News From Under the Snow
By Don Jewkes
Tuning can change the way you ski.
Do your skis chatter or wonít hold a carve, feel squirrely or are sticky on the snow? This could be a flaw in your technique but we will blame it on the equipment. Burrs, dull edges or skis with inconsistent base and/or edge beveling, no or the wrong wax will cause your skis/board not to perform properly.
Avid skier never think twice about getting their skis tuned, but many let their skis go way too long with zero attention. Skis are expensive, precision tools which need to be well maintained to sustain their ability to perform on demand. Whether you ski one vacation a year or log a hundred days, your skis will need wax and tuning.
Many experienced skiers have their equipment tuned and sealed with storage wax at the end of each season and will only require scraping and new wax applied at the beginning of the next season. Others will need to get them ready for skiing and itís essential you start the season on well-tuned tools making it impossible to blame the equipment for early season mistakes. Starting on the ďrock skisĒ that are trashed is not the way to start. You should always be on well tuned equipment.
Tuning a pair of skis or a snowboard can seem challenging and fine tuning requires tools and techniques. Like most of us we find a tune shop we can trust and leave it to the professionals.
No matter when your skis were tuned itís always a good idea to inspect your equipment every fall before that first run. Check the bases/bottoms are there gouges? Do they have a shine or look white and dried out? If they look dull the wax is gone and your bases are more prone to damage and wear. Look at the bases and see if you can see structure. What is base structuring? Structuring requires an expensive stone grinding machine which cuts small grooves, in a variety of patterns depending on the snow condition, in the bases of your skis. Structure is crucial reducing friction and making the skis faster and will become especially important on wet spring snow reducing suction between the bases and unusually wet snow. There are many different structures for different conditions so have a chat with your technician.
Check the edges, are your edges burred? Slowly and lightly slide a finger down along the outside of the metal edges. Are your edges smooth or rough? A rough edge will make your equipment difficult to use, will not hold the edge in a turn and hard to control. Removing burrs you can do yourself and many experts carry a stone to do just that on the slope but many of the steps require special tools and youíll need to take the skis to your tuner to evaluate. Bases and edges where down over time and need to be beveled to your or the manufactures specifications? If these two items are not right, your skis will hooky and hard to control. You will need to take the skis to a technician to flatten and put the bevel back on the edges and bases.
Whether you have a technician or do your own tuning modern skis are much more tune sensitive than the old straight skis. Tuning is an individual process and you can create your own process or tell a specialist what you like. Once this process is created it should be follow every time to produce a consistent result which is extremely important. You need to trust and know how your skis are going to react each time you go skiing.
Tuning is not just a one time event and then you do nothing. You should have the wax changed every time there is a big temperature swing or every four or five days if you ski frequently. There is no substitute for a good hot ironed-in wax. This enhances turning, speed and base durability. Rub on waxes only last a few runs and don't offer the protection or the performance a hot wax can offer. If you do your own waxing, very few tools are required and it's the best thing you can do for your skis or snowboard. Selecting the proper wax has become quit the science with prep waxes, temperature specific and combinations of waxes and special rub on paste race top coats to give you that little extra speed. A specialize tuning shop will have or can order the tools and waxes youíll need to do your own waxing. Most donít have the time or the tools and will best served by taking your equipment to you tuning technician who has all the tools and the fastest waxes to make your skis perform their best.
At the end of the day and before you store your gear, you should wait until your equipment warms for about ten minutes then wipe dry with a cloth to remove dirt and moisture helping keep rust from forming on your edges. Inspect your equipment carefully and look for any damage that might have occurred during the day and fine tune yourself or take to a shop for overnight service. Sometimes a few quick strokes of the stone or file are all that is required to restore the tune. Store your equipment in a cool, dry place, away from heat sources and concrete. Keep your bases separated when storing with a strap or other means. With a bit of loving care you will increase both your enjoyment and the life of your equipment.
For those that travel with their equipment I recommend using a padded bag to protect your investment in both equipment and repair labor. Proper protection will prevent road grime and baggage handlersí damage. Always keep your bases separated while traveling with a strap or other means to prevent edge and/or base damage.
Modern technology has given us autos that only need tuning every hundred thousand miles, so you would think the industry could make a ski that only needs tuning once. Wrong! Modern shaped skis are more-tune sensitive than our antiquated conventional skis ever were. See you next run.
Don Jewkes is a 33-year certified PSIA-RM level 3 Pro for the Ski and Snowboard Schools of Aspen at Snowmass, local resident and owner of Sunset Ski Repair. Drop him a line at email@example.com . Visit his website www.sunsetski.com.
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