Ski touring, Freeride | Oct 27, 2021

Tuning tips for touring skis

… and how to care for your climbing skins
ATOMIC
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Looking after your touring skis and climbing skins is an essential – yet often neglected – part of keeping your gear in great condition. And why would you head out on a tour with equipment that’s in subpar shape? Well-serviced skis not only have a longer lifespan, they also make slashing through the pow a lot more fun!

We’ve asked the experts at ATOMIC about the best ways to keep your touring skis and skins looking fresh and functioning at their best. Read on for our tips!

How often do touring skis need a professional ski service?

The easiest way to find out if your skis need a bit of love and care is to use your eyes and fingers. Examine them in good lighting and you’ll know.

Three things to look out for:

  • Grey spots and discolourations are a good indicator that the base is getting too dry and needs a new coat of wax.  
  • Scratches can significantly impact the performance of your skis. You can see them if you shine a light on them. Scratches along the edges are often a bit harder to detect but you’ll notice them if you gently run your fingertip or fingernail over them. Just be careful not to cut yourself!
  • Dull edges can also be detected by lightly running your fingers over them.

If you frequently go touring, we recommend a professional tuning every two to three months. In between, you can wax your skis at home, as needed – depending on the snow conditions and temperatures.

Still looking for a high-quality pair of skis for your adventures in the backcountry? We recommend ATOMIC’s Backland series – they also come in women’s versions. If you’re new to the sport, check out our article on “Touring skis for beginners”.

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DIY ski waxing for the backcountry

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A fresh coat of wax can make all the difference between a so-so ski tour and a fantastic day in the backcountry. Even though ski touring is a far cry from World Cup racing, you can still get a lot more fun and performance out of your gear if you regularly wax your skis. 

The good news: Waxing your skis at home isn’t rocket science and, with a bit of practice, takes you less than an hour to do. You just need a few tools and supplies. Ideally, you also visit a basic waxing course beforehand – but that’s not a must.

Step 1: Get your tools ready

For a simple waxing, the must-have items are:

  • ski waxing iron (or a home iron – if that’s all you have)
  • ski vice (or a make-shift stand)
  • high-quality universal wax (one that’s not too high in fluorine)
  • scouring pad or brush to clean and buff the bases
  • ski scraper to remove excess wax
  • touch-up pen
  • cotton cloth

Step 2: Prep the base of your ski

Set the waxing iron to medium heat. In case you’re using a home iron, try the cotton setting. You’ll know it’s too hot if it starts to smoke.

While your iron heats up, you can clean the ski base. Strap your ski into the vice and wipe it down with a damp cotton cloth. You can also use base cleaner if you have any.

Step 3: Apply the wax

Hold the iron a few centimetres above the ski base and gently press the wax against the hot iron. Now, let the wax drip on the ski base as you move it along the entire length of the ski. Be careful not to use too much – you’d be surprised how little you need to cover the entire base!

Once that’s done, place the iron on the ski base to evenly distribute the wax. Move it back and forth along the full length of the ski and don’t let the iron sit in one place. Otherwise, you risk damaging the base.

Let the wax cool down, as you repeat the process on the other ski.

Step 4: Scrape off wax residue

Grab your scraper and take off any excess wax. Important: Be thorough, because wax residue can significantly impair the adhesive power of your climbing skins!

Then use a nylon brush or scouring pad to buff the base – and that’s it. That’s all the magic! Your skis will glide through the snow as if it was butter.

Keeping your climbing skins in tip-top shape

Climbing skins can be your best friend on a ski tour – but if they don’t work the way they’re supposed to, they can also become your worst enemy. Fortunately, most problems with climbing skins can easily be avoided through proper care and use. 

Did you know? Premium skins like the ATOMIC Hybrid Skins 85/86 can last for a good 150,000 metres of vert or more if they’re treated well – sometimes much longer than that.

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Prevention is better than repairs

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First things first: Climbing skins are pieces of equipment that are meant to be used – a lot! So, it’s no surprise that they experience quite a bit of wear over time. However, there are a few things you can do to prevent them from needing replacement before they reach their maximum lifespan:

During the tour:

  1. Keep them dry. Avoid puddles or wet snow as much as possible. High-quality skins are made of mohair, which glides extremely well, has a lot of grip, is lightweight and water-repellent. However, extreme moisture can make the material lose its water-repellent properties. If temperatures drop soon after, this can cause snow clumping and buildup on the plush. And that’s definitely no fun, as it’ll make the ascent much harder.
    Tip: If you noticed too late and your skins got wet, you can take a pocket scraper and scrape your skins from tip to tail to expunge as much moisture as possible. You can also use the scraper to remove any snow and ice. If you forgot to bring one, an alternative is to scrape your skins across the edge of your ski. 
  2. Keep them clean. Dirt, gravel, resin and needles can damage the skins badly – on both sides. A few words of wisdom: It definitely pays to stick to the route and not take a shortcut through the forest, especially as the days get warmer … Removing needles or tiny stones from your skins is incredibly tedious and will have you mumble expletives quicker than you’d think.
  3. Keep them warm. During descents, skins need to be stored in a clean, dry and warm place. Know where that might be? On your body! Take the skins off your skis and fold them in half with the adhesive sides together. Then stuff them close to your body under your ski jacket. If they’re kept warm, they’ll be much easier to attach later on. As soon as you pull them apart, the glue will reactivate.

After the tour:

  1. Dry them correctly. Just as you would hang your clothes to dry after a long ski day, you should also hang-dry your climbing skins. Be sure to keep them away from dust and dirt. Hotel room carpets are not your friend – and neither are heaters or radiators! Direct heat can damage the skins and render the glue useless. The same goes for direct sunlight. It’s better to let them air dry at room temperature.
  2. Clean them. Ideally, you avoid getting the skins dirty in the first place but if it does happen after all, there are ways to clean them. You can use tweezers to carefully remove any debris. Afterwards, you can wipe them clean. Most manufacturers offer special products and cleaning kits to go with their skins – please stick to those!

Good to know: Hybrid skins like ATOMIC’s Hybrid Skin 85/86 are much easier to clean than hotmelt skins. For proper care, we recommend using a Hybrid cleaning cloth.  

  1. Do some basic maintenance. If the edges of your skins are starting to fray, you can take a pair of nail scissors and carefully trim any loose threads. Afterwards, it’s good to seal the edges with a lighter. Only use a small flame and be careful not to damage the adhesive side!
    Regular waxing of the skins with special (manufacturer-recommended) products helps them keep their glide and water-repellent properties.
  2. Store them properly. For longer-term storage, it’s best to use some glue-saver sheets that usually come with the skins, rather than folding them glue to glue. After you’ve put them on, you can store your skins in their skin bag – ideally, in a cool, dark place that isn’t overly dry or moist. This maximizes their lifespan.

As you can see: There’s a lot you can do to keep your ski touring gear in tip-top shape and to get the most out of your touring skis and skins. However, proper equipment care is only one piece of the puzzle that makes ski touring an enjoyable experience. Another one is mastering the right ski touring technique, for instance. Have fun on your next tour!

INTERSPORT Rent tip

You don’t want to tune and wax your skis yourself and would rather have the experts take care of that? No problem! Just drop by at one of the INTERSPORT Rent shops in more than 800 locations worldwide. The local RENTertainers will get your ski edges sharp and give the bases a smooth finish … 

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