MWV Vibe reached out to some of the best “tuners” in the Valley to get their inside secrets on ski efficiency.
Whether you’re looking to hold a better edge on some New England hard-pack or need a better glide on a mild day in the Nordic tracks, these ski tuning tips will benefit you no matter what level you’re skiing at.
Wax every day:
Your skis need wax to reduce friction and protect the bases. Wax wears off fast, usually in less than a day of skiing. To avoid damage and maximize the life of your skis, waxing every day on snow is recommended. If your bases start to look rough and white towards the edges, base damage from too little wax has started.
Use the right wax: While there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of different ski waxes available, you really only need one or two if you are not racing. The idea behind frequent waxing it to saturate your bases with wax. This is best done with a base preparatory wax such as Swix BP88. Base preparatory waxes are designed to melt at an optimal temperature for your ski bases to absorb them.
Don’t overheat your skis: Ironing in a coat of wax is a relatively simple task. Make sure your iron is set to the temperature recommended by the wax manufacturer. Keep your iron moving and don’t iron your skis for too long. A series of brief ironings with a cool-down period in between will perform better than a long ironing. Wax is absorbed into the bases of your skis in its transitional temperature between solid and liquid.
Keep your edges bur free: A diamond stone is one of the best investments you can make. They are compact and easy to use at the ski area. Throughout the day, as you take a break from skiing, feel your edges—if there are burs, hone them smooth with a diamond stone. Just like sharpening a knife, follow the bevels and use a long gliding motion up and down the length of the ski edges to hone them.
Know your limits: While tuning your skis at home is a great way to save some money and enjoy the sport that we all love, it’s important to know what you can properly do at home and what should be left to a shop. Waxing, honing your edges with a stone, and filing your side edges when they get dull are all easy to do at home. Filing base edges or attempting to repair base damage are tasks best left to a shop with the specialized tools and knowledge to get the job done right.
Andes Ski Shop
Adam Holmes is the repair shop manager at Andes Ski Shop in Bartlett, has been an avid skier and has been tuning skis professionally in the Mt. Washington Valley since 2007. Adam also holds an associate degree in machine tool technology from Central Maine Community College. Reach him at Andes at (603) 374-6864
Nate Harvey – Great Glen Trails
When giving wax advice to Nordic skiers, one must first think about the skiers. What is their goal? How often do they ski? How much time do they have to prepare the skis? What is the venue for the activity? Resources? Type of skis? And so on…
For this quick article and list of tips, we will consider this skier: Nordic skis two times a week, but not necessarily weekends. Loves the speed of the downhills, and also wants a workout. Generally, stays out for one to two hours on each outing. Skis at touring centers (groomed trails) 90 percent of the time. Owns three pairs of Nordic skis (recreational skate skis, “waxless” off-track skis, and brand new in-track “skin skis”) of which we’ll be talking about the new skin ski.
Prep your skis as a whole: Once a week, prep the tips and tails. When skiing an hour or two, the glide is so important. Also, waxing the glide zones of your ski will totally make the ski last longer and “kick” stronger. The ski performs as a whole. If one part is not fully operational, other parts may suffer. Let’s face it, if you are only out twice a week for an hour, you want this to be as fun as possible! To prepare the glide zones you can go all in and melt in wax appropriate for the snow temps, scrape and brush (about a 30-minute process if cooling is done right) or you can just spray on some wider range of non-flouro wax and buff it in after a couple of minutes. The latter of the two requires less equipment and less time—so this is usually the way to go for this type of skier.
Carry anti-ice wax: Bring some anti-ice wax/agent with you on the trail. It really stinks when your outing is held hostage by adverse conditions. You can prepare for this with a small tin of wax in your pocket. If your skin ices up, clean it, and prep it.
Ask about grooming: Since you are skiing at a touring center, check-in with the front desk and see if they have any suggestions on which trails would suit you and your wax job. They may have insider info for you about the groom that day that would help you.
Experiment: Try new waxes for glide. Do not just stick to the same old routine. Be sure to try different brands of wax, too. There are many spray-on applications that could enhance your kick and glide. No, it’s not all about speed, but more glide means you can go further with the same amount of time.
