Worst First: The Proper Order for Snowboard Maintenance

A chef wouldn’t bake all the ingredients for a cake before they got mixed together, and an artist wouldn’t frame a blank canvas before painting it. Likewise, you shouldn’t wax your snowboard before you’ve taken care of all the other details. Whether your board is brand new or you’ve been riding it for a few seasons there is a definite order in which to take care of repairs.

Assessing the Damage

Obviously you can’t fix something if you don’t know it’s broken. The first step in board repair is assessing the damage. You may be painfully aware of damage as soon as it happens or you may not notice it until much later. It’s a good idea to look over your board after each ride-not just before you strap in the morning. You may notice something that could easily be repaired before your next trip.

If you’re not sure about the seriousness of the damage, don’t be afraid to ask the tech at your local shop. The better you get at identifying a potential repair, the more you learn about fixing the damage yourself. While a shop tech can’t bring a destroyed board back to life, you may be surprised by what kind of damage can actually be repaired. Don’t be afraid to have someone else do the work for you; your local shop tech is a veritable fountain of knowledge.

Worst First

The general rule for board repair or tuning is the worst damage gets first treatment. This means delaminations, blown edges, pulled-out inserts and base gacks. Any of this damage may need what we call major surgery. This is anything that involves prying the board apart or cutting away material in order to make the repair. In major snowboard surgery you usually have to make things worse before you make them better.

Clean Up

Once surgery is complete there is always clean-up. This usually involves sanding or filing that may also affect the area immediately surrounding the repaired damage (or the whole base of the board). One thing most people don’t realize is that after surgery and clean-up, the board needs a tune in order to ride properly. For example: there is no way to perform a base patch without somehow sanding the patched area flat. Once that area has been sanded it needs to be blended with the rest of the base. If the work is done at a quality board shop, they will use a belt sander to do the blending.

A belt sander is a very expensive piece of equipment. So expensive that not every board shop can afford to buy one. This doesn’t mean they can’t do good work without one, but it does mean they will be limited to the type of work they can do well. The home tuner also fits into this category. I’ve had several customers (and even other shops) who have brought in boards for a base grind only so they can take it home and finish the work themselves. It’s a good way to save money if you know how to do the work yourself.

If your board has minor base damage that can be repaired with a polyethylene extruder gun or p-tex drip candles, you may want to have it belt sanded first. Keep in mind you don’t need to grind your board every time you tune it, but it may take out some small nicks that will be a nuisance to try and fill. Another thing to remember about belt sanding: snowboards are not flat, so don’t even try to grind it or expect to have it ground flat. In some cases you may grind all the way through the base material before the part you want ground even touches the belt.

If the board is ground before base repair, it’s done with a heavy grit belt such as 80 or 100 grit. After the base is repaired with either a base extruder gun or drip candles it needs to be ground again. This is called the finish grind and is usually done with a fine grit belt such as a 120 or finer.

After the board is repaired and the base is finish-ground, it’s time to tune. Tuning involves filing edges and waxing. This may be the only maintenance you choose to do, and if done regularly it will dramatically enhance the performance of your snowboard. The edges shoulld be filed any time your board is ground on a belt sander or they no longer hold a sharp corner. Don’t confuse a sharp edge with one that has a burr on it; a burred edge may feel sharp but it is actually jagged. You will know the edge is sharp if it feels smooth when you run a fingernail down the length of the edge.

Wax On Wax Off

Finally, it’s time to wax. You may want to double-check to be sure there is nothing you forgot, because once you wax, you’re done. Wax is great for lubricating and protecting the base, but it keeps any sort of repair from holding and it clogs up files. This is why it’s important to clean any excess wax off your board before repairing or filing.

Once you’ve waxed, it’s time to go ride. But don’t let yourself get lulled into a false sense of security just because you have a spankin’ fresh ride. The key to maintenance is regularity and knowing when and how to take care of your board. You don’t have to grind your board every time you tune it-you don’t even have to file the edges every time. But you should at least keep them sharp and repair any major damage before it allows snow to turn into water and seep into the internal structure of the board. On the other hand, waxing is something that can be done almost every time you ride. Treat your stick right and it will treat you right.