If your skis need a little care and attention, then you’ve come to the right place. Our guide to ski tuning has you covered for everything ski maintenance.
When it comes to ski tuning, your first reaction might be to take it to your local shop. And sure, they may do a great job — but once you learn to do it at home and get all the right equipment, it not only makes it more cost-effective in the long run, but also gives you the power to do your own repairs to your preferred standard, to tune and sharpen your edges to your preferred sharpness, and keep your skis in top condition whenever you feel like it. So if you’re ready to upgrade your ski maintenance game this season, read on.
In this guide, we’ll go over the basics of ski tuning, including how to tune your skis and edges, how to repair ski base damage and scratches, how to wax and buff, and how to put together a kit of the essential ski tuning and ski servicing tools.
Ski tuning or ski servicing is the art of keeping your skis factory fresh season after season. Skis may be hard-wearing items, and snow may be soft, but that doesn’t mean that over time, you won’t wear through your wax, damage your base, and dull your edges. Tuning your skis will allow you to stave off long term damage and keep your skis riding exactly as they should.
Below, we’ll be going over the basics of tuning your skis and laying out the step-by-step guide for making your skis feel like new. But before we get to that, we need to go over the tools of the trade. While this list is a bit exhaustive, and you can get away with a kit of bare ‘essentials’, we thought it was important to list everything that any complete tuning kit should have!
There is a right tool for every job. This is a universal truth. And when it comes to ski tuning and servicing your skis, things are no different. Below, we’ve listed all the tools you could need for a pro-level service, as well as whether they are an ‘essential’ tuning tool or more on the optional side. We’ve also explained what each does to help you make the call as to whether they are worth adding to your kit!
Vise or bracket: A vise or bracket is an essential piece of gear as it holds your skis in place while you work on them. Buffing, filing, waxing, they all require some physical input, and if your skis are just sitting loose, they’re liable to move around. So whether you go pre-made or you prefer to make your own from the bits of wood you have lying around, something to keep your skis secure while you work is the first piece of kit you have to have!
Buffer/cloth and cleaning solution: Once your skis are secure with the base facing up, you’ll need to clean them off to remove any final pieces of loose wax, dirt, or debris. A cleaning solution made from citrus (lemon juice mixed with water is an excellent at-home option that’s also eco friendly) or using a specific base cleaning solution made from concentrated citrus oils is the right way to go. Just spray it on, and then clean the base with a soft rag. If you have an electric buffer with a cleaning head, this can also do the job with less effort on your part! Cleaning is essential; an electric buffer is not!
Metal file: A metal file is used to remove burs and chips from your edges and will also be tough enough to iron out any bumps and ridges or shave off any sharp pieces of metal that may be sticking out. A truly essential tool to keep your edges smooth, as well as getting a nice crisp corner going in the absence of an angle file, the straight metal file is an absolute essential. 8 inches works well for reference. And make sure to get one without a handle, so it can be set flat on the base to get that edge angle nice and tight!
Iron and wax: An iron and wax are truly crucial elements of any servicing kit. You’ll need to wax your skis every week of riding (maybe more if you’re riding hard!), and as such, getting an iron and wax is priority one. We’ll go over how to use them below. But for now, just know, this is an essential item!
Plexi scraper: Cheap and effective, a Plexi scraper is a piece of plastic with a hard edge that you’ll use to scrape the excess wax from your board after you’ve ironed it on. Every kit will have one, and for good reason!
Diamond stone: A diamond stone is a much finer grit file for all intents and purposes! It’s a tool you’ll use to even out any final burs or scratches in your metal edge and get a nice, smooth, crisp surface. For the purist, it’s a must. However, for those who want to just keep their skis in rideable shape, it’s often money that could have otherwise been spent on beer!
Gummy stone: The gummy stone is another optional buy that is a softer version of the diamond stone and allows you to really get a soft and buttery smooth finish on your edges. It’s a good thing to have to just run up and down your edge after every session to make sure there are no pesky burrs or dinks that need seeing to, as well as keeping your gear in prime condition. But it’s not a must-buy in our books. Though many will swear by it, and they aren’t expensive, so it’s a coin toss for this one!
Angle file: An angle file is a device that’ll file a corner to an exact angle. Downhill and fast skiers will likely want a perfect 90-degree angle on their edges to ensure maximum grip and response. However, to make their skis less catchy, freestyle skiers who are sliding rails and boxes will often want a higher (less sharp) angle. While an angle file will give you an exact and consistent angle across all four edges, you can achieve the same thing with a file and some hard work — providing you don’t mind being a little imprecise! As such, this is an optional tool for us. Though if you need those crisp 90-degree angles, then it’s probably a must for you!
Base brush: Lots of kits will come with a base brush to brush off any leftover wax after your service. We think that a clean rag (without cleaning solution) and some gentle wiping will do the same thing. As such, this one gets the optional tag.
P-Tex, lighter, and razorblade: P-Tex is used to repair gouges and scratches on your base. It comes in a little ‘rod’, and you use a lighter to heat the end and drip molten plastic into the damaged area, sealing it. Then simply nip off the excess P-tex with a razor so the base is nice and smooth. We like doing this because hey, who doesn’t love playing with fire and melted plastic? But in all honesty, this job is messy, semi-dangerous, and a P-Tex burn is no fun at all, so it’s often a job left to the ski shops just because it’s a bit of a hassle to get it right. Therefore: optional.