Great Glen Trails
Nate Harvey grew up in Bethel, Maine skiing Sunday River and has been Nordic skiing since childhood. As a resident of the Mt. Washington Valley, Nate can be caught pushing snow around on Tuesdays at the Great Glen Trails Nordic Meister race series and has been the manager, gear buyer, and senior wax guy for Great Glen Outfitters for 20+ years. firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew Drummond – Ski The Whites
Backcountry skiers tend to neglect their gear, but there are many benefits to keeping your gear tuned up and ready to go, which can make or break your day in the backcountry. Here are some tips to help you at the local glade or deep in the White Mountains.
Wax your skis, but make sure to scrape and brush out all the wax; your skins will thank you. There’s some truth that dry bases help old skins stick to your bases. However, skiing will be more enjoyable if you have some glide. I try to wax my skis as needed and use temperature-appropriate wax; but note that any wax residue left on your skis will make skin failure more likely, especially in cold conditions.
Speaking of dry bases, bring a chunk of wax with you in the backcountry on those days where the snow is sticking. You can apply it to your skins or your bases to eliminate snow clumpage.
Skins aren’t sticking? Buy some touch-up glue and apply to problem areas in the evening and let dry overnight. The next day, your skins will have new life. This is something I try to do a few times a season because skin failure is akin to getting a flat tire.
Do sharpen those edges. Tuning backcountry skis will not only give you better performance but can save you from disaster, especially in no-fall zones and in unpredictable snowpack. Touring skis tend to chatter more and lose edge contact, so do everything in your power to give yourself an edge.
Always check for gear after tours, not right before! We see ski delimitation, loose binding screws, broken pole flip locks, and more in backcountry gear. When caught early, repairs are easy, and you’ll get a lot more life out of your backcountry equipment.
Ski The Whites
Andrew Drummond, owner of Ski The Whites, spent several seasons backcountry skiing, chasing remote lines in the White Mountains. This led him to open his own backcountry shop to help others get introduced properly to the sport he loves. Any gear or beta questions, give the shop a call or email him at email@example.com.
Jeremiah Beach – ProTune
The snow is flying, you’re pumped and ready, but let’s take a look at how our skis should be prepped for the best results.
Pre-season ski preparation: Race skis need preparation. The bases need to be flat, sidewalls need to be shaped, and edge bevels need to be set. You can take them to your favorite shop and have them dialed in by your favorite tech, or if you are a tuner of your own skis, have them ground by your favorite shop so you’re starting with a fresh flat ski.
Edge bevels: Accurate bevels are essential. I recommend having a shop initially set your bevels, especially the base edge bevel. I never touch the base edge unless there is damage to it after the bevel is set. Base bevel is everything … it controls how quickly your ski engages and how it releases from a turn. The less bevel, the quicker it reacts; the greater the bevel, the more free and loose the ski will feel. For SL and GS race skis, base bevels will generally be between .5 and .75 degrees.
Side edge bevels: For SL and GS skis, are generally 3 degrees. The sidewalls of your skis should be pulled back away from the metal edge so that the edge can be easily sharpened. If you see sidewall material on your file or diamond stones, it’s time to pull some more sidewall. Otherwise, you’ll have a tough time getting your edge sharp while maintaining the accuracy of the bevel. Always use high-quality tools and guides. Poor tools equal poor results.
Base preparation: Freshly ground and structured bases need to be waxed, scraped, and brushed several times to clean the bases and clean up any “hairs” from the grinding process. Use a soft wax for this; most wax companies have specific base-prep waxes. After the bases have been cleaned up, it’s time to start waxing for speed. Use the soft prep wax first and let it sit until it’s completely cooled. Scrape, brush, and do the same with a warmer glide wax (like Swix CH8). Then move to the temperature wax you think you’ll be racing on primarily, and let that cool overnight. A few repetitions with your target wax will get you in a good place to start the season.
I make sure I wax my skis every day they are on snow.
Jeremiah Beach, a lifelong gear junkie, skier, and cyclist, currently owns and operates Pro Tune in Jackson NH. Jeremiah has worked as an alpine and Nordic coach and technician for the U.S. ski team, USOC Paralympic team, and various ski academies. Reach out to him at (603) 383-6333 or www.skiandbikeproservice.com