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How to Tell a Good Ski Tune from a Mediocre One

Is your ski shop doing right by your skis? Here's a checklist to run through after getting skis professionally serviced.

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We all have days on the slopes when we just don’t feel on top of our skis. Sometimes, it’s us—we might be rusty, tired, or sore. But sometimes, it’s not us. They say only a bad craftsman blames his tools, but good skiers could be justified in blaming their skis if a bad tune is at the root of a bad ski day.

Leif Sunde, owner of the Denver Sports Lab, will be the first to admit that ski technicians don’t always get it right. “Not all ski tuning shops are equal. There have been tremendous advancements in tuning technology over time, but it all comes down to how it’s used and attention to detail,” he explains.

So how can you tell if your ski shop is doing right by your skis? Sunde recommends running through this post-ski service checklist to ensure a bad tune isn’t to blame for bad turns.

Ski Bases

  • Check for flatness: A full-service tune should include a stone grind to make sure bases are flat. A flat base is key to ensuring all other tuning work is consistent—if the ski is not flat, edge bevels will be incorrect and base structure may not be consistent. Check the flatness of your base after a tune with a level or true bar.

Illustration of flat ski bases versus concave or convex

  • Check base color: Does the base look ashy or chalky? If so, skis were not properly waxed. They might stick to the snow at first if bases weren’t brushed or buffed after waxing; if stickiness persists, wax wasn’t applied properly.
  • Check base structure: Ski bases should have a discernible structure, which helps them shed water and glide on snow. This structure should be clearly visible and consistent from edge to edge. If structure is not visible or if structure isn’t consistent, bases may not be flat and may be in need of a stone grind.
Illustration of ski base structure
Illustration: Elyse Schreiber

Edges

  • Sidewall: Was sidewall pulled before edges were sharpened? If not, edge bevels are likely incorrect and will lack effectiveness despite feeling sharp. You can tell if sidewall was pulled based on the color and cleanliness of the sidewall closest to the edge—if this area is clean and the color is more vivid, sidewall has been stripped.
Illustration of ski sidewall edge and bevel
Illustration: Elyse Schreiber
  • Bevel: Most recreational skis come with a 2-degree factory bevel, so the ski shop should match this bevel when sharpening your ski’s side edges. If edges feel too aggressive on snow, they may have been over-beveled. Edges may also feel too sharp if the bases are concave and weren’t ground to flat before edges were sharpened. If edges feel nonexistent on snow, edges were under-beveled or the base may be convex instead of flat.

Leif Sunde is a professional ski technician who founded the Denver Sports Lab to make Olympic-level tunes available to the public.

More Ski Tuning Content

How to Wax Skis at Home
Get the Edge: Tools for Edge Sharpening
3 Reasons to Get a Stone Grind