Ski Tuning in 8 Easy Steps

Aside from the ego-boost you’ll get from beating all your friends back down to the lift, tuning your skis to perfection can be meditative and rewarding on its own. From sharpening edges to brushing out the final coat of wax, ski buyer Eli Littenberg walked us through all the steps and gear you’ll need to give your skis a first-rate tune in this eight part video series.

Part 1: Edge-Sharpening Overview
Part 2: Detuning Contact Points
Part 3: P-Tex Repairs
Part 4: Wax Brushes
Part 5: Hot Waxing
Part 6: The Final Wax
Part 7: Summer Storage
Part 8: Tools of the Trade

Part 1: Edge-Sharpening Overview



1) Always sharpen the base edge before moving on to the side edge.
2) Use a wetted diamond stone to remove any rust and burrs.
3) Before working on the base edge, check with the manufacturer to determine the base-edge angle your skis are set at. Most skis come from the factory with a 1-degree bevel, but you’ll want to be certain before taking a file to your skis.
4) Secure your ski in the vice with the base facing upwards, and attach a file to the file guide at the desired angle.
5) Working tip to tail, run the file guide down the ski in smooth and even strokes, making sure to overlap where each stroke finished. If the edge is in good shape, this should only require a couple of passes.
6) For the side edges, secure the ski in the vice with the base perpendicular to the floor and facing away from you.
7) Like the base edge, check the angle your side edges are set at; most skis come from the factory with a 1, 1.5, or 2-degree side-edge angle. For ski racing or better bite in really hard snow conditions, you may want to choose a more acute angle.
8) Secure the file in the file guide at the appropriate angle, and work tip to tail in smooth strokes until a sharp edge is achieved.
9) Go over the edges with a gummy stone for polishing and to remove any burrs that may have been pushed up while sharpening.
10) Head to the hill!

Part 2: Detuning Contact Points



1) Identify the contact points. These are usually about two inches above and two inches below where the edge begins to round up at the tip and the tail.
2) Secure your ski in the vice with the base facing up.
3) Use your file in smooth, continuous strokes to round off the sharp edge at the contact points.
4) Use a diamond stone or gummy stone to smooth out the edges and give them a final polish.

Part 3: P-Tex Repairs



1) Locate the scratch and use a razor to remove any burrs or shavings so the damaged area is prepped for the P-Tex.
2) Use a lighter to light one end of the P-Tex candle until it will continue burning on its own. Keep the candle above a tin can to stop drips from getting all over your work area.
3) Hold the P-Tex a half inch from the scratch and allow the P-Tex to drip into the void until it’s filled.
4) After filling up the scratches, make sure to extinguish the P-Tex candle.
5) When the P-Tex is fully cooled, hold a razor flush with the base to remove the excess P-Tex, creating a smooth, uniform surface.

Part 4: Wax Brushes



1) Properly brushing your ski bases helps clean them prior to waxing, and brushing after waxing opens up the structure of the skis for increased speed.
2) Always brush from tip to tail, working in one direction; avoid a scrubbing motion.
3) A brass or stainless steel brush is ideal for removing old wax and dirt from your ski bases prior to waxing.
4) A nylon brush is great for all-around use—whether you’re cleaning the base before a wax or improving the base structure after the wax.
5) A horsehair brush is ideal for finishing after your final wax, giving you a slick finish and a boost in speed.

Part 5: Hot Waxing



1) A few hot-waxing and scraping cycles is the best way to clean dirt and old wax from your ski bases in preparation for a final coat of performance wax.
2) Set your ski in the vice with the base facing upwards, but avoid securing the ski in the vice— you will apply heat to the ski during the waxing process, and holding the ski in a rigid position while you heat the ski could cause damage to your ski’s camber—which you don’t want.
3) A block of all-purpose wax is ideal for hot wax and scrape cycles. Save the pricey condition-specific stuff for your final wax.
4) Heat up the iron just hot enough to melt the wax. Touch the wax to the iron and allow it to run down the length of the ski—when in doubt, use more wax rather than less.
5) Working tip to tail, iron the wax onto to the ski using a back-and-forth motion. Be sure to keep the iron moving to avoid burning the base.
6) As soon as the wax is ironed onto the ski, remove as much as possible with your plastic scraper held at a 45-degree angle.
7) After the scape, go over the base several times with your nylon brush.
8) Repeat the process several times, just make sure to allow the ski to cool between cycles—an easy way to do this is to simply alternate which ski you’re working on.
9) If your skis are brand new or have been recently stone ground, you may want to repeat this process seven to ten times.

Part 6: The Final Wax



1) If you’re going to use a condition-specific wax, now is the time to apply it.
2) Just like the hot waxing, heat up the iron and drip a generous line of wax down the length of the ski.
3) Working tip to tail in a back-and-forth motion, iron the wax onto the ski, making sure the wax runs all the way to the edges.
4) Unlike the hot waxing, you’ll want to allow this coat of wax to fully cool before scraping—for some waxes this could take up to an hour.
5) After the wax has cooled, use your plastic scraper at a 45-degree angle to remove as much wax as possible—it should come off in nice, white shavings.
6) Using the nylon brush, work from tip to tail in smooth brushstrokes, then repeat for several passes.
7) Move to the horsehair brush for finishing, making sure to work from tip to tail in smooth strokes. You can’t brush too much! Ski racers are often told to make upwards of 50 passes on each ski with the horsehair brush.
8) Enjoy beating all of your friends back to the lift.

