Base Prep, Edge Sharpening, and Waxing
Maintaining skis and boards is an often overlooked activity. They come with 2mm of polyethylene base material, referred to as p-tex. P-tex does wear down if not kept lubricated, that wear looks like grey or whitish sections of the base, called base burn. It happens particularly along the edges and can wear enough that the base is no longer flat. Checking flatness is done with a true bar, as seen to the right, there is no light between the bar and the base. This base is in great shape, if it was not flat, a base grind would be needed. A good base grind will grind the least amount of material possible to flatten the base, which allows for hundreds of passes through the machine. A bad base grind can only be done maybe twice before all edge and base are removed. Ask the tech how much material is removed each pass through the machine, it should be near .005mm, if they don't know, or it's much greater than that amount, find a different shop. The only shop currently in this area to do a quality grind and structure is REI. After a base grind, a pattern of texture should be added by the shop after the grind. This pattern is called "structure," its purpose is to break the suction an otherwise completely smooth surface creates on snow. Brand new skis often have a visible structure, a broken diagonal stripe is a common universal structure. A chevron pattern is another common structure.
Like base P-tex, edges have a limited amount of material too, between 2mm - 2.5mm. A file should be used minimally as it removes considerable material. File to set edge bevel at the beginning of the season, then use diamond stones to maintain the edge throughout the season. The best hand edge tool on the market would be the Side of Beast from the Race Place. Its unique slotted design holds files, diamond, or ceramic stones against the machined frame for a very precise side edge tune.
George Merrill, past US Ski Team member, and owner of Artechski has an excellent video of edge tuning here:
Base wax is the lubricant protecting your P-tex from abrasive snow and ice crystals. P-tex comes in 2 forms, Sintered and Extruded. Most skis and boards have sintered bases which means the p-tex is porous which allows liquid wax to soak into the base. When the base is saturated with wax, the base remains a rich black color, when the wax is skied off, the base gets grey or white looking, see image on left, and can begin to feel rough or fuzzy. Most ski wax skis off in about 4 hours of ski time. Hertel wax is the longest lasting wax on the market, as many as 3 days on fresh snow. To maintain bases, it is recommend to wax every day on snow. If a fresh hot waxing has been done, a rub on wax can be applied on top of the wax easily and quickly often getting more ski time out of a hot wax. Great info from Artechski on hot waxing here:
After wax has cooled, it's not very smooth. Scraping to smooth the wax is needed, then a thorough brushing. Minimally, a nylon brush is good to have, and a brass brush and even a horsehair is beneficial. Brushing is done until the structure is clearly visible, if the structure is not visible after brushing a few times, more scraping is needed. Work from stiffest to softest brush, the more you brush the base, especially with the horsehair, the smoother, faster and easier to ski. Another great video from Artechski here:
Here is a PDF that outlines the process as a whole. Minimal tools to have would be a gummy stone to clean up edges, rub on wax, and ski straps to protect your bases from rubbing against each other while traveling. Other tools can be purchased as needed. Mountain Racing does recommend that U12's and older tune and maintain their own gear, U10's and under can still use some help for safety reasons, in all cases parental oversight recommended.