Don't be so quick to replace your gear from last year. Slalom and GS Skis can retain 95 percent of their spring up to 140 days. Some World Cup skiers have been known to keep the same race skis until they could not be tuned anymore (3 years racing only).
Smooth is the most important and overlooked part of tuning a ski. The number one thing a racer does when they go to tune their skis is the fingernail test to check for sharpness. Everyone scrapes the fingernail against the edge and amount of nail shaved is an indicator of the sharpness. Sharpness is only one reference point. A bread knife can be as sharp as a chef’s knife but they do not cut the same. The bread knife cleaves and rips while the chef’s knife will slice. We want our ski’s to slice. To check for smoothness, place the tip of your fingernail on the edge and with light pressure run it up or down the length of the ski. You will feel a hooks and rough spots of the edge, then these must be smoothed out.
There are hundreds of exotic patterns out there, but in all reality the grind is not as important as the flatness of the ski. Many World Cup skiers are running a liner grind. Re-grind only when necessary. Skis will tend to get faster through multiple waxing and brushing. Re-grind the ski in the middle of the season. Skis usually need it because of rock damage, over-tuning, or because the bases getting dried out from base burn or leaving the high fluoro waxes on the skis. If the type of grind is confusing, go to the shop and speak to the technician that runs the machine (stone grinder). They know what is the best for the conditions in your area.
Keep it simple and consistent. Waxing has evolved over the years to the point that you need a chemical engineering degree to understand it all. Go with a simple 1,2,3 layering system of good, better, best for the waxing. Keeping the skis impregnated with wax is very important to inhibit oxidation of the base (when the base gets a dry milky look to it).
1. A soft base prep can be used for all training and as a base layer for the race days. Swix Race Biowax, Baseprep 88, SVST Base Prep.
2. We add a Moly fluoro layer for the race day. Moly fluoro is a wide spectrum fluro with graphite that repels dirt and grime. Races are conducted more often on man-made snow which always has some dirt or oil from the snowmaking conditions.
Swix MolyFluro, SVST Moly.
3. Depending on your budget and the event, you can layer an overlay on your skis five minutes at the top of the hill.
You need to get the high Fluoro waxes off the ski as fast as you can. They will dry out and damage the bases. This means waxing and scraping right after the race.
Remember to brush before applying any wax to clean out debris and after applying the wax. Use two separate brushes if possible. Tip: Currently World Cup techs are using much stiffer brushes than were used in the past; steel for the cleaning and brass for the wax brush.
Bevel and Angle
If sharp is good, sharper must be great. Increasing your side angle to increase sharpness has been tried by the very best. World Cup skiers have experimented many times with side angles up to 9 degrees and the result has always come back the same—they are incredibly hard to maintain and very finicky to ski. Almost all World Cup athletes have come back to a clean 3 degree angle, and some Slalom skiers have skied up to a 5 degrees.
Base Bevel. There is less variety in the base bevel. Generally it varies from .75 to 1.5 degrees. There is a famous World Cup skier that runs her DH skis at .25, but the edges are so thin that the bevel has little effect on the ski.