By: CXC Team Member, Andy Brown
Skiers are almost by definition gear junkies. A combination of high tech equipment and a difficult sport that rewards efficiency makes skiers everywhere think about what’s on their hands and feet. The term “Nerdic” was coined for good reason with many skiers willing to embrace their inner geek and obsess about technology and equipment. The intersection of material science, classical mechanics, chemistry, and sports physiology that come together to make someone go fast on snow is fascinating. I am more guilty than most when it comes to overanalyzing equipment, spending hours worrying about what grinds I should get on which skis, or taking 45 minutes to cut down a pair of poles because they were off by a millimeter. However along the way I’ve picked up a few tricks that I’ve found make my skiing better, or my life easier.
1. Waxing respirators and digital irons
Ski waxes have some pretty gnarly organic chemistry going on. While fluorocarbons are great for going fast when it’s wet and dirty you really don’t want to breath this stuff. Even normal paraffins make particulates when you scrape and brush. You spend how many hours training your aerobic system? why do something that is potentially harmful?
I wasn’t always so paranoid about waxing, I’ve rotocorked pure fluoro on in a dorm room with the ski vice clamped to my bed frame. I changed my view though after a couple of my friends ironed in pure fluoro and then slept on the floor nearby. The next day three of them had awful Birkies with trouble breathing. Don’t do this! I wear a p100 particulate filter that’s also rated for organic vapors and acids.
Okay now we’re sure we’re not hurting ourselves let’s not hurt our skis. Too many skiers burn the heck out of their skis, most being blissfully unaware. Drip/crayon the wax on and make ONE maybe two tip to tail passes with the iron, that’s it. If the wax isn’t smooth set the ski aside to cool and work on the other one before coming back. Any waxing iron will work but a digital iron is so much easier. I used a cheap waxing iron for eight years convincing myself that the thermal time constant of the system was slow enough that digital electronics probably weren’t necessary. Boy was I wrong. It’s a life changing experience when you finally get one. I value a digital wax iron as a higher priority for a household than a dishwasher. It’s that good.
2. Klister and ski gloves
This is an old trick but if you haven’t heard it you’re in for a treat. So you’re out classic skiing in difficult wax conditions (as you should be) and have just finished smoothing on a layer of red klister by hand (use your whole palm not just your thumb). Problem is the nearest sink to wash the klister off is at the trailhead 10k away. You can’t ski there without poles and gloves. What are you to do?
Just put your gloves back on and keep skiing! The first time my coach showed me this I was sure my gloves were going to turn into an unholy mess of klister but then the magic happened. The klister just disappeared. Someone told me it was the heat from your hands evaporating the hydrocarbons or something like that, I don’t know, but it totally works. One less excuse to avoid klister.
3. Foam rollers and chocolate milk
Going for a 18 mile trail run and want to be able to walk down stairs the next day? Break out the foam roller. The combination of a massage and stretch really cuts down on the time needed to get back to training after beating yourself up. Yes it hurts, sometimes a lot. That’s okay. Get the black roller, firmer is better. I have a friend who was training for the olympic marathon trials that uses a piece of PVC pipe! That’s hardcore.
Chocolate milk is amazing. It has carbohydrates and protein in just about the perfect 4:1 ratio for recovery. Chug a glass immediately after a workout and your body will thank you.
4. Sharpen plexi scrapers
Stripping the wax off a ski should take less than 30 seconds if you have a sharp plexi scraper. Getting a sharp 90 degree edge is easy with a piece of 100 grit sandpaper, a block of wood, and a flat surface. Put the scraper, block, and sandpaper on the flat surface and slide the scraper back and forth while holding the block down. Voila! a perfectly sharp scraper.
5. Velcro ties for the tips, sleeves for the tails
Okay this is purely because I’m lazy. Putting the tips of a classic ski into a sleeve type tie requires holding one ski way out from the other and guiding the tip into the tie. I’m sometimes cold, tired, not thinking. I put the bottom tie on and then swear at myself as I can’t get the top sleeve on. There’s an easier way. Stick both tails of the skis into a sleeve tie and then use a velcro wrap tie for the tips. You can hold the tips easily in one hand while wrapping the tie. Seems silly but when you take ski ties on and off a couple hundred times a year it makes a difference.
6. The right tools for the job.
When you think of a wax box, you think of an iron, some blocks of wax, corks, scrapers, etc. Adding a couple more tools really expands what you can take care of at home and might save you a drive to a shop. Ski binding screws might look like a big phillips but are actually a pozidriv #3. If you are moving bindings around, pick up a special driver and be very unfriendly to anyone who borrows it for things other than skis.
Other good things to have on hand are hot glue, a heat gun, and blow torch if you are waxing outside. Heat guns are the unsung heros of the ski tech world and are good for everything from smoothing klister, to swapping pole parts, to thermo molding boots. Blow torches are awesome for start line waxing, but you are literally taking something that is 2,000 degrees Celsius to a ski base that melts around 150. Be gentle. Also don’t start your car on fire with it either.
7. Use pole protection
Carbon fiber poles are great until they break. There is nothing more frustrating than to be winding up for a sprint and having a pole fold under you. Small dings and scrapes your poles pick up while bouncing around in a ski bag or being thrown into a trailer can weaken the carbon. If you are traveling somewhere or have to throw your gear in with a bunch of other bags, put some ½” foam pipe insulation on your poles. It’s super cheap and protects the carbon.
8. Shrug your shoulders
Cold hands while waiting on a start line are unpleasant. Get some warm blood in them by dropping your hands down to your sides and shrugging your shoulders up and down. Just be sure to have your hands up and poles planted when the gun goes off.
9. Rollerski tracking and sharp tips
I LOVE to rollerski. You already look ridiculous so embrace it and be a total goofball. You get to ski places you’d never otherwise go and there are so many trails and roads to explore.
Key to enjoying rollerskiing is a pair of skis that tracks straight. Nothing kills me more than hopping on someone’s rollerskis to find one constantly turning on you. It just ruins the whole experience. Thankfully it’s a relatively easy fix. Loosen the rear axle bolt and shift the axle backwards on the side that it’s turning towards (think of the wheel like a rudder on a boat) In the picture shifting the axle clockwise makes the ski turn more to the left.
Having sharp tips also helps tremendously. You can do this with a bench grinder or a diamond stone. If you use a bench grinder, go slow and dip the tip in water frequently to prevent melting the plastic which will loosen the metal tip and cause it to fall out. For diamond stones get the biggest coarsest one you can find and use it frequency. You want these things sharp!
10. Zipper chain lube
Zippers on ski boots take a beating, especially during the summer. Your sweat drips down on the zipper and corrodes the metal pull, causing the zipper to bind and eventually break. Prevent this by putting a drop or two of a wax based chain lube in the pull and working the zipper up and down. It will lubricate the zipper and prevent further corrosion.