What is a ski tune?
by Greg Whitehouse
The Ski Tune Process
I often get the feeling that the majority of people who own and maintain skis across this great land of ours have a yearly tune up performed. They do this seemingly without any idea what it means to tune a ski. The skier drops the skis off at the local shop and returns a few days later to pick them up after shelling out a few bucks for the work. What has been done? They have been tuned and now they (should) ski better. Hmmm…wish you knew more about what you are get in return for your hard earned money? Did you just shell out fifty bucks to have your ski well cleaned and given back?
It is important to know that shops will vary greatly in what they consider a tune up. Factors such as the equipment they use affect the tune process and quality. Not to be overlooked of is the training and ability of the ski tech that actually works on your precious sticks. I am pointing out that not all tunes are created equal! At CalSkiCo we evaluate every ski that comes in for service and make our honest recommendations on what specific service we should provide on a case by case basis. With that said here is a very basic description of what we do here between the time you drop off your skis to get the standard “super tune” and the time you pick them up.
You bring your skis in and say something about getting work done. Our sales staff will listen to what you think you need and then evaluate the skis. We are trained to check the base for flatness, look at your top sheet for delaminating, check camber, look at the base texture (structure) and generally evaluate the condition of the current tune. We will then let you know what we think you should have done, or what your options are. The salesperson will then write up a work order and cart your skis away into the back room with an agreed upon pick up date.
Two- The Tech’s appraisal
The technician looks over the work order and reads what work is to be performed. A complete visual inspection of the skis and bindings will (hopefully) unmask any issues that the sales person missed. Unless we need to speak further to you at this time, work commences.
Three- Flatten the ski
This is done when your skis have worn or warped and the bottoms are not flat anymore. A ski needs to be flat to work well. This work is done on our Wintersteiger tuning machine. The ski is fed through what is basically a giant belt sander. We use a very fine grit belt and run it multiple times checking the progress each time. As soon as it is flat we move on to the next step.
Four- Fix the base
A typical reason many customers feel they need service is because their bases get scratched up. This seems to be some sort of visual message that inspires both guilt and the need to get a tune. Here is where we take care of that. All the scratches, gouges, and tears on your base are repaired. New base material is added to fill any scars remaining after the base is flattened. Hand finish work with a metal scraper completes this step.
Five- Set the base edge angle
We use the big tuning machine for this step. The metal edge on the bottom portion of your ski is machined so it is not quite flat against the snow. It is offset about 1 degree so it doesn’t catch when you don’t want it to while you ski. We grind the edge of the ski to a precise angle.
Six- Set the side edge angle
Another function of the Wintersteiger tuning machine is for side edge work. We set the machine up to grind only the side part of the ski, where the metal edge is. The angle is set and the ski is run through at that angle until it is uniform and it has a smooth and sharp corner where it runs into the freshly made base edge (see step three above).
Seven- New Structure on the base
Much like a car tire, your ski has a tread pattern we call the “structure”. What type of structure works best depends on what kind of snow you typically ski in. Utah shops will run a different pattern on their skis than we do here in California. In any case this is the process that puts the pattern into the base. A large stone is used in this procedure, the stone that makes us call the machine a “stone grinder”. We use a diamond to score a pattern into the stone. The stone is then used to cut this pattern into the ski. The stone is precise and ensures that the ski base is perfectly flat and even.
Eight- Penetrate the base with wax
Your ski base is not solid. It is made so that wax can be driven deep into it. We heat up a special iron and melt wax onto the base and then “iron” it in. After about ten minutes of ironing, the skis are set aside to cool. After cooling, a scraper is used to remove any surface wax, leaving only the wax inside the base material and a very thin layer on the surface of the base itself. This wax is then polished using a high speed rotational brush to clear out the structure on the base and give a smooth and consistent texture to the wax finish.
Nine- Clean and store
Now the basic tune work is done, but we want you to be impressed with us—we treat all skis like they were our own! The technician will clean the top sheet, dust off any wax dust and put a ski tie on the skis before hanging them to await delivery.
When you arrive to pick up your skis, a sales person will retrieve them, remove the ski tie and show you the work we have done. Tech notes and tune details will be pointed out. Unless you have questions, you are then on your way.
There you have it. A very basic description of what happens during a ski tune process. I realize you knew steps One and Ten already. Hopefully an account of steps Two through Nine gave you some insight into the actual process you pay for. If you have questions about any part of this process, feel free to stop by, call, or email us. We are always happy to talk tech!
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