The art of ski tuning and waxing applies equally well to telemark, alpine touring and nordic skis, as well as snowboards. Proper tuning ensures you're getting maximum turning performance out of your board(s), something you'll notice whether you're cranking high-speed turns, launching into steep alpine terrain, or gliding across the flats.
How often you tune your bases and edges depends on how frequently you get out. Several quick tune-ups per season is average. The easiest way to determine if a tune-up is needed is to examine the base and edges of your skis.
Look for the following:
Start by wiping your skis dry and allowing them to warm up to room temperature. Use a base cleaner or scraper to remove any old wax or skin glue residue. Small gouges in the bases can be filled using hot wax as a short-term repair, or a P-Tex® candle as a long-term repair. Large gouges (especially those that are close to the edges) may need to be repaired by a professional ski shop.
Use a steel file to flatten any burrs or nicks in the edges. Next, use a 90-degree edge sharpener along the length of the edges (starting at the tip) and pull the file in one direction using overlapping strokes until you reach the tail. Be aware that most edge sharpeners only file in one direction.
Keeping the bases even with the edges is an important factor in determining how well your skis will hold a turn. A ski shop can machine grind the ski's base and bevel it evenly across the length of the ski.
Backcountry skis are particularly susceptible to accumulations of skin glue. This can dramatically affect how well your skis glide in variable snow conditions. Regular hot waxing will limit the accumulation of glue and will help preserve the durability of the base.
It is best to hot wax at least twice a year depending on how much you ski and what the snow conditions are like in your area. More frequent waxing may be required if you're doing a base repair, if the bases appear dried out, or if your skis simply feel sluggish.
Use a general-grade wax that can be melted onto the base using a waxing iron. Allow the wax to cool, then scrape away the excess and buff the base using a wax brush and/or a wax cork. If you need a quick fix in the field, simply rub on some instant wax paste. It won't last as long as a hot wax, but it will get you through the day.
Nordic skis generally require a different form of waxing than backcountry skis or snowboards. Most nordic skiers apply a specific type of wax each time they hit the trails. Nordic wax is available in different temperature ranges, and is applied directly to the ski to offer the right combination of traction and glide. Backcountry skiers, on the other hand, use skins for traction, and are only concerned with how well their skis will glide. To take some of the mystery out of the waxing ritual for nordic skis, check out the how-to video below for an excellent overview that will get you on the snow in no time.