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A pair of skis are the ultimate transformation to freedom.Warren Miller
- Why do you need to wax your skis?
- Tools you’ll need to tune and wax your skis at home
- Prep your workspace for ski waxing
- How to wax your skis at home
- How to tune your ski edges
- How to Repair Ski Bases Using P-TEX
Why do you need to wax your skis?
Ski and snowboard bases may appear to be perfectly smooth, but if you look closely, you’ll see that they have quite a bit of texture to them. These tiny grooves and crevices are called the base structure. It’s similar to the siping on a winter snow tire. The water melting from the snow goes into these channels and helps you move faster. When properly waxed, your skis glide with less friction on the snow and you go faster. If you know how to wax your skis at home, you can save money – and time, once you get proficient.
When you don’t wax your skis frequently enough, the bases can get damaged and they won’t work well. Most people recommend waxing your skis about every 6-10 days on the snow. Learning how to wax your skis also helps you understand how to get the most out of your likely very expensive investment.
The preseason is a great time to get your skis ready, but it’s also a great time to get your legs ready. Read this article about my preseason ski workout.
Tools you’ll need to tune and wax your skis at home
You may think the tools you need to tune and wax your skis at home is a pricey investment, but for under $100 you can get a good setup for taking care of your skis yourself.
If you’re thinking about grabbing your clothing iron out of the cupboard or even picking up a cheap used iron at a local thrift store – don’t! Ski waxing irons are designed specifically for melting ski wax. They’re calibrated in temperature degrees and hold a much more constant temperature than clothing irons that are calibrated in fabric type.
Here’s a great waxing iron with good Amazon reviews:
When we talk about wax, we can dig way deep into the type of wax and the chemical composition, but unless you’re a pro skier or plan to wax your skis every day you ski to match the conditions of the day, just use a universal wax and call it good. Universal ski wax is just that – universal. It will work.
Vices or Clamps
You don’t necessarily need vices or clamps, but they can make you faster, more efficient, and more effective when you tune your skis at home. I’ve gotten away using wood blocks on my workbench with a clamp when needed, but if you want to get serious and have lots of skis or boards to wax, pick up a clamp like this one:
A good, sharp plastic scraper is an essential tool when you wax your skis at home. You use a plastic scraper to remove the excess wax after you lay it down. Don’t use a metal scraper for this as you’ll likely scrape off base material too. You can buy plastic scrapers for not too much so if yours gets dull, either sharpen the edge of it with an edge sharpener or buy a new one. I like to get scrapers with edge notches so I can quickly knock off any wax that rolls down onto the edges, although it will quickly get cleaned off after your first run on the snow.
Brushes are used to buff and polish the wax layer after you scrape it. The scraper can only get wax on the surface of the base, but brushes help clear out all the tiny grooves and pits in the base of the skis. We’ll talk more about that later. The brushes come in different materials and stiffness. I recommend picking up a set of brushes and working from most stiff to least stiff as you brush.
If you only want to buy one brush, go for a stiff, nylon bristle brush for a solid middle-ground performance.
Ski base cleaner is used to prep the skis before you wax them or before you repair any base damage. As you ski, your bases pick up oils, dirt, and debris from the slope and you may also have some residual wax from last time so cleaning all that off before you wax will help get a better result. You can buy a dedicated ski base cleaner, but you can also use citrus-based degreaser wipes. These are my personal favorites because they’re so simple to use and I can use them for all kinds of things besides my skis.
Edge Tool and Edge Stones
If you plan to tune your skis at home, you’ll need a few additional tools. An edge tool and some edge stones and files will give you a good start. An edge bevel guide will help you cut your edges at a specific angle and keep your cuts even. Most edge guides come with stones. Here’s a kit that has several edge stone options. We’ll talk later on about how and when to use them.
P-tex is used to fill any damaged parts on your bases. It comes in sticks that can be lit on fire and melted. The molten P-tex fills in the holes and hardens just like your base material. It comes in black and clear, so get the color that best matches your ski bases. Stick with black if your bases are black as it has added graphite material to make your skis glide better.
Prep your workspace for ski waxing
When you wax skis, you tend to make a big mess, so the first thought in waxing skis is to pick the right location. I wax my skis in my shed on the workbench, but some people set up a painter’s cloth inside or in the garage and some people do it outside. I don’t like to wax skis outside because the temperature is usually too cold and skis don’t wax as well when it’s cold. If you wax your skis when it’s warm out, you could do it outside I guess.
