Ski Tuning – Blinded by Science

Foreword by Robert Stewart – Journalist, The Skiing Department

Skiing is a sport that by nature requires specialized equipment that has evolved enormously over the last 100 years. Looking after your equipment is very important and your skis need more attention than anything else. If you do own your own skis you have 2 choices, get a good ski shop to service them for you or do it yourself. If you choose to do it yourself then you need the right tools and knowledge to ensure your skis work to their maximum potential. If you ski often, then understanding how to look after your own skis is essential. We have asked professional ski tuner, Scott Hammond, to contribute to The Skiing Department in this series of posts about ski tuning.

Part 1: Equipment and de-tuning the ski

Nearly every day, I get asked all kinds of questions about ski tuning. Wax, files, sand papers, file holders, vices blah blah blah. There is a whole world of ski tuning equipment out there to make you part with your cash and to make you go faster……and let’s face it, make you impress that hot Chalet Girl, or Boy that smells of last nights club and is now making your breakfast. The fact is that tuning a ski is easy! But if you want to make it a science, it is also easy to be drawn in to that trap.

I have been tuning skis for many years and have my own ways and habits. I have tuned skis for everyone from beginners to Olympic medal winners. Of course, you do not do the same job for both but the standards are very similar.

I live in Lillehammer, in Norway, very close to a well known ski wax factory where I buy my ski tuning tools and have got to know them quite well. They recently asked me to translate something from English that a Norwegian had written into every day English. All I had to do was read it and make a few corrections. It took me hours due the huge amount of info on those pages. If you did manage to read it, take it all in and purchase what they had recommended to tune your skis, you would not be able to go skiing that winter, as you would have no money left.

This got me thinking about how I tune skis, what is really necessary and what you really need to make you skis, well, skiable. When “The Skiing Department Blog” asked me about ski tuning, Pandora’s Box was opened and I began to write…..

Most of us would like to think we are, or are not too far off skiing like Aksel Lund Svindal or Lindsey Vonn (World Cup Ski Racers). But really we are like the launch pad and they are the moon. Quite simple, most of us will never get there, but it does not hurt to try.

Here are the basic tools you need for tuning your skis to more than perfection for what we all need.
There are 3 main factors to making a ski slide and turn:
1. The correct/sharp edge
2. The correct structure
3. The correct wax

1st and foremost, you need sharp edge, but not too sharp!? I write!? because a sharp edge needs to be sharp in the right places. Every season, ski rental’s and ski shops across the globe fill up their stores with new skis, boots and equipment. With time pressing them to get the new skis in the racks, most do not take the time to de-tune the skis.

The skis from the winter before are tuned throughout the season as they come back from being rented out. What often happens is the skis get sharper in the wrong places and are again, not checked or de-tuned. This can make your life hell on skis. What happens is, as the ski is used, the edge under the foot gets blunt, where as the tip and tail do not take as much of a beating and therefore, do not get as blunt. When the ski is tuned, the base is ground and the edges are sharpened causing the tips and tails get sharper and sharper. This is why a ski needs to be de-tuned.

It is vital for the vast majority of skiers, snowboarders and telemarkers to de-tune their edges. De-tuning means that the top 10-15cms of the edge and bottom 10-15cms should not be sharp. It should not be totally blunt either!

To do this you can use a few things. A fine file, or Gummy edge rubber. The file will be more effective for a ski that has not been detuned and the gummy rubber will be good to keep the edge dull after tuning. You take the file, hold it at 45 degrees to, or across the edge and in one forward motion, not back and forth, move the file up the edge toward the tip 2 or 3 times. Repeat this for the tail. From the ski towards to tail, always in one smooth motion.

Image of a fine file Image of a Gummy Stone

Photos: Image of a Fine file(left) and Gummy file(right)

In part 2, we will look into how you can tune your edges to get the best out of your skis.

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Robert Stewart

Ski Editor at Snow.Guide

Rob has extensive knowledge and experience of winter sports and has been qualified to instruct and teach Alpine Skiing for over 25 years. He is also an experienced off-piste and backcountry skier and has competed in freestyle and freeride events around the world. Now a full-time ski writer and Director of Ski Press, Rob is Snow.Guide’s Ski Editor and contributes to many other snowsports, national and lifestyle publications.

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