Another good winter type storm rolled through Montana this week. It brought plenty of snow. I had to shovel snow twice so far this season and it's still October. More snow is forecast for southern Montana and I suspect some ski areas will be opening soon.
After setting up my waxing area and cleaning some of my skis, I noticed that the bases on my best skis don't look as good as they used to. Some of the structure is worn away and the bases are not as flat as they once were. I think they could use a little refreshment in the form of a stone grinding.
Structure on a ski base refers to the tiny grooves or pattern ground into the base. The depth, size and directionality of the grooves can affect the way the ski performs. More importantly the type of structure put into the base can be customized to specific snow and temperature conditions. If you have several pairs of performance skis you might be using one pair for warm wet snow and another pair for cold dry snow. Each of these skis might have different base structures. If you generally ski in all conditions on one pair of skis then a general all purpose grind is best.
The base of your skis is flat in two directions. If you put a straight edge across the ski base at right angles to the length of the ski it should touch the ski evenly all the way across. Three should be no high or low spots. The same goes for the length of the ski except that there is a smooth curvature from tip to tail. Still there should be no severe dips or bumps along the base.
New skis come with some type of structure on them and many of us clean the base and wax for the trail. But when you ski abrasive conditions will begin to slowly erode the surface and begin to remove the structure. Severe scraping of your base when removing ironed on wax can also erode the structure. Using too hot an iron when waxing can damage ski bases resulting in a base that will not hold wax well. A ski base that shows white or worn spots after only a short ski is indicative of one that may have been overheated.
I suggest having your skis stone ground to solve these problems and return the base to something more like it was when new. This is exactly what I plan to do with mine real soon.
It may seem daunting at first to think about have material ground off the base of the skis but it will make the skis perform better and extend their useful life.
Alpine skiers have had skis tuned this way for years but most of use don't have access to someone who knows how to grind a cross country ski. I suggest finding a good shop that specializes in cross country skis. This may mean shipping your ski off via UPS or FedEx but it will be worth it.
Stone grinding may cost between $60 and $130 so be prepared to spend a little cashola. Compared to suffering with continually decreasing performance or the cost of new skis, the price for a good stone grinding is worth it.
If after cleaning you see that your skis are severely damaged and need replacement, then click on the shopping link at the top of this page and let ERNie fix you up.