You’ll also need a good-sized space long enough to set up your clamps or some wood blocks to support the tip and tail of the ski while you work on it and also have enough free space for your tools and gear.
How to wax your skis at home
If you’d prefer to watch a video on how to wax your skis at home, here’s one I made for this article:
Now that you’ve got a good spot all set up, it’s time to get to work waxing. I’ve broken the process down into discrete steps below.
Step 1. Pull the brakes
The first step in waxing skis is to pull back the brakes. Use the rubber bands I mentioned earlier and loop one side around one brake then pull the band around the binding and then loop it around the other brake. This will keep the brakes out of your way while you work.
Step 2. Inspect the skis
Put one ski up on your mounts and inspect the bases and edges. I like to rub a scotch pad along each edge to check for knicks or burrs. Any sharp spots can scratch your iron which can then damage your skis. The fibers of the pad will hook onto any rough spots. Don’t use your finger or you may get cut if sharp spots exist. If you need to file the edges or want to tune the edges as part of a full ski tune-up, see this section below.
Also, inspect the height of the base and edges by laying a flat edge or a ruler across the ski and looking under it to see any gaps. The base and edges should be exactly even. If your edges are too high, this is called railing and you’ll want to file them down. If your base is higher than your edges, you’ll need to have a ski shop grind the base.
After inspecting the edges, inspect the bases. Do they have any scratches or damaged spots? If you don’t see any bad core shots, you can likely repair the base using P-tex. Read this section below to learn how to repair your bases and fully tune your skis at home.
Step 3. Prep the bases
With the edges and bases in good shape, you can get on with the waxing. The first step is to clean the bases off with a bit of base prep or a mild citrus degreaser. Rub some on a cloth or towel and wipe the entire base clean to remove any old wax, road grime, salt, or oils that may be hanging out as it will prevent the new wax from binding as well.
Don’t overdo it with the base cleaner. If you’re just waxing your skis, you don’t need a lot of cleaner. Too much will dry out your skis and can permanently damage them.
Step 4. Apply the ski wax
With clean and dry bases, you can now wax your skis. Plug in your iron and turn it to the temperature indicated on your wax. If you don’t see a temperature, start low, and increase it as needed. If the wax doesn’t melt pretty quickly, bump it up. If the wax is smoking drop the temperature a bit.
I like to start at the tip and drip a solid line of wax all the way down to the tail and then loop back to the tip.
After you’ve dripped the wax on, proceed to iron it out into a smooth layer that covers the entire base from edge to edge and tip to tail. You don’t need a thick layer, but you do want to cover the whole working surface of the base.
You don’t need to fill the tip in with wax since it’s not in contact with the snow most of the time.
Step 5. Let the wax dry
Once you’ve waxed the whole ski, you need to let the wax dry and harden, some people think they can shortcut this by putting the skis outside in the cold for a bit. This will harden the wax quickly, but will also cause the ski to contract a bit which will make it less able to absorb wax and you won’t get as good of a result.
Let the skis sit for at least 30 minutes. I usually let them sit overnight.
Step 6. Scrape excess wax off the base
After the wax is dry, you need to scrape off all the excess. Wax on – wax off, right? The goal is to leave as little wax on the base as you can while filling in all the micropores and grooves. You put wax into your ski base more than on the surface of it.
Grab your plastic scraper and pull it from tip to tail scraping off as much wax as you can. Keep scraping until you don’t see any more wax coming off the ski. If you leave too much wax on, you’ll have more work to do when you get to the next step, so scrape well.
Step 7. Brush the base
After you’ve scraped all you can scrape, grab your stiff brush, and begin brushing from tip to tail. You’ll see more flecks of wax coming off as you go. You can’t over brush so keep going for several minutes until you see less wax coming off. Grab a finer bristle brush or your scotch bright pad and repeat brushing again. Work the skis until you get a nice, smooth, shiny finish. This should take about 5-10 minutes.
Now you’re ready to ski – but if you need to tune your ski edges or if you have base damage and need to do some base repairs, read on. We’ll cover both those topics next.
How to tune your ski edges
Here’s another video I made on how to tune your skis at home. This one focuses on edge tuning.
It can be a bit intimidating to tune your ski edges for the first time. Once you figure out how to tune your ski edges at home, you’ll get much more confident at it though. It’s not too hard to do a basic tune. Many skiers never bother to tune skis and assume they’re good to go as soon as they bring them home from the ski shop. The truth is that skis coming off the production line are often not tuned properly. The machinery isn’t exactly consistent as it wears down so the start of a production run will have a different angle than the end and some skis even vary from tip to tail.
