I look to get decent performance out of my skis with the minimum amount of time and energy spent on tuning.

This file is not intended to give a full account of how to tune a ski -- there are plenty of great on-line references that cover that. In fact, I assume that you are already familiar with the basics. Instead, this is my thoughts on how to cut corners both in terms of time and expense and still get reasonable performance.



While I have a work bench that I do my work on (and against), I don't bother with a ski vice. In my opinion, you can do everything you need to do well enough without a vice.

But, you do need *some* tools. Here is a list of tools that I use:

Of these tools, only the side file tool, metal scraper and P-tex candles are things you need to purchase at ski shops. The rest can be found at hardware stores for less money.


I'll handle cosmetic scratches in the base myself with p-tex candles. I take core shots so infrequently, it is more cost effective for me to have the required base welds done by a shop.

I generally light my p-tex candles with a regular candle, a practice that pretty much guarantees a sooty burn on the p-tex. This doesn't bother me much. I've not had many p-tex repairs fail and have never seen that big of difference in having soot in the p-tex other than cosmetic. I'm sure there are purists out there who will howl in protest.


I've basically given up on doing much with the bases in terms of base filing now that rock hard sintered bases are the norm.

The point of base filing is to great a perfectly level base. In my opinion, it's just not worth the effort to try to get a flat base armed only with hand tools. In my experience, hand tuning a ski with a sintered base almost guarantees a base that is base high (and edge low). For my skis with sintered bases, I get a base grind once a year or so and am done with it.

I will base file my non-sintered skis but not with a huge amount of zeal and only on an "as needed" basis. Generally I only base file after I've done a significant amount p-tex work and scraping. I don't worry too much about maintaining a flat base. Again, I'll trust a good base grind at a reputable shop to guarantee that.


Edge tuning, for me, consists almost entirely of side filing and some stone work. After years of hand holding a mill bastard file for side filing, I finally broke down and purchased a Swix side filing tool. The side filing tools make short work of side filing and meet my cheapskate criteria for providing enough benefit to be worth their cost.


In terms of base structure, my approach is horrifically lazy. I'll sand the base with a sanding block and 100 grit sand paper and then rub the base down with a nylon scrubber. That's it! And even then, I much more likely to do this in the spring when the snow is wet and the benefit of structuring is more noticeable. Another method for a very course base structure that I will occasionally do for super wet conditions is to run the side of the mill bastard file along the base.


In terms of waxing, I buy Swix Cold Universal in bulk and use that for 90% of the conditions I ski in. It seems to me that you can push a cold glide wax into warmer temps with better success than pushing a warmer glide wax into cold temps. For warm spring stuff, I get whatever I can find cheap.
Dave's Backcountry Skiing Page

Copyright 2003, 2004 by David Mann