How to: Preparing your skis for competition

Having skis prepared correctly can make a difference in everyday skiing, but when it comes to race preparation, this is the difference between winning and losing. The ski doctor, ANDY TAYLOR shows us how to get a professional edge.

Words by Andy Taylor from Anything Technical. He recommends Holmenkol wax for ultimate performance.

Maintaining sharp smooth edges helps the athlete to initiate, sustain and accelerate. Waxing the bases correctly helps the skis to glide more efficiently and reduce resistance. Race preparation is not too disimilar to standard edging and waxing techniques, but race technicians look into these areas in greater depth and with increased precision.

Choosing your angles

First, we need to assess the edges. These edges are known as the side edge and the base edge or base bevel. Depending on the discipline (SL, GS, SG and DH), these edges will vary. Slalom skis are generally set to a sharper angle i.e  87o or sometimes 86 o  on the side edge and a base bevel of 0 – 0.5 o . This allows the ski to obtain maximum grip during the short sharp turns. A downhill ski would preferably be set to a 88 o – 89 o  side edge angle and a 0.5 – 1 o  base bevel. This allows a longer radius skis to achieve a smooth gradual turn, and reduce the chances of the edges catching during faster turns.

preparing your skis
Edging | ©Holmenkol


You will need a few tools and files to be able to obtain a world class finish.

Step by Step – Race Preparation for Edges

  1. Check the edges for any burrs or damage. Use a Oxyd stone or de-burring block to remove any high points if required.
  2. Set your side edge angle guide to the desired angle. Use a fine racing file to sharpen the edge. Draw the guide and file towards your body. Most racing files have a directional cut. Check the direction before use and be careful not to take too much off.
  3. Repeat this process again for the base angle. You will need a base bevel guide to do this.
  4. Remove the racing file and place a medium grade diamond file in its place. The diamond file will help to remove any micro burrs left by the metal file and also create a hardened finish.
  5. To achieve the ultimate smooth and sharp finish, use a ceramic or Arkansas stone along the edge. This should leave a mirror finish to the edge as well as being razor sharp.

Pay close attention to the base of your skis

Now for the really important bit, waxing. Personally, I believe this is the most important part of this whole process. By using various waxes, we can maximise and control our speed through the different sections of the course. Think of waxing like building a house. We need a solid foundation to work from. This helps to create a stable base and allows the other waxes that we will be using to adhere to the ski allowing a longer lasting, less resistant base. The waxes used on the world cup circuit aren’t cheap, but they serve a purpose which is to get from A to B as fast as possible. In most race conditions, we have to use more fluorinated waxes. These have better water repellent properties allowing the ski to travel fast over the snow. This is the main wax that will last the majority of the run. Extra speed can be achieved in the top section of the course by using finish sprays or powders. These are extremely high fluorinated waxes which comes with a high price tag. A 30 gram tub of HF Speed powders can cost in excess of £100. One thing we have to remember is these products are designed for athletes and for podium results.

Waxing is critical to performance, even on your leisure ski | ©Holmenkol

Step by Step – Race Preparation for bases

  1. First, assess the ski for damage to the base. If anything needs to be repaired, do so now. Depending on snow conditions, you may need to change the structure of the base also. Phone ahead and get an understanding of the temperature and the snow type i.e fresh, artificial, course or old snow. Knowing this can drastically change the performance of the ski.
  2. We may need to remove any fine hairs from the base of the ski. This can be achieved by using 600-1000 grit sandpaper or a fine scotch pad.
  3. Now the base is clean, we need to apply a base wax. I would recommend Holmenkol Betamix for this. This is by far the best hydrocarbon wax available on the market and is also a great general purpose wax. Use a good quality iron, not a travel steam iron. We need the temperatures to be within 1o degrees of accuracy.
  4. Once the wax has cooled, instead of scraping the excess wax off, use the iron again to work the wax into the base. Repeat this process 3 times. This helps to maximise the saturation of the wax into the base. This will provide an enduring base layer.
  5. Remove the excess wax with a 3mm or 5mm plastic scraper. Make sure you clear the wax off the edges using the corner of the scraper. Use a horsehair brush to buff the base to an even dark gloss finish.
  6. Now we move onto the race fluorinated waxes. It’s important to choose the racing wax that suits the conditions and humidity that you will be racing in. Make sure it’s applied as close to the stipulated application temperature as possible. This is important – we don’t want to burn the fluoro in the wax compound.
  7. Remove the excess wax with a 3mm or 5mm plastic scraper. Make sure you clear the wax off the edges using the corner of the scraper. Use a horsehair brush to buff the base to an even dark gloss finish.
  8. For the finishing touch we need to give ourselves a head start out of the gate. To achieve these, use a speed base powder or finish spray. Both are applied with a cork block. The powder is applied with the cork side of the block and the finish sprays are applied with the felt side.
  9. Use a micro-steel brush to open the base structure back up. Use this brush very lightly – if you are too heavy handed, it will pull those extremely fast and expensive waxes straight out of the base.
  10. Finally, use a horsehair brush directionally from tip to tail. Try to achieve a deep dark glossy finish.


If you’re not quite at competition level yet but still want to learn more about servicing your own skis, take a look at Andy’s how to guide with easy to follow videos and a full run down of all the kit you need.


The founder of the Cumbria ski shop and servicing specialists Anything Technical, Andy Taylor has worked in the ski trade for 30 years and knows a thing or two about servicing skis.