Your two skis may come with totally different angles, so it’s always a good idea to tune your skis before you use them as well as about once a year for most people.
To tune your edges, you’re looking to remove any damaged metal, cut a sharp edge at a specified angle, and leave the whole edge both on the side and the bottom nice and smooth.
We talked about how to wax your skis at home, but if you want to get serious about taking care of your skis, you’ll want to learn how to tune skis at home as well. Tuning ski edges and repairing base damage is simple enough that everyone who can wax skis, can also learn how to tune skis. The gear isn’t that much more of an investment and the skills for basic work aren’t out of reach.
Step 1. Check the edges for damage
Once I get my skis mounted up on my workbench and have the brakes pulled out of the way, I grab a Scotch bright pad and rub it along each of the edges inspecting for any snags. A snag indicates rough edges that need to be filed smooth. If I find a small snag, I’ll usually file it down with a gummy stone or use my edge guide to smooth out the whole edge.
If you run your finger down the edge and don’t use the pad, you could cut your finger on a sharp burr. The pad also helps you find imperfections you can’t always find with your finger alone.
Step 2. Set up your edge stone and bevel guide
This step will vary depending on the type of edge guide you have, but the basic concept is that you’ll pick your base edge angle. Ski edges aren’t typically square, they have a bit of bevel to them to keep you from catching an edge. Here’s a list of the typical base bevel and side angles you’ll see used:
Common Base Bevel Angles
- Novice/ Intermediate Skier 0.5 to 1.0 degrees
- All Mountain Expert — 0.75 to 1.0 degrees
- Slalom — 0 to 0.5 degrees
- GS — 0.5 to 0.75 degrees
- Super G — 0.75 to 1.0 degrees
- Skiercross — 0.5 to1 degrees
- Skier Rails and Park — 2.0+ degree
- Skier Halfpipe — 1.0 to 2.0 degrees (tip/tail); 0 to 1.0 degrees (underfoot)
- Beginner — 1.0 to 2.0 degrees
- Intermediate/ All Mountain — 1.0 degree
- Spinner/Rails and Park — 2.0+ degree
- Halfpipe — 1.0 to 2.0 degrees (tip/tail); 0 to 1.0 degrees (underfoot)
- Boardercross — 0 to 1.0 degrees
- Slalom — 0 to 0.5 degrees
- GS — 1.0 degree
Common Side Angles
- Novice// Intermediate – 89-90 degrees
- Advanced/ All mountain 88 degrees
- Slalom Racer 85-87 degrees
- GS Racer 87-88 degrees
- SG and DH Racer 87-88 degrees
Children or beginner skiers should not use overly-acute side angles as it will make it harder for them to turn.
- Beginner –- 89-90 degrees
- Intermediate/ All Mountain – 88-89 degree
- Spinner/Rails and Park — 90 degree
- Halfpipe – 88-89 degrees
- Boardercross – 87-88 degrees
- Slalom – 86-88 degrees
The sharper your side angle is (the lower the number), the more aggressive you need to ski to initiate turns and avoid catching an edge. Avoid the temptation to cut to acute of an angle. Sharper angles are also harder to maintain and need more frequent tuning. Most skiers are good with an 88 or 89-degree side angle.
Using a sharp and clean edge stone, set your edge bevel angle and begin cutting your edges. To ensure you’re making even cuts all along the whole ski, you can mark the edge with a sharpie marker. When the sharpie is gone, you know you’ve cut that part of the ski. Keep cutting until all the sharpie is gone.
Always start with the bottom edge and tune the side edges second.
As you get practice, you’ll learn what a good edge feels and sounds like. Edge tuning takes a bit of experience to get good at, but with a few pairs of skis, you can do the process pretty quickly on your own.
Step 3. Tune the bottom edges
With the edge guide properly cleaned, and set, begin to cut the edge by placing the guide near the tip of the ski (you don’t need to cut the rockered tip that isn’t used when carving a turn). Pull the edge guide firmly and smoothly along the base edge one stroke at a time working your way toward the tail. I like to overlap my cuts a bit, but not too much. I typically make three or four passes until the cuts feel smooth and the edge is shiny.
Pay attention to any rough spots and work through them until they feel more smooth. You may need to use a file to clean up some spots if you notice any damage.
