Why Do Skis Rust? (Key Prevention Tips)

by Simon Knott | Updated On: February 18th, 2022
powder skiing

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Sometimes you can finish a day’s skiing, put your skis in their bag, drive home and discover in the morning the edges of your skis have rusted already. Why do the edges rust and rust so quickly? What can you do to minimize the chance of rusting?

Generally, ski edges are manufactured from steel as they need to be robust enough for the knocks of everyday wear. However, steel is prone to rust and when the ski is constantly exposed to snow and slush rust will quickly form. One answer is stainless steel but the cost is prohibitive on most skis. Maintaining your skis with a ski kit is the best answer, which will sharpen your edges and help to apply a layer of wax to inhibit rust.

What Is The Function of the Edges?

The edges on skis form an important job, acting as the interface between the ski and the snow. There is always a compromise between cost and performance in the construction of the ski, and for the most part ski edges are made of hardened steel. This stands up to collisions with rocks or trees much better than steel which hasn’t been hardened and isn’t as expensive as stainless steel.

Edges come in different thicknesses each with its own advantages and disadvantages. A thin edge will be cheaper and have better performance but is more prone to bending or snapping. While a thick edge stands up to collisions much better and can be filed many times giving better durability but is more expensive.

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What Are Edges Made From?

The hardened steel ski edges are made from is manufactured from high carbon steel, which is heated to a high temperature and then cooled quickly in a process called quenching. The red-hot steel is plunged into a bath of either brine or water, which reduces the temperature very rapidly and creates a very strong crystal structure in the steel, giving it its strength.

So, hardened steel edges are extremely robust, which helps them stand up to the day-to-day knocks they encounter. However, on the downside, hardened steel is prone to rust, which can occur quickly if the skis are left in a humid environment. Stainless steel edges are available, which overcome this problem, but they are a lot more expensive.

Ski edges usually run around the entire circumference of the ski. Made of hardened steel or stainless steel they slot into grooves along the length of the ski. Sometimes to save weight skis are designed with shorter edges, which only cover the side cut region of the ski.

The edges of the skis are a vital part of the equipment. When cornering the edges helps the skier gain traction and direction, as they cut down into the snow. Keeping the edges sharp and free from scratches will ensure the best performance from the ski.

It is easy in everyday skiing to knock your ski against a hard surface, such as a step or curb, which is enough to create a burr in the metal of the edge. Although these scratches might appear insignificant, they will have an increasing effect on the performance of your ski.

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Which Maintenance Is Best? Ski Shop or DIY?

Keeping your edges in good condition is a straightforward task that anyone can do. It just takes a bit of time and application. There are numerous ski maintenance kits on the market, which will include all the necessary items to maintain your edges.

The items in the kit can be used repeatedly so the cost-saving on visiting your ski shop each time will be considerable, and you will have learned a new skill in the process. Overall, it all comes down to a matter of personal choice and how frequently you ski.

How Do You Maintain Your Ski Edges?

  • Wipe down your skis with a soft cloth to remove the worst of the moisture and dirt. Then use a wire brush or gummy stone (quartz whetstone in the UK) to remove any surface rust or small abrasions on the edge of the ski.
  • If you are using a kit, it will most likely come with a sharpener, which enables you to set the angle of the edge accurately. You need to do this along the entire length of the edge, not just at one section.
  • Finally, when you are happy with the finish and angle of your edges you need to remove all the small particles and dust left behind after abrasion. It’s important these are thoroughly removed as you don’t want them working their way down into the composite layers of the ski.
  • Some people prefer to dip the sides of the skis into clean water to remove the waste particles, while others prefer the safety of using a soft cloth, as you’re not introducing water into the ski.
  • After working on the edges of your skis it’s best to finish the new surfaces with wax. If you have bought a tuning kit, you will most likely have some wax included with it. If not, just use any wax you have. It’s being applied to act as a barrier rather than an aid to performance. The layer of wax will also help inhibit the recurrence of the rust.

Transporting Your Skis Home

At the end of your vacation wipe off the moisture and dirt with a cloth. Then apply a thin coat of wax around the edges. This should stop rusting during your journey home. The humidity in the ski bag can be enough, during transit, to start rust forming.

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Some skiers tried using Vaseline as a barrier, but it is not suitable. It is oil-based and can work its way into the layers of the skis causing permanent damage.

Storing Skis Over Summer

At the end of the season wipe your skis clean and ensure any moisture is removed. Wax your skis thoroughly, as this is going to act as a barrier throughout the summer. The performance of the wax isn’t so important, you just want a product that is durable, and which will protect your edges.

Read our full guide on storing skis.

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