Do it yourself ski-base repair
December 26, 2012
It’s the skiing equivalent of nails on a chalkboard – the cringe-inducing rip of an exposed rock slashing at the bottom of your skis. For skiers who have spent more than $100 on a day pass, $15 on lunch and $899 on a brand new pair of skis, few things are more devastating than discovering an ugly gash in the middle of beautiful virgin bases.
Luckily, there’s a cheap, effective, do-it-yourself solution to skiing’s most common inconvenience: P-Tex.
As quick as duct tape with none of the tackiness, P-Tex has been the skier’s choice to patch base damage since it was introduced in Austria in 1955. Park City’s oldest ski-rental-delivery shop, Skis on the Run, knows the merits of P-Tex all too well thanks to last year’s below-average snowfall. Lifelong Parkite and Skis on the Run manager Ryan Hunter estimates that 30 to 40 percent of the skis the company rented out last ski season needed P-Tex work when they were returned.
In the paragraphs below, Hunter describes the entire P-Tex process in detail:
What you need: P-Tex candles (preferably the same color as the ski’s base), a lighter and a panzer file or metal scraper. Hunter recommends a panzer file because "first of all it’s usually quicker. Second, it’s usually more exact and smoothes the edges better around the P-Tex area." It’s also less likely to cause extra damage to the base during repair.
First, clear off any excess damaged base that’s sticking out of the gouge with the panzer file or metal scraper. If you’re using a panzer file, make sure that you hold the file flush with the base of the ski. Then turn the file 45 degrees or more toward the tail of the ski. The grooves of the file should be curving toward you like an "n," not away from you like a "u." Think of the grooves like an arrow that should point toward the tail of the ski. It’s important to bend the file upward away from the base to avoid damaging the skis’ edges. Move the file back and forth over the damaged area. It’s important to double check and make sure the file is not scratching the ski’s base or edges. If you can see small scratches on the base, you’re holding the file at less than a 45-degree angle.
If you’re using a metal scraper, scrape off any rough excess base with the same technique you’d use to scrape wax with a plastic scraper: normal pressure while holding the scraper at a 45-degree angle off of the base. Be careful not to apply too much pressure to avoid scratching or gouging any undamaged base.
Next, clean any dirt, rock or other material out of the damaged area with a brush to ensure a solid bond between the P-Tex and base.
Here comes the fun part. Light the P-Tex candle until it stays lit without the aid of the lighter. Let the P-Tex melt into the damaged area. A solid blue flame is ideal. This is best achieved when the candle is held close to the ski and there’s a solid bond between the P-Tex and the base, as opposed to holding the P-Tex high above the ski and letting it drip onto the damaged area. Be extremely careful to avoid dripping any hot P-Tex onto your skin. You’ll also want to do this on a table you won’t mind dripping molten polyethylene on.
If the flame grows weak and starts flickering, lift the P-Tex candle slightly off of the base. Let it regain strength and continue. If the flame goes out at any point, just relight the candle and keep going.
Be sure to put more than enough P-Tex on the damaged area to fill any gouges; deeper gouges will most likely require multiple passes. Don’t worry about using too much. Any excess P-Tex can easily be filed/scraped off.
Once the P-Tex has been fully applied, wait for it to cool. This typically takes at least 10-15 minutes. If the P-Tex still feels warm to the touch after 10-15 minutes, wait longer. If you scrape it while it’s still warm, you risk removing all of the melted P-Tex from the damaged area. If this happens, just melt more in.
File off the now-dry excess P-Tex with the panzer file or metal scraper. Use the same technique as in step one, taking care to hold the file at a 45-degree angle or greater and to bend the file away from the ski’s edges.
Rub your thumb over the P-Tex. If you can feel any P-Tex sticking out of the gouge, repeat the last step until it is completely flush with the base.
Congratulations. You did it! You know how to utilize the skiing equivalent of O negative blood plasma. Time to get back out on the mountain and shred that white winter wave.