Part 7: Summer Storage



1) Properly prepping your skis for summer storage is going to increase the lifespan of your skis, and they’ll require minimal tuning when the lifts start to run again.
2) Spray your skis off with the hose—this is especially true if you’ve been riding in dirty spring conditions.
3) After allowing the skis to air dry overnight, use a gummy stone to remove any dings, burrs, or rust from the edges.
4) Take the ski through several hot-waxing and scraping cycles to clean the base really well prior to storage.
5) Using a block of all-purpose wax and your iron, drip two to three times as much wax as you normally would down the length of the ski.
6) Iron the wax across the ski using a back-and-forth motion, allowing the wax to run over the base and cover the edges. This thick coat of wax will protect the base and edges from air and moisture so they won’t rust during storage.
7) Use a strap to secure the skis base to base, and store them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
8) When the snow arrives again, simply scrape off the coat of summer wax, and you should be ready to ride.

Part 8: Tools of the Trade

To give your skis a first rate tune in the comfort of your own home, you’re going to need some basic tuning equipment. Watch Backcountry ski buyer Elias Littenberg run through the basic gear needed to get your skis up to snuff for the coming season.

SHOP SKI VISES & TUNING ACCESSORIES AND WAXES



1) Ski Vises—A good set of vises will keep your skis secured to the workbench for greater precision while sharpening, cleaning, and waxing.
2) Diamond Stones—You’ll want a rough-grit stone for repairing damaged edge sections and a medium-grit stone for general maintenance.
3) Files—Very useful for sharpening edges and setting a bevel. Files are best employed with the help of a file guide.
4) File guide—You’ll want specific file guides for your base and your side edges.
5) Gummy Stone—A nifty and inexpensive tool for polishing and detuning ski edges.
6) Ski Iron— A ski-specific wax iron will give you greater temperature control and is specifically shaped to apply hot wax to skis.
7) Plastic Scraper—Simple and inexpensive, a wax scraper is essential for removing wax from your ski bases.
8) Wax Brushes—A set of brass, nylon, and horsehair wax brushes will help you clean ski bases and boost speed after waxing.
9) Wax—You’ll probably want a block of all-purpose wax for hot-waxing cycles and some condition-specific wax for exceptionally cold or warm weather conditions.
10) Brake Retainer—This can be as simple as a big rubber band or an old strap, you just need to keep the brakes out of the way while tuning.
11) P-Tex Candles—A simple and inexpensive way to repair gouges and scratches yourself.
12) Razor—Useful for cleaning up damaged areas on the ski base and for removing excess P-Tex following a repair.

 

Video Transcription

Hey, it’s Elias at Backcountry.com here to show you the basics of tuning your base and side edges on your skis. It’s always a good idea to take care of your edges and keep them burr and rust free to help your skis turn smoothly, grip hard snow, and definitely last longer.

You’re always going to want to start with your base edges before you do your sidewall edges, and you’re definitely going to want to wait until your edges are completely done before waxing. To get started take one of your coarse diamond stones and you want to use this to deburr your edges of any rough spots and take away any rust that you see. You can do this by hand before moving on to one of your more aggressive tools that you’re going to want to set into a guide. Do the same with your side edge, but you want to do just enough to remove rust and burrs from your edges. Before sharpening check with your manufacturer to determine the base edge angle that your skis are set at. Most skis are set with a one-degree base edge angle, but you’ll want to make sure before taking a file to your skis.

Once your base edge is set you’re going to want to touch it as little as possible. Obviously remove some burrs, keep your edges free of rust, and an occasional light sharpening is all you’re really going to need to do. Then attach your file to your file guide at an angle that matches your base edge. Using both hands, apply light but even pressure where the file contacts the edge, then working tip to tail, work your file down the ski in even strokes being sure to overlap where each stroke finished. Keep in mind that your base edge is already set, so you’re trying to remove as little material as possible. You’re just maintaining the edge. If the edge is in good shape, it should only a few passes.

Unlike your base edges, which are going to require only occasional maintenance, your side edges are going to require a little bit more frequent tuning. Make sure to set your ski up on its edge in your vice so you can get a better angle on it. Most skis come from the factory with either a one, one and a half, or two degree side edge angle. Again, you’re going to want to check with the manufacturer to see what your side edges are set at. For race specific tuning or a better bite on really hard snow conditions you might want to choose a more acute angle for a sharper edge, something like two degrees.

Today we’re going to use a one degree side edge. Place your file on the side edge and move down the length of the ski with smooth and even pressure until you get a nice sharp edge. The last step on taking care of your edges is to run a gummy stone lightly along to remove any sort of burrs that may have kicked up while you were tuning. That’s it. You’re ready to go with some sharp, fresh edges. If you’ve got questions about our tuning gear or need some tips for how to sharpen your skis, call or chat into our Gearheads who are here to help.

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