The Mountain Journal: Ski tuning for the performance edge

By Tony Crespi

“A ski that looks good doesn’t mean it skis good,” notes former World Cup ski tuner Mike DeSantis.

In truth, even a single day of hard skiing on firm—iced—conditions can gradually erode a sharp, polished edge. Just as a craftsman must maintain sharp tools, so skiers and riders looking to enjoy maximum output need to maintain their edges.

In fact, while a good number of skiers will use local mountain shops to regularly maintain edges and base wax, it is also true that with a few simple tools and a minimum of time skiers can maintain their skis with minimum cost. Consider these steps:

Wipe your skis. Skaters wipe edges regularly. Wiping skis following use minimizes corrosion and helps remove chemicals and pollutants.

Inspect the bases. Ski bases perform best when free of gouges. Either fill or have the shop fill major gouges.

Use a file guide to keep side edges smooth and sharp. “Use the guide to maintain that edge and angle,” suggests Jed Duke, division manager for Blizzard Skis. “Once that base edge is set do not file that base edge.” A basic “file guide” and diamond stone are key. First, use a thick rubber band to hold the “brakes” out of the way. Second, mark the edges with black Magic Marker. Work tip to tail to gradually remove the Magic Marker! Start with a diamond insert to remove major marks. Lightly file. Polish with a diamond.

Wax. Waxing protects the base and allows a ski to glide and turn. Unfortunately, hot waxing can damage a ski. One tool—with amazing simplicity—is the Wax Wizard. The skier simply rubs ski wax from a block onto the base and polishes the base with this tool, which “melts” the wax into the base, using friction.

For those interested in tuning, the good news is that a variety of effective tools are readily available both in local shops and through on-line sources. From a basic plastic guide with a variable side edge setting (one example is the FK Variable Sharpener from Reliable Racing) to a highly precise guide with wheels to avoid pressing cuttings into the base, this tool is critical.

Uniquely, Edge Tune sells a Dremel-powered edge guide which brings ceramic stone grinding technology to home tuning. Their website also includes very helpful demonstrations to educate tuners.

Suppliers include the following: Edge Tune, Reliable Racing, FK Tools, Sun Valley Ski Tools, The Race Place, and Ski Sharp (Wax Wizard,

Closing thoughts

Tuned skis can maximize your day. In the East even a single day on hard snow can degrade edges. Fortunately, a side edge guide, diamond insert, file insert, and wax can generally maintain your skis.

Hesitant? Recognize that World Cup racers have their skis tuned daily! Moreover, top tuners on the World Cup use a range of hand tools to maintain a polished edge while minimizing edge removal. Truly, hand tuning can be accomplished with a minimum of time and effort and can nicely complement – and maintain – periodic shop tunes.

If you are new to tuning, both and offer key information on tuning. Maximize your investment. Stay tuned.

From that first run. To your last run.

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