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Before you hit the trails ...

Preparing equipment the right way will pay dividends on the slope or trail

November 5, 2010
By ANDY NELSON-ZALESKI Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE - As temperatures decrease and the chances of snow increase, area residents begin to prepare for the winter months. And that, for many people, means winter toys are taken out and dusted off, including snowmobiles, snowboards and skis.

As these items emerge from storage, maintenance is often needed. For those who enjoy cross-country skiing, this is the perfect time to prepare your equipment for the upcoming season. Rick Bagley, owner of the Sports Rack Limited in Marquette, said there are many things people should check over before hitting the trails.

For example, inspect the poles. Examine the straps closely and make sure that they are in serviceable condition. Check the pole's ski baskets to determine they are free of cracks and breaks.

Article Photos

Kevin Carr runs a cross-country ski through a stone grinding machine at the Sports Rack LImited store in Marquette on Wednesday. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)

Bagley said to also look over your boots.

"Inspect the bootlaces and make sure they are not frayed or torn," he advised. Bagley suggested using a product like Armor All on the bottom of the boots.

"If you really want to get fancy you can use a car wax like Armor All on the soles of the boots,"?he said. "The reason for doing this is so that the snow doesn't stick to the boots as you walk from the parking lot to the trailhead."

Once you have completed the basic inspection of your poles and shoes, inspect the skis. Having the bottom of the skis ground with a stone grinder should be the first thing done, at least once a year.

The process of stone grinding skis affects them in two ways: it will flatten the base, improving the skis' handling and stability and it will open the "pores" of the base material.

"A stone ground ski will allow the base to better manage the amount of water under the ski and improve the glide," Bagley said.

After the grinding process is completed, wax should be applied. If you choose not to stone grind your skis, you should take the time to clean and wax your skis, he said. A specially-designed hot iron or wax remover can be used to remove the old wax from last year's skiing adventures.

After removing the old wax, applying numerous layers of new wax is ideal, he said.

It should be applied by running two continuous lines of melted wax on each ski and then running the iron across the base of the ski to evenly distribute the wax. After letting the wax set for the appropriate time - usually around 30 minutes - it should be removed by using a scraper.

"The scraper should be pulled down the whole length of the ski in one continuous stroke," he said. By doing this, the chance of an uneven build up of wax is reduced.

Finally, run a brush across the waxed base of the ski to remove any built-up wax in the pattern of ski. Repeat this process at least five times before the season.

"If you have done this process correctly, the base of the ski should look like a well-polished and shined boot," he said.

When you do finally get out to the ski trails, don't forget to dress appropriately, using the layering system. And stay well hydrated.

"Any preparation you do now is going to make the first day on the trail better," Bagley added.

Andy Nelson-Zaleski can be reached at 906-228-2500 ext. 256. His e-mail address is



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