Early season anxiety is rampant in Whistler right now. The storm over the weekend brought a well overdue dump with a welcome drop in freezing level, but the high-pressure sunshine is already making a return. It's still early days of the season and winter's first turnaround storm has yet to hit us, meaning the coverage is still quite thin in spots. You need to keep a sixth sense out for those bogeys under the snow, not only for your own safety but also for your board(s).
Everyone knows the feeling of a core-shot. You're riding along, blissfully making turns when you feel a sharp thud and scrape under your feet. A rock or otherwise jagged, immovable object has just gone to town on the polyethylene base of your board.
If it's a small scrape and you can still see black at the bottom of the groove, there really isn't any rush to get it fixed — it's not really going to slow your sliding speed. However if you're a victim of a much deeper core shot — when a chunk of base has been completely gouged out — you will need to patch it up before water starts to penetrate the core of the ski or snowboard, which can lead to premature delamination.
That leaves you with a few options. If the board is a beater that you use for jibbing rails or rock-sliding on gaper days then you can just cut away any curled up plastic and leave it to degrade. If it's still got a lot of life left in it then you can take it to a tuning shop that will fix it for a price. Or you can try to do a do-it-yourself patch on your own.
In some cases the DIY is more trouble than it's worth. If your core shot is either really long, wide or right up against the edge then it's best to leave it for the professionals. But if it's small groove, fixing it yourself is relatively simple.
P-Tex is the wonder material for patching bases and is available in packets of crayon-like “candles.” A pack of three will set you back about $5. After you have cleaned and smoothed the edges of the gouge with a sharp blade or exacto-knife, light the end of the candle and drip the P-Tex into the groove.
Slowly make your way along the groove using as little as possible without stopping or trying to overfill an area — doing so will make the P-Tex too hot, forming bubbles that will affect the adhesion. Let the repair dry for at least 15 to 20 minutes before gently scraping it down flush to the base with a razor blade or metal scraper. Don't try to remove too much at once or you can dislodge the repair. Once cool and level with your board, apply some hot wax, scrape and you're good to go. If you applied the P-Tex carefully then there’s no reason it should fall out.
The other nails-on-the-chalkboard sound you've likely heard while riding is your edges getting detuned by unseen rocks. For small nicks and scrapes you can use an edge tool, though you'll need a suitable workbench to keep your board(s) clamped down — freestyling it on the driveway will probably do more harm than good to your edges. Edge angles differ for each ski manufacturer so make sure to look up your model and set your edge tool appropriately. Remove any residual burrs with a diamond stone.
For both patching and edge tuning, there are all kinds of YouTube demonstrations if you search for “DIY ski tuning.” Watch a few of them and you’ll pick up lots of neat tricks, as well as the confidence to do things on your own. There are many ways to hand-tune skis and every tech has their preferred style and tools.
Your board(s) should have a much longer life if you handle the minor repairs yourself in a careful way. Every time they pass through a commerce al stone grinder it removes a trace amount of base and edging that adds up over time. An annual shop tune with your own attention to maintenance will keep your equipment lasting longer and performing better. It’s also kind of fun.