Want to learn the nuts and bolts of an age-old art?
Ever wonder exactly what happens to your skis when you send them to be tuned at the local ski shop? In these modern times, it seems more and more people have opted away from personal ski-tuning equipment, relying on their local ski techs instead. According to Rick Ascher, owner of the Glide Shop in Breckenridge, personal ski tuning has become something of a lost art. “Less and less people want to do it,” Ascher said. “It’s time consuming. The people that do it themselves like the solitude of just being on their bench and working on their equipment.” With the right tools and time, virtually anybody can tune his own skis. Although modern mechanized equipment has expedited the art of ski tuning, basic hand tools still have their place. Steve Buckingham is a visitor to Summit County who prefers to tune his own snowboards. Buckingham, who resides in Tallahassee, Fla., makes an annual winter trip to Colorado. This season, he came to visit his son in Frisco and not only brought two snowboards, but also packed his complete tuning set to use during his one-week stay.Soon after his arrival in town, Buckingham converted his son’s dining-room table into a work bench. He said he likes having control of his own tuning because a high-quality job is always assured.
“I’m still learning what a well-tuned snowboard is supposed to feel like,” Buckingham said. “But I think it’s hit or miss in the shops.”Like Ascher, the Indiana native acknowledges the time commitment involved with ski tuning.”I probably spent six or eight hours on my first board because I didn’t know what I was doing,” Buckingham said. “Now it takes me about two hours.”Though they use slightly different techniques in ski and snowboard tuning, Buckingham and Ascher approach their respective tasks with something in common: a passion for their product.”I like to think of us as craftsmen,” said Ascher who employs a combination of power and hand tools in his shop.Whether your skis are tuned in a friend’s living room or at a local ski shop, they will go through largely the same process.
The basics1. Ski flattening. Skis lose their flatness over time due to wear and tear. At the Glide Shop, skis are run through a belt sander that flattens their bases. At home, scrapers, shavers and Scotchbrite pads can be used. The home kit also includes a true bar, which is run along the base of the ski or board to reveal any sections that aren’t perfectly flat.2. Hole patching. After the ski or snowboard has been leveled, any remaining gouges or holes are filled with liquid plastic, known as p-tex (polyethylene). P-tex is applied with an iron or, in cases of severe damage, a hot-air welder. After the liquid p-tex cools and hardens, a scraper is used to shave off extra wax. If the thin layer of wax is not perfectly smoothed over after it’s applied, the glide potential of the ski or snowboard is greatly reduced. P-tex application takes about the same amount of time in the home as it does in the ski shop.3. Edge sharpening. This step takes about a minute in the shop and up to an hour in the confines of home. Ascher’s employees use an automated edge sharpener to place a bevel on the edge of the ski. Although desired bevel degrees vary, one degree is the standard. At home, various files can be used to apply beveled edges to a ski or snowboard. Buckingham uses two different guides for his files: a side-edge guide and a base-edge guide. Polishing stones (also used in conjunction with the guides) are then used for more finite sharpening. The amount of time required for edge sharpening depends on the severity of nicks and burs in the edges.
4. Base structuring. New skis and snowboards come with a tiny base structure designed to absorb hot wax. For regular skiers, an annual restructuring (imparting of small linear patterns) is recommended. This involves The Glide Shop restructures skis and boards with a stone grinder, which can be adjusted for different patterns depending on snow conditions. A tighter pattern is used in cold snow whereas a wider set of grooves is applied in warm weather. At home, various structure tools can be used. They range from rigid files to various types of Scotchbrite pads.5. Waxing. Ski and snowboard bases dry out quickly and need to be waxed regularly. Hot waxing is most effective as it allows the wax to penetrate deeply into the base of the ski. The process is rather simple; a hunk of wax and an iron is all that is needed. Drop wax on the skis, then smooth it over with an iron. For the sake of glide potential, it’s important to shave excess wax from the ski after it cools. 6. Avoiding skiing on rocks. The proper duration between ski tunes depends entirely on the extent of their wear and tear. A good ski tune can last two hours or two months depending on how and where you ski. Adam Boffey can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13631, or at email@example.com.
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