Are your skis in tune?

Dave Irons, Ski Columnist

While it’s true that today’s skis will slide without the wax that was required for the old wood skis to even move, wax is still critical for today’s skis to give us the top performance they are designed for.

My friend Bob Sampson, a race coach at Waterville Valley, summed it up best: “Skiing an untuned ski is like driving a Porsche with five pounds of air in the tires.” It was the perfect analogy. We know that to get your money’s worth out of that expensive sports car, we have to have top-quality, properly inflated tires. It’s the same with our skis. To get top performance out of those expensive skis, they must be properly tuned. That means sharp smooth edges with correct edge geometry.

Today’s shaped skis typically call for beveled edges, most often a one-degree bevel on the base edge and the same on the side edge. Racers often go for a more acute angle on the side edge, two or even three degrees to increase edge hold. While I ski race skis, I go with a one-degree angle both base and side edges. This is easy to maintain without any fancy equipment.

At the end of the last season, I pointed out that the material used on the bases of today’s skis is porous and will actually deteriorate over summer if left unprotected. That protection is vital and should be maintained at all times. If you had your skis tuned to begin the season, they are probably due for a tune-up by now.

Jackson Hogen of waxes his ski after every use. I’m not as diligent as Jackson, but my skis are on the workbench after every two or three days out. It’s a simple process and takes very little time.


My ski vice goes on the workbench at the beginning of the season and stays there until I prep my skis for summer storage. I Always start by applying a citrus-based cleaner to the bottom of the skis. This removes any grime and old wax. Next, I use a diamond stone to deburr and sharpen the base edges. Then I use an FK Multi tuner with a diamond stone set at a one-degree bevel to sharpen the side edges. Once I have the edges sharp, I polish them with a Gummi stone.

Now they are ready for wax. I iron in a coat of universal wax good for temperatures from 20 to 50 degrees. Once the fresh coat of wax is scraped, the skis are ready for a return to the slopes.

Get your skis in tune and I’ll see you on the slopes.

Dave Irons is a freelance writer and columnist who hails from Westbrook. He has been contributing to the Sun Journal for many years and is among the most respected ski writers in the Northeast. He also is a member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame. Write to him at

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