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XC SKI TECH: Stonegrinding for Today's Skiers, Part 2

While CyclovaXC is focused on XC Skiing, Cycling, and Running, this is the first of several articles to be posted on XC Ski tech. This article was written by Frank Lundeen and previously published in Master Skier Magazine:
Continuing from part 1 of Stonegrinding for Today’s Skiers, we will now address how to get those freshly stoneground skis race ready with a minimal amount of work. In this article, we will discuss how to prepare your freshly stoneground skis so they will be rocket ships the very first time they touch snow.

Before we begin talking about handwork with your skis, there are a few very important point to keep in mind.

Stonegrinding exposes a fresh layer of base material improving the ability of the ski to take wax. With this in mind understand that immediately after a ski has been ground, the base will absorb more wax with less effort on your part, than at any other point in its life. This means that for most skiers, you are getting more wax penetration with the first 5 or so layers of wax after a fresh grind than you may have gotten in the last 100+ layers of wax before the grind. This illustrates how having your skis stoneground truly does make the most of the time spent working on your skis!

The problem in the past with stonegrinds has been the hairs and loose excess base material on the base of the ski after a grind. As mentioned in the last article, skis, stonegrinding machines, and grinding techniques have improved to greatly reduce the formation of these evil hairs. Most stonegrinding shops also have some sort of finishing process, which removes any remaining hairs. With your grinding technician taking care of this, this makes your job of preparing your skis much easier .

A good stoneground structure is a perfect structure. You DO NOT want to destroy it by touching a metal scraper, aggressive metal brushes, or anything else that will remove this structure to your ski. Why remove this optimum structure from you ski if there are other ways to prepare you ski?

This is also a great time to brush up on your waxing technique. Since your skis are off to a good start, make sure to wax them properly. Often times waxing technique has more to do with having fast skis than the wax you put into the skis!

Before you begin waxing don’t forget to make sure your plexi scraper is very sharp! You can damage your ski by scraping with a dull plexi scraper. If your scraper is dull, you are often chipping wax off of your ski as well as applying too much down pressure on you ski. This can create waves in your ski base and remove the stoneground structure. A properly sharpened scraper will actually cut soft or even hard waxes off the surface of the ski rather than “chip” or “push” it off. You can sharpen your scraper with a “Plexi-Sharpener” tool, or some people with a steady hand have success using a file. Either way, having a sharp scraper will make you a better waxer!

Ski technicians have been experimenting for years on the best way to prepare a freshly stoneground ski. This is my recommendation on how to prepare your skis. The following steps are a combination of personal experience, World Cup methods, and recommendations from major wax companies. The following steps assume that the shop which ground your skis has gone through a finishing process to remove the most of those “evil hairs” from your ski base that we spoke of earlier.

  1. Scrape and brush out the layer of wax the shop has put on your skis after the grind.
  2. Inspect the ski. Notice the flatness of the base, the beautiful structure, and even the consistent shine the base seems to have.
  3. Using a copper brush (not a brass brush), lightly brush the ski using long, smooth strokes from tip to tail. This will clean the ski base and stand any micro hairs on end that may still remain on your ski base. The copper brush is soft enough that it will not create hairs in the base, it will only stand any existing hairs on end.
  4. Now is time to perform a hot scrape. When hot scraping, use a soft wax (Ex: Toko World Loppet Yellow). Apply a generous layer. While the wax is still warm, scrape off the wax using your sharp plexi scraper. Remove any wax from the groove of the ski. Begin brushing the ski immediately with a stiff white nylon brush. Use the stiff white nylon brush aggressively until very little wax comes out of your ski. Finally finish brushing with the horsehair brush. The hot scrape, if done properly will cut off and remove hairs that we stood up with the copper brush. I normally begin every race wax job with the hot scrape to clean the base of my ski.
  5. It is now very important to get a few coats of a soft wax into the ski allowing each coat to fully cool before scraping and brushing. Ideally you would be using a fluorinated wax for this (Ex: Toko Dibloc LF or HF Yellow). These layers of soft wax deeply penetrate the base of the ski, saturating the ski with wax.
  6. Next, it is important to get a variety of hard (Ex: Toko Dibloc LF and HF Blue and Grey) and soft waxes into the ski. To clarify, apply a cold wax, then a warm wax, then a cold wax scraping and brushing each coat. By using these harder waxes, you are physically hardening the base of the ski because ski bases take on the characteristics of the wax you put into it. When saturating the base with soft waxes, this enables the harder waxes to penetrate the base deeper.
  7. At last, you can move on to your wax of the day. You are well on your way to enjoying the fastest skis possible!

Remember that this method of ski preparation is for optimum results. In many cases, you will see a dramatic improvement in ski performance (compared to before your skis were stoneground) by simply putting a few coats of your wax of the day over the cover wax the grinding technician applied to your skis.

Waxing can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. Stonegrinding is a useful tool, which will help you get maximum results from the time you do spend waxing. It is important to work with a wax system that you feel comfortable with. With just a little bit of knowledge on waxing, it is very possible to have fast skis all of the time; if your ski base is healthy, this is half the battle! Generally speaking, the more wax you get into your skis, the faster they will be.

Above all, don’t loose sight of the reason you are waxing your skis; to enjoy skiing! Too many people spend too much time in the wax hut and not enough time on the trail. Having fast skis is a sure way to improve your performance, but an even better way is to get out skiing. Make sure to spend more time skiing than working on your skis. Also make the most of the snow while we have it as skis glide better on snow than they do on grass and rocks! Oh, and be careful, you skis will now be very slippery; make sure not to slip when clipping into your bindings!

Photo Credits: Marty Wood

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