Time is Everything

A last-minute ski repair

By Grant Hilger

The evening of March 19, 2013 I inspected my 217cm Atomic™ downhill race skis in preparation for race day. Because of the early ending to winter in 2012, these skis have not seen the light of day in almost two years. The only real chance I get to ski with them is at the annual Boyne Highlands Downhill Race in Harbor Springs, Michigan. This late March tradition is usually the grand finale of Michigan’s ski racing season. This year the weather was shaping up perfectly for outstanding conditions, and I was chomping at the bit to ski fast! Much to my surprise, when I picked up one ski I found that a section near the tail was delaminating. On the inside edge of the left ski, a 1.5″ x 0.5″ area of the top skin was bubbled up from the ski’s side wall. The bubble was 3/8″ of an inch high. I was less than impressed with this find.

Delamination area

Delamination area

Some of the steel inside the ski’s core corroded, causing the top sheet to lose its bond and bubble up. This corrosion was most likely accelerated by salt, which is often used in late-season ski races to keep the snow from softening in the intense sunlight. The salt and water must have made their way into the ski’s core during the 2011 race. It then had almost 24 months for the corrosion to occur. With the issue identified, it was time to plan a repair. The clock was ticking.

I had a cartridge of WEST SYSTEM Six10 adhesive in my repair kit, and I thought that this would work for the application. I rounded up acetone, pipe cleaner, mixing stick, mixing cup, small flathead screwdriver, paper towel, gloves, safety glasses, wax paper, wood blocks and a C clamp to complete the repair. My plan was to attempt to salvage the top sheet and re-bond it to the ski’s core. This is the procedure I followed:

Step 1: I gouged out the corroded metal from the bubbled up top sheet. I was careful not to damage the top sheet, because then I’d need to repair that as well. I used a shop vac to help suck the metal shavings out of the hole in the ski. Once all the corroded metal was removed, I blew out the void in the ski with compressed air.

Step 2: I used a pipe cleaner and acetone to clean out both the inside of the ski’s top sheet and the ski’s core to aid bonding.

Step 3: Once the area was dry, I mixed a small amount of Six10 adhesive and brushed it into the void on all surfaces with another pipe cleaner. I then used the plastic mix stick to fill in the void as much as possible. This probably added more epoxy than was needed, but it was such a small area that I wasn’t too concerned with waste when it squeezed out. I was more concerned that the repair was robust.

Step 4: I applied wax paper to the skis so that the epoxy wouldn’t get anywhere that I didn’t want it to, and then I clamped the ski as shown in the photo.

Clamped and curing at 68°F

Clamped and curing at 68°F

Step 5: I allowed the epoxy to cure for 24 hours before removing the clamp.

The repair seemed to be sound, and time was of the essence, so I prepped the skis for racing by hot waxing them with the race wax. I was concerned that adding heat to the ski this quickly after curing might compromise the repair. To my delight, everything held fine. Hurdle number one, cleared.
Now the ski had to hold up to the stresses, vibration, and temperature of a 38 second, 60+ mph run down an icy ski hill. The ending to this story is a happy one. The repair passed its first trial with flying colors. No ill effects were observed in the ski’s performance, and following the race run I inspected the repair. It looked like just as it had when I removed the clamp earlier that week. If you’re at all interested in the race, the skis allowed me to complete the race run in 37.99 seconds, hit a top speed of 66.1 MPH as recorded on GPS, and win my age class by 0.5 seconds (a significant margin in ski racing).

A timeline of the events:
• 3/19/13 (6 pm) – Discovered delamination
• 3/19/13 (8 pm) – Repair complete, epoxy clamped and curing
• 3/20/13 (7pm) – Hot wax skis for race day
• 3/24/13 (1pm) – Race

Repair complete, ready for wax and then the race!

Repair complete, ready for wax and then the race.

For this repair, time really was everything!