This season, she’s back as an intermediate skier, learning more about skiing, and not just on the mountain.
I am a world champion procrastinator of Not Fixing Things That Need to Be Fixed Because They Aren’t That Bad Yet.
Small tear in my jeans? Not a real problem until I take out an entire belt loop and subsequent waistband trying to hoist them up by said belt loop.
Bathroom door notorious for getting stuck? All fun and games until the fire department has to come to the rescue.
In the number of times I have employed this tactic of procrastination, one hundred percent of the time, it has resulted in a scenario more expensive and dangerous than if I had just fixed it when the problem came knocking.
But alas, I procrastinate on.
So when it came to the idea of getting my skis tuned up, I took one glance at my skis that had seen no more than 10 days of snow and said what I always say. “Meh, it’s fine.” (Spoiler alert: it was not fine.)
Thankfully, in the world of skis, there are wonderful people like Blake Miliken at Powder7 who was there to not only tune up my skis, but help me understand its necessity.
Initially unconvinced that my less-than-10-days-skied skis were worth a tune-up, I warned Blake that there might not be much to do with them. In response, he flipped them over to show me scratches in the bottom and dings in the edges aplenty.
“No matter what you’re skiing on, there’s always going to be little rocks and branches that cut up the bottoms,” he explained.
He went on to say that the bases and edges of skis are the most important because they’re what is contacting the snow. If that seems like an oversimplification, it is. And although it seems obvious, this makes it easy to overlook their importance.
All About That Base
As any kid who has ever tried to make a snowball will tell you, not all snow is the same. It can be soft or sticky, icy or fluffy… and any combination in between. As we know from the (worthy) hype over powder, this matters to skiers, too.
Ready for some quick physics? Here’s how Blake explained it: Because the base sees the most snow of the entire ski, snow matters to the base, too. The friction between the ski and the snow creates water, so the groove pattern on the bottom of the skis determines how that water is channeled and thus how your ski will move on the snow.
The base of the ski, then, is tuned to be snow dependent, and reflects what type of snow you are most likely skiing on during that time of year.
For example, most of the early season snow I was getting ready to ski on is man-made, which is cold and sticky, so that lends itself to a fine structure carved into the base of the skis.
After my skis went through the base grinder to remove the old pattern, Blake patched up the dings and divots in the base of my skis with skillfully placed drips of paraffin wax.
Then, it was on to the structure grinder, which is a large wheel of stone that, as it rotates, carves the pattern from the stone into the bottom of the skis.
How does the pattern get on the stone? I am so glad you asked because it is a row of diamonds.
At Powder7, Blake has programmed his own structures that are carved into the base of skis. If you want to know more about those, that is a bummer because I am NOT going to give away anyone’s secret formula.
Also I do not remember. I was distracted by the diamonds.
After the skis come out modeling the latest in early-season-cold-snow-structure fashion, it’s on to the edges.
On the Edge
The ski edges are the sharp metal things on the side of the ski that slice your hand when you grab your skis with no forethought. And they’re what help you turn. Ready to get nerdy about edges? Here we go:
The edges themselves have two measurements that help determine how your turns will look.The side bevel is what determines how quickly turns happen. The steeper the bevel, the quicker the turn, and if your edges are too sharp, it’s hard to get out of a turn.
Some ski racers set their edge angles as high as 6 degrees to maneuver slalom turns quickly, but the sharper the edge is, the quicker it dulls. Because I want to make gentle turns and not go careening off the slope when I change directions, Blake sharpened my side angle to just shy of one degree.
The base bevel is the angle from the base of the ski up to the edge itself, and as Cameron Smith, head of the race department for Head USA, explains in his appearance on the podcast episode “The Science and Witchcraft of World Cup Ski Tuning,” of Gear30, the base edge determines how easy it is to “roll up” on the side of your skis to turn, or how quickly you go into a turn. The greater the angle, the quicker you can change directions.
My blue-run-s-shape ski style doesn’t warrant a need for super snappy turns, so Blake set my base edge at around half a degree.
Although none of my angles are ski-racer fast, it’s still important to keep your edges sharp enough that you can turn. Dull edge angles make even easy s-turns more awkward and uncooperative.
All in the Details
To finish it off, Blake de-tuned the edges with a very shiny, gritty eraser (which definitely has a fancy name that I do not remember) and examined the skis to make sure everything was even.
Many machines, tools, and precise checks by Blake later, my skis were finally ready to go.
As snow changes and edges wear, a good rule of thumb Blake gave me was to re-tune about every 9 days of skiing or every 6 weeks.
And because of how hectic ski season can get, its smart to schedule your ski tune-up as soon as you can to avoid delays. You know, like avoiding I-70 traffic except you don’t have to get up at 3 am.
Especially as a new skier, I’ll take all the help I can get to 1) alleviate all turning woes, and to 2) glide down the slopes as smoothly as possible. Tuning is one of the best ways to do that.
You don’t need to be a ski racer for your skis to get an all-star tune-up, and it’s better to do it now than when you’re face first in the snow because a turn went haywire on dull edges.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some jean shopping to do.
HUGE thank you to
- Blake for re-explaining, over-explaining, and answering my ten thousand blank looks and questions and tuning my beloved skis
- Thanks to Amy of Powder7 for facilitating
- Kristen for sharing her platform here at BraveSkiMom to let me wax poetic about the importance of tuning your skis
More From MacKennea
- Learning to Ski as an Adult, Lesson One: Fail Fast and Pivot
- Learning to Ski As An Adult, Part Two: Powder Day!
- Learning to Ski as an Adult: Practice Makes Progress
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