It's early winter. You're arcing perfect turns, proud of your resolve, when you hear a loud chhrreccchh underfoot. Don't panic; repairing a rock gouge in your ski or snowboard base is relatively easy for a do-it-yourselfer. Here is a step-by-step look at what to do.

Assess the Damage: What Should You Fix?

How do you know what's doable at home versus what you should take to the shop? Dik Lang, REI Seattle's ski shop master tech, advises: "Think like a doctor: If you have a headache, take an aspirin. But if you break an arm, don't attempt surgery on yourself."

To make the call, take a good look at the gouge.

  • If the gouge is shallow or mid-depth and does not touch the edge, use the steps here to repair it yourself.
  • If you have the hard sintered (compressed) bases found on many high-end skis, take these repairs to a ski shop such as REI. The P-Tex repairs described here may not bond well to these bases.
  • If the P-Tex pops out, or if the gouge is cavernous and touches the core or the edge, you should also bring these repairs to a ski shop such as REI.
  • For a shallow scratch (less than 1/2mm deep), it's usually OK (and definitely easiest) to ignore it.
  • If your bases have been scratched and repaired many times, bring your skis to a ski shop for a stone grinding. A grind will flatten and smooth your bases and put in a structure or pattern for more speed.

If you decide the repair is within your reach, read on for next steps.

Tools and Supplies

  • Vise
  • Base cleaner (or rubbing alcohol will work too)
  • Metal scraper (substitutes like a putty knife may work, but a sharp and durable scraper is best)
  • Polyethylene (P-Tex) repair candle (available in black and clear)
  • Propane torch, butane lighter or household candle
  • Razor blade
  • Sandpaper

Shop REI's selection of ski tuning tools or snowboard tuning tools .

Prepare the Base

  1. Turn the ski base-up and tighten the vise around the middle of the ski to hold it securely in place.
  2. Check out the damage. If there are loose strands of base material around the hole, slice them off carefully with a razor blade.
  3. Use your metal scraper to remove any extra wax.
  4. If the gouge is big enough, rough up the inside with sandpaper.
  5. Clean the wound with a base cleaner and a small wire brush to get rid of dirt and rock. Let the base cleaner dry completely (about 20 minutes to an hour).

Fill in the Gouge

  1. Using your propane torch or butane lighter, fire up one tip of the P-Tex candle.
  2. Wait until it's flaming (this may take a couple of minutes). Black carbon flakes will appear in the burning tip. Don't let them get into your bases because they will cause the P-Tex to bond poorly. To get them out of the way, let the candle drip onto the metal scraper and roll the tip around until it's clear and carbon-free. Keeping the flame low and blue instead of big and yellow will keep carbon at bay.
  3. Move the molten P-Tex candle to the gouge. Hold it close to the surface and let it flow into the hole. Start at the far edge so it pools in the middle. The P-Tex will shrink as it cools, so overfill it.
  4. Do a second round if necessary. You're done with the flame so extinguish it.
  5. Let the P-Tex cool about 15 minutes.
  6. Take a sharpened metal scraper with a 90° edge and hold it at 45° angle. Use short, overlapping strokes to remove all material that is sticking up above the base of the ski or snowboard. You can go in either direction, whatever works best.
  7. Wrap sandpaper around a block and rub the area to flatten completely.
  8. When the P-Tex is smooth and flush with the base, you're ready to wax and then go hit the mountain.

Shop REI's selection of ski waxes or snowboard waxes .

Contributor: Dik Lange, REI Seattle master ski tech