Ski tuning can be as personal a process as the one you use to select what to ski on. Standard shop tunes are generally geared toward a blend of performance and forgiveness, while custom shop tunes can be expensive. In either case, you need to coordinate dropping off and picking up your equipment. The benefit of doing it yourself is that you can get your tune exactly the way you want and when you need it. The downside is you must keep up with it or the skis may become so out of shape that they will be difficult to manually get them back to the performance characteristics you desire. Tuning your own skis can bring a great sense of satisfaction but if you don’t know what you are doing it can seem daunting and time consuming. The following are some tips that will help you tackle this task.
I tune as frequently as every day to every few days depending on the snow surface I’m skiing on. The softer and deeper the snow will usually buy a couple extra days between tunes. I know this may seem a little extreme to some but, when you consider I make my living on my skis, I need to have consistency day in, day out. In other words, I need them to be sharp all the time so I don’t need to adjust my performance.
Anytime I work on the side edge, I always load the ski into the vise so the base is away from me. This way when I pull on the file, I get extra leverage by pulling against the ski. This provides a consistent and quick cut with the files and gets the job done much quicker.
When I get a fresh pair of skis, I like to tune them before I use them. Although the base of a new pair of skis looks good, they may not be truly flat. So here’s what I do and remember this is my personal preference. I start by scraping the base with a metal scrapper to pull down any high spots. Then I wrap super fine sandpaper around a thin strip of oak and sand the base along the length of the ski. This removes any oxidation from the base edge and brings the base material down so it’s flat to the edge. I follow this with a base bevel guide and a first cut file to pull down any high spots on the edge and to cut a 1-2 degree bevel into the base. This gets the ski flat but lowers the edge so it’s not too grabby and doesn’t get a mind of its own and either hook or drift.
Now for the money – the side edge. Typically the ski arrives with a 90 degree edge but for extra bite, I like to modify this by adding a 2 – 3 degree bevel which makes the edge in essence more acute and therefore sharper and able to bite the surface more effectively. To do this, I use a Swix panzer file and a 3 degree guide to rapidly cut both the side wall material and the edge back 3 degrees. I then switch out the panzer with a Swix first cut file followed by a second cut file and finally a diamond stone all using the same 3 degree file guide. The stone is important as it polishes the edge and removes any burrs which otherwise would make the ski too grabby. I then flip the skis base up and gently run the stone down the base edge to remove any burrs. Finally, I follow this up with a coat of universal wax and their ready to roll.
To maintain my skis, I primarily focus only on the side edge as this gives me the biggest bang for my effort. I start with running a diamond stone on a file guide down the edge to remove any gauges which would only dull my file. I follow this up with one or two passes with a Swix second cut file on the file guide. If the bases look dry, I’ll throw a coat of universal wax on them and they’re ready. This entire process usually takes me about 15 minutes or less.
There you have it. The down and dirty on how I maintain my skis. At times I’ll need to take stronger measures like if I hit a rock or something, but the key is to develop a simple routine that is easy to do and keeps your skis working as they were designed. This will give you the “edge” you need to achieve your goals.