Time to get in tune
What’s in a ski tune? And how do you know when you need one?The following are some guidelines. But why bother getting your skis tuned at all? Quite simply, keeping your skis tuned is the same as keeping your car tuned; it makes them perform better. And the further out of tune you let them get, the more extensive the work needed to bring them back.Most skiers wait until the bases of their skis look scraped up before they think about getting them tuned. However, there’s much more to a tune than doctoring the ravages of some unfortunately navigated turns. Shallow base damage, although visually distracting, actually has little to do with your skis’ performance. Today’s new base materials are so dense that they usually only scratch, rarely tear and are easily restored with waxing.With current shaped ski technology, a ski’s performance is all in the edges. Therefore, the most important reason for tuning your skis is to create sharp, clean edges for the full length of the turning surface of your skis. Properly tuned edges promote greater ease of turning and greater control at all speeds, on all terrain, in all snow conditions. The best way to determine when you need a tune is to run your fingers down the edges in the base area under your binding to feel for little dings, or “burrs,” and for dullness. If you are not practiced enough to recognize the burrs and dullness, go into a tune shop and ask to feel a newly tuned ski and one that has not yet been tuned. Trying to judge your need for a tune only by whether your edges are slipping on your turns is more difficult because edge performance diminishes very slowly and therefore is hard to notice until your skis are overdue for a tune.Basic edge tuning involves two processes. The first is “de-burring,” which consists of filing down edge material to expose and smooth out the dings caused by skiing over rocks and debris. The second is filing the edge material to re-establish the sharpness, much like sharpening a knife.Proper tuning should create the most sharpness on the edges directly under your bindings and extending front and back to about one-third of the ski’s base because that is where your weight is and the area you use to turn. Since the tips of the skis are for entry into the turn and the tails for steering, the edges in these areas should be “de-tuned,” or made less sharp.If, after a tune, you find yourself catching tips or getting your tails hung up in your turns, check to see whether your edges have this progression in sharpness. If they do not, go back to your tune shop and ask them to make sure the tips and tails were de-tuned. Never doubt yourself; if you are having problems with the tuning, almost any ski tuner will be glad to try to make their work right for you.Although the edges are most important in a ski tune, the bases also need attention. Snow crystals – even our light, powdery ones – are in fact very abrasive. Even if you have been lucky enough to avoid skiing over any rocks, or have found a lot of powder, the bases still get worn and require waxing.If you’ve been particularly unlucky and have gotten gouges in the base material of your skis, a ski tune can include filling them in with hot P-Tex which is then smoothed over to match the existing base. Whether or not base repair is necessary, all tunes are finished with a layer of hot, paraffin-based wax applied over the entire bases and edges of the skis.This waxing is like applying hand lotion. It fills in all the tiny scratches and serves as preventive maintenance against further abrasion caused by your next ski runs. Although waxing does make your skis faster, more importantly it makes them turn easier. Just like edge tuning, waxing increases the efficiency of your skis; it makes them perform better.How often you should get your skis tuned depends on where you’ve skied. Some conditions, like frozen, granular snow, can use up a tune in as little as half a day. The norm on the typical powder and packed powder we have in Vail -if you want to keep your skis in top condition – is every five-to-eight days of skiing. That is assuming you switch your right and left skis every day to maximize the life of the tune.When you nail a turn, which is to say when you turn precisely on–and not an inch away from – THE SPOT where you’ve aimed, you get a certain feeling. It’s somewhere between relief and satisfaction, wonder and euphoria. At the least, it’s the feeling of addiction to more turns just like that one. And this feeling can happen at any speed, on any terrain, in any snow conditions where you need to turn your skis.There is only one way to feed this addiction – with well-tuned skis.Special thanks to Jerry Parman, owner of Mill Creek Sports, for his tuning expertise.Elizabeth Eber is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Vail.Vail, Colorado
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Vail’s updated plans regarding the state guidelines and isolation housing requirements is one of several pieces of information guests are waiting on heading into the 2020-21 season.