It's About More Than the Wax

AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
It doesn't matter how good you ski or ride. Unless you use a file, a file guide, a diamond stone and the back of your hand, your gear will hold you back. World Cup and Olympic ski and snowboard tech Jeffrey Sadis, who is doing gear prep for athletes at the X Games, says snowboarders especially neglect their gear.

"The result is that their board doesn't last as long, and becomes hard to ride and slow; in some cases enough to be dangerous. An un-waxed base dries out and actually becomes furry. The board won't glide, so you have no speed," he says.

Athletes at the X Games have discovered that. "Especially the half pipe athletes. There's a lot of racer service at the X Games this year," Sadis says.

He explains that even if you're only on powder, it's important that the edges of your skis or board are smooth; saying, "You get them smooth by filing them, and then you use a diamond stone. That's a flat piece of aluminum that has industrial diamond dust on top. It acts like microscopic blades that polish and hone the metal edges of a ski or board."

After filing and diamond stoning edges, Sadis uses an 'Arkansas stone' on the base edge, tip to tail, for the final polish. Because an Arkansas stone is porous, it won't push metal dust into the base; but remove it. Stones and files can be found at ski shops frequented by racers and pro athletes.

Before waxing your gear, run your finger and fingernails along the edge to see that it's smooth. Sadis says, "The back of your hand is also sensitive enough for testing imperfections in the edge of a board or ski after you've filed and stoned them.

As for the technique, a file is best used with a file guide, also available at ski shops. "Absolutely discuss the right file guide with the shop tech that is helping you. You want one that matches the bevel of your edge," Sadis warns.

After every few pulls of the file, use a rag or paintbrush to clear away metal and plastic debris. Don't over-file, four or five strong pulls are enough. The edge will feel grabby, because there will be a burr where the side and base edge meet. That's when you use the diamond stone.

"You use it with a side-edge guide, and only on the side edge. It removes the burr," Sadis says.

If you don't use a stone on filed edges, the burr will make the skis or board grabby, or "hooky," which makes it try to turn on its own.

Wipe the base and edges thoroughly to remove any metal dust. Now you are ready to wax the base, which will protect it and give you speed. Red wax is the most economical, because it covers such a wide range of temperatures. Use yellow for wet spring snow. Buy wax and an iron from any shop, though a second hand iron from a thrift store will also work. Keep the iron low enough so that the wax never smokes. First, rub the bar of wax over the base to protect it from the direct heat of the iron. Then, holding the wax to the base of the iron, drip it in zigzags all over the base. Begin ironing the wax in, going from tip to tail and moving the iron slowly. Avoid going in circles.

Keep ironing until the wax on the tip stays wet and shiny by the time you reach the tail, and the upside down top of the ski or snowboard feels warm. Let it sit overnight, then scrape the excess wax off with a plastic scraper.

When you take your well-prepped equipment out on the snow, you will be absolutely amazed at how much better you can ski or ride.


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