How to Tune Skis

Kate Bailey
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Tuning skis at home is easy.

Taking your skis to a shop for a full tune-up is necessary at least once a year, but if you want to keep them in prime condition throughout the winter, you should learn how to tune skis at home. It not only saves you $30 to $50 each time, but will also eliminate several trips to the local ski shop.

Tuning your skis involves flattening and repairing the bases, sharpening the edges, and applying a hot wax to the base. All of this makes your skis move faster and will help you improve your skiing technique. You will know it is time to tune your skis when you see a significant amount of scratches or large gouges in the bases. Also, when the snow is hard-packed or icy, you will want to make sure your edges are sharp.

How to Tune Skis at Home

Tuning skis is a simple but time-consuming process, and you only need a few basic tools to get the job done:

  1. Workbench and vise
  2. Scraper
  3. P-Tex repair string
  4. 8-inch chrome mill file
  5. File guide
  6. Rubber band
  7. Flat iron
  8. Ski wax
  9. Stiff brush

Most of these items can be found online or at a ski shop. Ask your local tuner what brands are best. You might even ask for a quick lesson on how to tune skis if they aren't busy.

Prepare Your Skis

Before tuning your skis, you must prepare them. Here's what you need to do:

  • Bring skis in from the cold and let them warm up to room temperature
  • Clean skis thoroughly so no dirt or debris gets into the wax
  • Tie back the brakes with string or a rubber band
  • Secure ski to a workbench with a vise
  • If you don't have a bench, lean the ski against an immovable object

Repair Scratches and Gouges

Next, you will repair the scratches and gouges in your skis:

  • Use a scraper to remove as much old wax as possible
  • Clean the base of your skis with a cloth and strong solvent, such as paint thinner
  • Use P-Tex to repair big gouges or grooves in your bases
  • Melt P-Tex according to instructions
  • When end of string begins to drip, touch it to the scratch so the melted plastic drops onto the ski
  • Fill scratch completely but don't overload
  • When dry, use the scraper at a 45-degree angle to scrape off any excess until flat

Edging

Once your skis are secure, clean and flat, it is time to sharpen and repair your edges. This is an important part of the tuning process because a good edge can dramatically affect the way your skis slide and turn on the snow.

  • Scrape off excess wax so it doesn't gum up your file
  • Insert the file into the file guide and file the edges on the bases and the sidewalls
  • Hold the file flat against the bottom of your skis with two hands, and draw it along the base
  • Start from the top and run down to flatten out the bottom

Waxing

The final step in tuning your skis is to wax them with the appropriate type according to your manufacturer's recommendations and snow/weather conditions. There are different kinds of wax for slushy snow, powdery snow, and cold, sticky snow.

  • Apply the wax generously by placing the block against the iron and dripping it on to the metal surface
  • Iron the wax onto your ski, being careful not to stay on one spot for too long
  • Set ski aside and wait for the wax to cool, about 30 minutes
  • Once the ski is cool, put it back into the vise and use a scraper to remove the excess wax, working from tip to tail
  • Brush remaining wax from the base with a stiff horsehair brush or a kitchen-scouring pad

Taking Your Skis to a Professional

It is important to get a good professional tuning every year, or even two or three times per year if you ski a lot. Pro shops have high-powered tools that can repair, sharpen and flatten skis much better than a job done at home. Here are a few indicators of when it is time to take your skis to a pro:

  • You have rust on your edges
  • The gouges are deep enough to hit metal
  • You have over-filed your edges
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How to Tune Skis