Now that we’ve covered the tools of the trade let’s move on to the actual method. Some of these steps contain optional tips which you can either use or skip depending on the condition of your skis. For the optional tips you’ll need some of the tools listed above. Let’s dive in!
Step one: edge sharpening and care! Lay your skis on your work surface and secure with your essential vise or bracket. Next, take your file and lay it flat on the base of your upturned ski at the nose of the ski. This is important and we always file from nose to tail as it will create a knap or grain on the edge, which means the ski edge will run more smoothly in one direction.
Place one hand on the file over the ski base, and the other on and over the edge. With light pressure on the edge hand, run the file from nose to tail of the skis in one smooth motion. You should feel it ‘crackle’ as you do this as the file moves over burs and dinks. Keep doing this, adding pressure if you feel there’s an especially rough area or section. Keep the pressure on the edge and not on the base — as you don’t want to damage the base, just file the metal edges!
Once smooth, rotate the file over the edge so that it’s at a perpendicular angle to where it just was, and then repeat the process, running the file the length of the outer edge of the ski. Again, modulate pressure while keeping the angle as close to 90 degrees as you can. Smooth strokes are key!
Optional: Once the burs and scratches are gone, you can now repeat the process with your diamond and gummy stones if you have them to get your edges really smooth. Once that’s done, you can use an angle file to fine tune your edge angles depending on your preference!
Sidewall planing (which is optional) is the act of shaving down your sidewalls to remove any damaged pieces that made be sticking out. You can do this with a razor blade or even a file! Just make sure to seal any exposed wood with epoxy or P-Tex. If your sidewalls are damaged and your skis are in rough shape, we recommend taking them to a shop for a full repair service! They’ll thank you (the shop and your skis!).
If you’ve got some gnarly damage to your base courtesy of an exposed rock or a crazy ex — you wouldn’t be the first to use a ski as a shield and/or impromptu self-defence weapon — then you might need to do a repair.
Clean off your base with your cleaning solution, then make sure it’s dry — that’s the first thing. Then, using your P-Tex stick and a lighter, carefully position the P-Tex about 5-10cm over the damaged area and heat it up with the flame. Make sure your hand is off to the side so the P-Tex doesn’t drip on it. When it’s just about to drip, you can dab the end of the P-Tex into the gouge and it should stick there. Next, pull the P-Tex stick away and use the lighter flame to ‘melt’ the blob into the damage. Alternatively, heat the stick until the P-Tex drips into the damage, and use a spoon or piece of plastic to flatten it.
Once that’s done and cooled, use a razor blade to cut off the excess so that the repair sits flush to the base. Honestly, we’d recommend taking your gear to a shop for this as it’s a bit of a fiddly job and often more trouble than it's worth. Still, good to know how if you’re nowhere near a professional service and you’re in need of a repair.
Okay, now this is something you can and should do at home! Buffing and waxing is the other half of the essential ski servicing you should be doing weekly, right after edge tuning.
Once your edges are good and your base is repaired (or not), get your cleaning solution and give your base a good scrub. Use either a cleaning rag or your buffer with a cleaning head, and ensure all dirt, debris, and remaining wax is removed. Then, grab a damp cloth and wipe off any cleaning solution residue to ensure you’re ready to wax.
Heat up your iron and grab your desired wax (there are general waxes, cold weather, warm weather, speed waxes, long-lasting waxes, the choice is yours!), and then hold your iron about 5-10cm above your ski base.
Gently press your wax into your iron (keep your fingers clear) and drip the hot wax onto your base. Move up and down, ensuring an even spread of wax. There should be about 3-5cm between each ‘line’ of wax. Don’t worry if they look bumpy or gloopy, we’re not done yet.
Once sufficiently covered, take your iron and let it sit on the ski base. Its own weight should be sufficient, but you may want to apply some light pressure if you have an extruded base or your skis just don’t take wax very well (every ski is different!). Next, move your iron up and down the length of your skis in a smooth motion, melting and pressing the wax into the base. It should absorb and spread out evenly, but if you notice some spots aren’t getting covered, just grab your waxing block and fill them in.
Once your skis are totally waxed up, leave them to cool off completely, right down to room temperature. Or even overnight if you can!
Now is the time to scrape and buff. Take your scraper and run it down the length of your ski from — you guessed it — nose to tail. You should scrape off all the wax you can — don’t be afraid to put in a little strength!
Once your skis are scraped of excess wax, use a clean cloth to wipe off the excess. Some people like to buff their skis at this point with a buffing head, but that’s optional! It helps get a really smooth finish on the wax for a faster ride! But again, it’s not necessary.
Now, dispose of the wax as is recommended by the manufacturer’s instructions, and you’re good to ride. We like to use eco-friendly and biodegradable wax so it can go right in the trash without needing to be disposed of specially. It just makes things easier!
Hopefully, this has been a helpful guide for tuning your skis. If you need any more advice or information, reach out to our CX Team at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re in North America or Canada.
Have a great season, everyone, see you out there!