SKI TECH: What Makes A Fast Ski?

This article was written by Frank Lundeen and previously published in Master Skier Magazine. The featured image of Garrott Kuzzy enjoying fast skis is courtesy of Ian Harvey and Toko.

Flying down a perfectly groomed trail in a winter wonderland. This is an image that many of us regularly fantasize about. Having fast skis is necessary for racers and will enhance any skier’s experience. As this ski season begins, many racers are trying to figure out ways to get faster. Perhaps you are going for your personal best in the Birkie this year, or maybe trying to keep up with your skiing friends. A sure way to improve your skiing performance is to have exceptionally fast skis! There are several components of having fast skis, yet very few skiers understand these factors.

If you feel the need for speed, it would be a good idea to keep these components in mind. Getting fast skis can be a bit like putting together a puzzle. This is not a very complicated puzzle and can be easily figured out.

SKI FIT

The first piece of the fast ski puzzle is based on ski selection and ski fit. If your skis are not designed for the conditions you ski in, or if they do not fit properly, they will never be fast. The single most important factor in ski performance is ski fit. Ski fit affects all aspects of ski performance.

The best way of obtaining a properly fit ski is by personally seeing a qualified ski dealer and going through a fitting session. A fitting session involves going through the type of skiing you plan on doing and first picking which category of ski best suits you (ex: skating, classic, touring, etc.). Once you have selected which category ski is best for you, it is time to find a pair that fits properly. The best way of testing ski fit is by doing what is known as a paper test. The paper test involves you actually standing on top of the skis while the ski technician uses a feeler guage or fitting card under the ski to determine if the ski fits you properly.

If you are a skier who has existing skis which have worked well for you, it is best to compliment your existing skis. For example, if you have a pair of skating skis which perform well in soft, new snow conditions but poorly in hard, icy conditions; it would be wise to compliment your existing skis with a pair which is suited for hard, icy conditions.

STONEGRINDING

The next piece of the fast ski puzzle is having a healthy ski base. If your ski base is not healthy, waxing will make no difference in ski performance. In short, stonegrinding your skis will help you get the most benefit of the time you spend waxing with better results.

Stonegrinding is a technology that has been used on the World Cup for many years and until recent times, has been a bit of a mystery, even to top ski technicians. It has evolved so that today, top racers have their skis ground multiple times per year. Today’s leading stoneground bases are literally race ready and require an amazingly low amount of waxing work to get them up to top speed.

When skis are stoneground, a very thin layer of base material is removed by the stone and actually exposes a new, fresh layer of base material which is able to absorb a huge amount of wax. Without regular stonegrinds, most ski bases become rounded, scratched, and unable to absorb wax; all factors which make for poorly performing skis.

When selecting the final stonegrind structure, one must consider the snow conditions your skis will be used in. If you are a racer who has a number of skis, ideally you would have different skis to be used in specific conditions with grinds for those specific conditions. If you are someone who has a pair of skis that you will be skiing on most of the time, a “Universal Grind” is the best choice. Most stonegrinding shops offer a “Universal Grind” which works well in most conditions.

WAXING...

Waxing is the final piece of the fast ski puzzle. Waxing is a part of skiing that has gotten much simpler over the past few years. Often times skiers are overwhelmed by the world of waxing. This should not be the case. There are now lines of waxing products on the market which have broad temperature ranges, are simple to understand, and are easy to use.

Waxers should worry more about their waxing technique rather than all sorts of different waxes. In many cases, waxing technique has more to do with fast skis that the wax you put on the skis. Sometimes racers will buy the most expensive waxes, apply them to their skis, only to destroy their skis by overheating the base! As you can see, the methods we use to wax our skis can make all of the difference.

The best way to learn about waxing methods and techniques is by attending waxing clinics. Many ski clubs, shops, and other organizations host waxing clinics which often provide skiers with great insight on how to improve their skis performance.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER…

You now know and recognize many of the pieces of the fast ski puzzle. These are the basics of having fast skis. If you understand and apply these pieces of the puzzle, you will have consistently fast skis!

There are many places to find additional information on ways to get that extra bit of speed out of your skis. For more information on fast skis, consult the experts at your preferred ski shop, where you will find a wealth of information and tips.

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