottom of a hot iron, and let it drop down onto the skis, starting at the tip and working to the tail.
When wax droplets coat the entire surface, run the iron along the ski to spread the wax evenly. Just like ironing a delicate fabric, be sure to keep the iron moving so you don’t damage your skis. Once it’s coated and cooled, the bases can be scraped from tip to tail to remove uneven surfaces—and you’re ready to hit the slope.