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Quick-Tune Your Skis

Quick-Tune Your Skis

By Tim Neville
posted: 03/17/2006

Tools: Eight-inch ski-tuning file (hardware-store models are too soft), file guide that matches your side-edge bevel, medium-grit four-inch diamond stone, gummi stone, sidewall planer, and bench vise.
Time: 10 to 15 minutes
If you haven't had a tune in a while, go to a pro who uses hand tools to get good results. Then use the tips on this page to prolong the life of the pro's tune. Ask him what your edge angles, or bevels, are and buy a file guide that matches your side-edge bevel (leave base-edge beveling to the pro). Side-edge bevels for nonracers are usually around one degree. Also, buy a sidewall planer and make a few passes over the edge of your ski to remove plastic that might get in the way of your file. Now you're ready to begin.

2) FILE THE SIDE EDGES (see illustration above)
Use rubber bands to hold your ski brakes up and out of the way. Turn the ski so the base is facing away from you. Place the file in the file guide and run it along the side edge using short pulls. Never push. It doesn't matter whether you go tip to tail or tail to tip when filing; just be consistent. Keep your arms extended in front of you and walk backward down the length of the ski.

["Smooth and Polish"]


Dip the diamond stone in water and place it in your file guide. Run it along the side edge to take out striations left by the coarser file. Here you can push and pull. A few quick passes should do.

["Remove the Burrs"]


Lightly run the gummi stone at a 45-degree angle along the edge to remove any burrs. One pass on each side is enough - any more will dull your edges. Test the sharpness by lightly dragging the back of your fingernail across the edge. Fine shavings should peel off from your nail.

["Quick Tips"]

Base Repair
If you have core shots, they'll need to be welded. Get a 3/8-inch chisel-tip soldering iron and Metal Grip base repair wire. Then use the iron tip like a spatula to work the material in. The old-school method of drizzling a burning P-tex candle doesn't create a bond with today's bases, which have high melting points.

Don't Overfile
Color the edge with a black marker. When you've scraped the ink off, you're done filing.

How Often?
Even in softer conditions, you shouldn't go much more than 10 days before tuning and waxing. East Coasters carving on boilerplate should tune and wax at least every three to five days.

Detuning is Dead
The days of dulling the tips and tails of skis died with the advent of shaped skis. Work the whole edge and don't neglect the ends.

A Quick Fix
Edges all burred up from rocks? Keep a medium diamond stone in your pocket to knock them off at the base. Wet the stone with a dollop of spittle.

THE EXPERT: Scott Holmer tunes skis for such racers as U.S. Ski Team athlete Kevin Francis and U.S. Snowboard Team rider Adam Smith. He runs The Race Place (behind Patio World, an outdoor-furniture store he and his wife operate) in Bend, Oregon, and owns BEAST (stands for "Best Edge Accuracy Ski Tools"), a brand of ski-tuning tools he designed.

LEARN MORE: Your local specialty ski shop sells tools and may offer clinics. Holmer's instructional video ($20) covers waxing and tuning. His tuning kits start at $90 and his catalog is free. Call 800-814-7223 or visit to order.


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