Once you get a good, sharp edge cut, run a diamond or a gummy stone along the full length of the ski to remove any burrs or sharp spots. You can use a Scotch bright pad to find any spots that may need to be cleaned up.
Step 4. Tune the side edges
With the base edge cut, you can cut the side edge. It’s the same process, but with the ski turned on its side. Use the base as a guide for your angle and pull the file along the side until you get a nice, sharp edge. If you start to see any plastic from the ski body getting filed off, you need to trim back the plastic before you can cut the ski edge.
Keep tuning the edge until it’s sharp and smooth and make sure to double-check for burrs after you’re done.
With your edges done, you can move on to base repairs.
How to Repair Ski Bases Using P-TEX
Finally, here’s a video I made on how to repair ski base damage at home:
An important part of a ski tune-up is getting the bases slick and smooth. If you’ve had your skis for a while, you likely have scratches, dings, and other damage on the bases that keep your skis from working as well as they could. Most scratches aren’t problematic, but if they’re deep, long, or particularly gnarly, they’ll increase friction and slow you down.
If you have core shots on your skis, P-TEX may not be able to repair them. If the base is damaged at all, take them to a ski shop to check them out. If the core of the ski isn’t damaged but is visible, you can fill in the damage with P-TEX, but know that it won’t be as strong as the original base and will likely need to be re-filled every so often as the repair degrades.
Step 1. Inspect your ski bases
Once you get your skis mounted up on your bench and have the brakes pulled out of the way, carefully inspect the entire base from tip to tail to see what damage you’d like to repair. Some people mark the spots they want to fix with a piece of chalk or something else that will wipe off. I don’t usually do this in order to keep the bases clean during the repair.
Identify all the areas that are damaged and inspect them to see if they are clean scratches or if they’ll need to be scraped out before filling.
Step 2. prep the damaged areas for P-TEX
If you find any scratches on your ski bases that are rough with bits of base material poking out or covering the scratch, you’ll need to scrape it off and clean out the excess material. You can do this with a metal scraper most of the time, but sometimes you need to use a razor blade. Just be careful not to do more damage!
Once you have the scratches all cleaned up, clean the bases of your skis really well with some base cleaner or citrus degreaser to get all the old wax and other stuff off. If you don’t do this, the P-TEX won’t adhere well to the base.
Step 3. Apply P-Tex to your skis
P-TEX is a polyethylene material that comes in two types – extruded and sintered. For the at-home ski tune-up, we’ll be using the extruded variety. The sintered is denser but also harder to work with. It requires more specialized equipment.
To apply P-TEX, you light a P-TEX candle on fire and drip molten P-TEX into the scratches and gouges on your skis. The molten material flows into the scratch and then you scrape the excess off to form a smooth base.
Start by lighting the P-TEX on fire using a blow torch (safely positioned or mounted so it doesn’t get knocked over while you work). Once the candle is lit, quickly but smoothly move it close to but not touching the scratched areas. You don’t want to let the flame touch your base material or it could melt it and warp it. Just get it close enough that you can drip a small bit of P-TEX into the scratch.
Fill in all the damaged areas with a thin layer. If you need more than a thin layer to bring the P-TEX above the original ski base, apply only one drop at a time. Let the first layer harden and then apply another layer.
Once you’ve filled all the damage, let the P-TEX fully harden for an hour or so.
Step 4. Scrape the bases smooth
After the P-TEX hardens, grab your metal scraper and carefully begin scraping off small layers at a time of the P-TEX that sits above the ski base. scrape smoothly and carefully so as not to damage the ski base. Keep scraping all the damaged areas down until they’re flush with the ski base.
Once you get the damaged spots all back to flush with the rest of the ski, it’s ready to be waxed.
Step 5. Shred!
That’s it! You’re done tuning and waxing your skis. Go enjoy your new skills and get in some turns. Once the season is over, there’s an additional few steps you can take to keep your skis in great condition for next season. Keep reading to learn how to detune your skis.
Step 1. Wax on – no wax off
At the end of the season, put a good layer of wax on your skis, but this time, don’t scrape it off. This wax will protect your skis all year long and keep them ready for snow in the winter. Just remember to scrape off the wax before you head up the mountain again.
Step 2. Lower the DIN
The springs that hold your skis on your feet are under a lot of pressure during the season. Unwinding the DIN settings during the offseason will prevent the spring from wearing out prematurely.
That’s it, you’re now ready to take good care of your skis without having to take them to the ski shop every month. If you’ve got additional tips or thoughts on tuning skis, share them with us all in the comments.