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5 Common Ski Tuning Myths That Lead Novices Astray

Ski tuning isn't rocket science if you know a few basic truths.

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We’ve already debunked the biggest myth when it comes to ski maintenance: Ski tuning isn’t rocket science, and mere mortals can, in fact, learn how to keep their skis in good shape at home. All you need is the right set of tools, the know-how, and a good amount of patience. But there are other misconceptions floating around the ski universe that are so common they’ve become ski tuning lore and led more than one well-intentioned skier astray. Here, we debunk five common ski tuning myths in hopes of pointing you on the right path.

Myth#1: If your skis aren’t gripping on snow, it’s because your edges are dull.

Maybe. Dull edges are certainly one reason you may be sliding out in your turns rather than feeling solid edge grip, and it’s the easiest issue to rule out. A quick visual inspection may reveal obvious signs of wear and tear, like rust patches or significant burrs and gouges that could impact edge performance. You can also check for edge sharpness by carefully running the back of your fingers over multiple spots—if edges are sharp, they should snag the hair on the back of your knuckles.

But if your ski edges seem sharp, there might be other issues at play. It could be that your ski bases are no longer flat—if it’s been a while since your last stone grind, your bases may have become warped (e.g. convex or concave). If that’s the case, your ski’s edges won’t perform as they should, and you’ll likely need a stone grind to get your skis’ bases flat again. Here’s how to tell if your skis might be due for a stone grind. 

#2: To keep your edges nice and sharp, you have to file them often.

False. Every time you file your edges, you strip away edge metal, decreasing the life of your skis. While it’s true that you’ll need to use an edge file every now and again to bring dull edges back to life, a file should be your second resort—not your first. If you want to keep your edges in tip-top shape, think less work more often. Ideally, that means polishing your ski edges after every ski day with a gummy stone and diamond stone. Learn the dos and don’ts of edge maintenance in this easy-to follow video tutorial

#3: If ski edges are dull, you need to sharpen both the side edge and the base edge.

You’re half right. If your ski edges feel dull to the touch, your side edges may need to be sharpened with a file. But taking a file to your base edge—even if you use a file guide with the correct edge angle—won’t necessarily sharpen your edge. The base edge determines the responsiveness of your skis, not necessarily how well the edge grips on firm snow. When you take a file to your base edge, you’re tinkering with the responsiveness of the edge, not the sharpness. Learn the difference between the two, and why you should probably leave your base edges to the pros, here.

#4: Any wax is better than no wax.

Yes and no. Wax serves two purposes: It hydrates your skis’ bases, which increases their durability and life; and it promotes glide on snow, so you can ski faster and more efficiently. Pretty much any ski wax will help keep bases hydrated, so if you have only one type of wax at home and your skis’ bases are looking chalky and dry, go ahead and slap that wax on. But if it’s a wax meant for cold snow temperatures and you’re skiing on warm, man-made snow the next day, don’t expect that wax to help your skis glide well. Learn what type of wax to use for the snow conditions you typically ski.

#5: Any ski tune is better than no ski tune.

We’re the first to promote visiting a ski shop to get your skis serviced, but the reality is that not all professional ski tunes are of a professional quality. Good ski tunes come down to using the right equipment and having technicians who really know what they’re doing—and pay attention to the details. Leif Sunde, owner of the Denver Sports Lab in Golden, Colo., will be the first to admit that not all ski shops get it right, so it’s worth doing your research on your ski shop and paying attention to the type of service they provide. Here’s what to look for to differentiate a good ski tune from a mediocre one.