Ski Tuning for Powder

September 02, 2015 D'Arcy McLeish
Even When It's Like This, It's Nice To Have A Properly Tuned Pair Of Boards Strapped To Your Feet.  Photo - Reuben Krabbe
Even when it’s like this, it’s nice to have a properly tuned pair of boards strapped to your feet.
Photo – Reuben Krabbe

I know, I know, most of you are thinking, when it’s waist deep and blower, the last thing I need to worry about is tuning my skis. To a certain extent, you’re right. When it’s deep and dry, it doesn’t really matter what you’re skiing and whether your skis, or boards, are tuned. You’ll be having fun no matter what shape your equipment is in. But even in fresh pow, it makes a difference to keep your skis in good nic and always have a relatively fresh tune.

We Take Our Tuning Seriously On The Last Frontier.  Photo - Steve Rosset
We take our tuning seriously on the Last Frontier.
Photo – Steve Rosset

Is there a specific way you should tune your skis for powder? Not really. I have been working on my skis for years and having to ski pretty much everything from deep pow to breakable crust to blue ice, I take the same approach for everything: properly waxed bases, sharp edges and specific edge bevels. Keep in mind that this is my personal preference after having to tune my own skis over the last twenty years, but the theory is the same for everyone. Having properly tuned skis makes a huge difference in any conditions. Period.

We Keep Our Skis In Tip Top Shape Throughout The Winter Season.  Photo - Dave Silver
We keep our skis in tip top shape throughout the winter season.
Photo – Dave Silver

So what goes into the right tune? Everything starts the day you get your skis. If you’ve got fatter skis this first step is even more critical. Go to your local tuning shop and get a proper base structure put on. In other words, get a base grind. Every ski that’s made has small imperfections in them; they never come from the factory perfectly flat. Having a flat ski is important. It runs smoother, faster, and transfers from edge to edge better. In big snow, with a good wax, it makes everything feel a little like silk. so that’s the first step.

Conditions Aren't Always Perfect. So Do Yourself A Favour And Learn To Tune Or Get A Shop, To Tune Your Skis Or Board.  Photo - Reuben Krabbe
Conditions aren’t always perfect. So do yourself a favour and learn to tune or get a shop, to tune your skis or board.
Photo – Reuben Krabbe

Next, put an edge bevel on your skis. Most skis come with a one or two degree edge bevel, some even more. I run a one degree edge bevel, which puts my edge just under 90 degrees to 89 degrees. I find anything more than that, unless you’re skiing groomers all day or are a racer, is too fragile and leads to more nics and gouges in your edge. But one degree gives just a little bit more to work with to get your edges sharp. Sharp is good. Even when we’re skiing pow, there are bound to be spots that are windblown, scraped or icy. Having sharp and smooth, burr-free edges makes the ski run smoother and gives some security when you’re side slipping into something rowdy. There’s nothing worse than sliding out and going for a tumble because you have dull skis.

Breakable Crust, Ice, Groomers, Blower Pow. Warm Snow, Wet Snow, Cold Snow. Doesn't Matter What's Out There, Your Skis Will Thank You For Tuning Them.  Photo - Caton Garvie
Breakable crust, ice, groomers, blower pow. warm snow, wet snow, cold snow. Doesn’t matter what’s out there, your skis will thank you for tuning them.
Photo – Caton Garvie

Finally, there’s wax. While an entire volume of encyclopedias could be written about waxing skis, I take a fairly simple approach. Your ski bases require wax to perform properly. Without wax, especially over long periods of time, your bases dry out and start to shrink away from the edges and structure of the ski. With regular waxing, your bases stay moist and don’t stick. Sure, you want to match the snow temperature with the right wax, but even an all around wax is better than nothing. And remember, the point of waxing is not to cover the ski’s base with wax, it’s to allow hot wax to sink into the pores of the base. So during waxing, make sure your ski gets nice and warm and the wax is liquid, allowing it to penetrate into the ski. And after every wax, you need to first scrape off the excess wax and then brush the base down to remove any remaining wax from the surface of the ski.

So Maybe In The Air, Waxing And Tuning Isn't So Important... Photo - Lorenz Masser
So maybe in the air, waxing and tuning isn’t so important…
Photo – Lorenz Masser

And that’s really it. Ski tuning is something people neglect but it’s worth it to keep your skis running well. Regular tuning and waxing keeps your edges sharp, your bases smooth and the skis running fast. So ya, even in deep snow, having a properly waxed ski is definitely the way to go.

Be safe, ski hard.