How to Maintain Skis

File the ski bottoms flat using even diagonal strokes; work from the boot area toward the tip and then back. Treat only the center section of each ski; leave the tips and the tails unfiled.
File the ski bottoms flat using even diagonal strokes; work from the boot area toward the tip and then back. Treat only the center section of each ski; leave the tips and the tails unfiled.

With proper care, your skis and ski poles can last a long time. Here are some practical ti­ps for maintaining ski equipment, starting with ski poles.


Repairing Ski Poles

Spring, balance, and turning ability on the slope or trail all depend on ski poles. In cross-country skiing the poles are usually bamboo or lightweight aluminum; in downhill, they're heavy-gauge metal, fiberglass, solid wood, or some exotic composite material. You can repair and mend most types yourself. Here's what you'll need.

Tools: pliers, pocketknife, vise or hammer.


Materials: replacement handles, baskets, straps, or tips, as required; fine-grit sandpaper, waterproof glue, lubricant (household oil, hand lotion, etc.), fiberglass tape.

Time: about 10 minutes to 1/2 hour.

Handles. Twist old or broken handles off the poles with pliers. Sand the ends of the poles lightly with fine-grit sandpaper to remove debris; wipe off the sanding residue. Apply a bead of waterproof glue around the top of the pole and the pole end of the new handle, and press-fit the handle onto the pole shaft.

Wrist straps. Wrist straps are pushed through a slot in the pole handle and wedged into place at the short loop side with a small metal wedge. Remove the old strap with a pocketknife; discard the metal wedge that held it in the handle. To install the new strap, jam-fit it through the slot in the handle so that the loop of strap inserted through the slot just sticks out at the other side of the slot. Insert the metal wedge for the new strap into the small loop at this side and push it firmly in with the butt or side of the pocketknife; pull the loop of the wrist strap from the other side to tighten it.

Baskets. Baskets are snap-fit into a ring groove near the pole's base. Remove the old basket with pliers. Apply a lubricant to the inner ring of the replacement basket -- household oil works fine, but any lubricant will do, even hand lotion. Press-fit the new basket into the ring groove.

Tips. Most ski pole tips are small, light metal pieces screwed into the pole's base; occasionally they work their way out and get lost. To replace a lost tip, simply apply a small drop of waterproof glue to the tip around the fastening screw. Screw the new tip into place with pliers.

Breaks and bends. Broken poles should be replaced, but you can repair them temporarily; wrap a broken pole firmly with fiberglass tape and handle it gently. A more common problem is bends. You can usually rebend a pole by straightening it and clamping it in a vise; or roll the pole on a flat surface and straighten it with gentle, repeated hammer taps. Whichever method you use, work slowly and gently; ski poles are fairly fragile.


Sharpening Skis

Modern metal and fiberglass downhill skis will last a lifetime if given proper care. Major repairs are best left to the experts, but you can sharpen your ski edges yourself.

Tools: large, medium-coarse flat file; work gloves.


Materials: silicone spray lubricant.

Time: 1 to 2 hours.

Set the skis on a sturdy table or a pair of benches, bottoms up. Examine the metal edges of each ski carefully. Look for deep scars in the bottom of each ski that cut across the edge, and check the edge in these areas for loose or chipped metal. If you find a loose edge, have the ski professionally repaired; otherwise, go ahead.

Begin by flat-filing the ski bottoms, concentrating on the area under the boot and working toward the front of each ski. Keep the file flat against the ski bottom.

Use even diagonal strokes, working up and down each ski. File until the metal edges are shiny over the entire length of the ski, from 12 inches behind the boot area to the front. Do not file the tips or tails of the skis.

When both skis have been flat-filed, turn them on edge and carefully dress the edge sides with the file. Keep the file perpendicular to the bottom of the ski to produce a square edge. File only enough to make the ski edges shiny.

Run your finger carefully along the edges of each ski to feel for burrs. If there are rough spots, refile the entire ski edge; don't file just the bad spots. Use long, even strokes, again working up and down the ski edge. When all edge surfaces are smooth, coat the edges with a silicone spray lubricant to retard surface rusting.

By maintaining your ski equipment with the tips provided in the article, your time on the slopes can be even more enjoyable.

­For tips on caring for and repairing other types of sports equipment, try the following links: