How To Tune Your Own Skis for Incredible Results

Have you ever tried to improve your ski technique on your own or with an instructor and not progressed as quickly or effectively as you wanted? Have you ever been directed to change your movement patterns on the snow in order to make the ski react differently on the snow, but no luck?

There’s no doubt about it, in order to improve, one component we must look at is our technique. Another component that is too often overlooked is our equipment. Most recreational skiers are skiing on dull skis that they only tune once a season. (oops?!)

We must ask ourselves: “Is it the right equipment for what we’re trying to accomplish? Is it the right size?” The big question is : “if it is the right equipment and sized correctly, is it tuned right?” No matter how much we try to improve our technique, if the equipment (dull skis) is not setup perfectly, it’s a losing battle.

How can we improve if our ‘tires’ are not gripping?
“Why are my skis not gripping?” – Photo by George Kroeker

What are our choices?

There are several ways to tune-up your skis to maximize your experience. The choices depend on your comfort level and budget.

Our Local Ski Shop

Purchasing a brand new pair of skis or perhaps acquiring an awesome second-hand pair is exciting. Our choices to setting up and maintaining our equipment are simple.

A) We can choose to have our skis tuned by our favourite ski shop
B) Tune them ourselves.

If you’re not familiar or comfortable with tuning your new equipment, it’s recommended having your skis setup at your favourite ski shop. The equipment and expertise at ski shops will set your base up properly and make sure the skis are ready to go.

Tuning your own equipment

Have you ever shied away from tuning your own skis? Have you ever thought you didn’t have the know-how when it came to ski tuning? Most people ski on dull skis and think it’s their technique that needs improving when all along, the skis were improperly tuned or remain dull making it extremely difficult to improve.

Tune it or Lose It !

With a few simple steps to follow, tuning your own skis is not only straight forward, but it will vastly improve your skiing and skyrocket your confidence for your next days on the slopes.

An increase in education and application of what I’ve learned about ski tuning has 10X’d my confidence.

Andrew Elsdon

Getting Ready

Perhaps we’re thinking about taking control of setting up our own skis and maintaining them throughout the season? In order to do this, we’ll have to start with a little education about what a well-tuned ski is all about and understand the benefits of different tuning for our needs.

What makes a ski perform well? A flat base that isn’t concave or convex and assures a smooth glide. A base edge that allows us to turn the ski easily without sacrificing grip. A side edge that is sharp enough to allow grip while the ski is bending. The combination of these three components (Base, BaseEdge and SideEdge) allow us to control the ski on the snow for optimal performance.


Ski Construction and Components

NOW, how do we actually setup our ski tuning system for these components? Tuning our own skis is not only incredibly straight forward, but it also has remarkable effects on our skiing. So, why is it most people shy away from tuning their own skis? Is it time, fear, or perhaps just not knowing how? With a few simple guidelines, tuning our own skis can can be straight forward and vastly improve our skiing.

Note: This article is about preparing your skis for the first time. Later articles will discuss a more in-depth look at ‘maintaining’ your skis.

4-STEP SKI TUNING SYSTEM

Before we discuss the ‘maintenance’ of our ski equipment, let’s start with the setup and/or system to get our equipment off to a good start. There are 4-Steps when it comes to creating a Tuning System.

  1. Base Prep & Edge Tuning
  2. Sidewall Prep
  3. Side Edge Tuning
  4. Waxing

STEP 1: Base Edge

A good starting point is the Base. We must prepare and make sure the base of the ski is ‘true’ and flat along with a consistent texture to the base itself.

A beveled edge is an edge of a structure that is not perpendicular.

  1. Secure ski breaks with Elastic bands
  2. Clean base (Brass Brush, Cloth wipe)
  3. Verify base bevel (True Bar)
    • Look for Concave or Convex and mark it with marker
    • If your base is not flat, do a reset at your local ski shop
  4. Base bevel filing (File with Tang: 150-250mm, File Guide: 0.5º-0.7º-1.0º)
    • File
      • Pull or draw towards you
      • Move file 1cm each time to keep clear of debris
      • Finish with one light pass
  5. Base bevel polish (Diamond Guide & Diamond Stone: 400-600-1000, Spray distilled water)
    • Stone (Start with 400, 600, 1000)
      • Spray edge (Distilled water)
      • Push & Pull allowed
      • Keep arms underneath you to keep consistent pressure
  • Outcome: Consistent look and feel

STEP 2: Sidewall & TopSheet

In order to properly tune the side edge, we must make sure the sidewall is not going to interfere with any of our tuning tools. We need room to tune the side edge without collecting sidewall material in the file.

  1. Remove obstructive sidewall (Sidewall Remover)
    • File
      • Remove obstructive sidewall (Body File: 250ml cut 12)
      • Refine sidewall (Body File: 200ml cut 15-16) (for everyday use)
      • Refine sidewall (Body File: 200ml cut 17)
    • Cutter:
      • Remove obstructive Sidewall (Round {sandwich} or Square{Cast} Cutters)
  2. Clear Top sheet for Tip & Tail by lightly filing by hand
  3. Refine sidewall (Body File: 200ml cut 17) making sure it won’t obstruct
  4. Sidewall blending and polishing
    • Wiper type passes with reg file
    • Smooth out sidewall (Sandpaper 220)
  • Outcome: Easy to tune side edge without collecting sidewall material

STEP 3: Side Edge

Creating the correct side angle to the edge is critical to match the type of skiing we’ll be doing. Whether we’re racing or heli-skiing, groomed trails or powder, the side edge should be tuned to match the type of skiing we’ll be doing.


  1. Set edges (Diamond Guide & 120-200 grit Disc)
    • Prep Side Edge: (Diamond Guide: 120/200 grit diamond disc)
    • Turn the diamond disc as you go
    • Clean the base of file Guide to prevent transfer onto base
  2. Side edge filing (File Guide & File)
    • File (Cut 10 file for brand new skis) (Guide: 2º-3º)
    • File (Cut 14 files for general every day) (Guide: 2º-3º)
    • File (Cut 15/16 files for finer filing and skis that are tuned often) (Guide: 2º-3º) 
    • Start at the tip and pull, clean
  3. Side edge polishing (Diamond Guide & 400-100 grit Disc)
    • Polish Edge 
      • (Diamond Guide: 120/220 stones for removing heavier burs)
      • (Diamond Guide: 400/600 stones for sharpening & polishing)
      • (Diamond Guide: 600/1000 stones for polishing and ultra fine polishing)
      • Clean your diamonds with oil after use
  4. Remove micro burrs
    • DeTune Tip/Tails (Green Gummi stone)
    • Magnify lens to inspect (it does make a difference)
  • Outcome: Consistent look and feel to side edge
Side Edge Polishing with Diamond Guide & 400-1000 Grit Disc

TIP:
Maintain your tuning tools. Use a steel brush for files (dry), and lubricate your diamond stones with oil


STEP 4: Base Prep & Waxing

Ok, final step in preparing your skis for the season. A thorough cleaning and wax will ensure a clean base for gliding.

  1. Clean base structure (Brass Brush)
    1. Examine your new edges (Tips and tails)
    2. Remove “micro hairs” to minimize friction (fibre tex around true bar, Scraper, Brass Brush, Wipe clean)
    3. Tape binding to protect from wax spill
  2. Wax the skis
    1. Pre-Rub wax to prevent burning the base
    2. Iron temp = 140 degree C, and clean
    3. Melt wax onto ski – Iron Tail to Tip
    4. Scrape Tip to Tail
    5. Nylon Brush
  3. Scrape while warm 
    1. Make sure scraper is sharp without niks (Throw out old scrapers)
    2. Remove tape, remove wax with scraper
  4. Brush & Polish (Nylon Brush)
    1. Wipe clean and fibre tex to remove wax on sidewall
    2. Scrape Tip to Tail (Slightly warm wax)
    3. Brush the base (Nylon Brush) (Back and forth and then one long pass)
    4. Wipe clean
  5. Store your skis with 3-ski straps
  • Outcome: Consistent look and feel to your bases

“Have you ever tried ‘cheese grading’ your wax onto the ski? It’s been know to save you some wax.”

Thanks Dave M. (Georgian Peaks Ski Club)


Summary

It’s all about choices and how much we want to control the tuning of our own skis. The choice to bring your skis into your favourite ski ship is a good choice. The alternative is to tune our own skis and create more control and versatility over how our skis are tuned and perform on the snow.

So, if you’re looking for higher performance, quicker improvement, and the flexibility to adjust as you go, tuning your own equipment can increase your performance and confidence on the snow.

Happy trails, rip it up !

A big shout out to the team at Sidecut for providing us at SkiChatter some of the best tuning tools we’ve ever used.

SkiChatter

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