On Edge

Ski Tuning, Ski Bozeman, Bozeman Ski Shops

On Edge

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Coulthard, Ashley

Keep 'em sharp.

When preparing for ski season, you’ll want to think about the condition of your skis, especially the edges. You need your edges to be sharp enough to grab onto that cold, dry, Montana snow that we know and love, but also smooth enough to allow you to toss those fat skis sideways in the heart of your favorite chute.

The art of tuning edges is simple and requires few tools. You’ll need a work bench, tabletop, or your favorite pair of dorm-room chairs to set your skis on. A way to secure those skis to the work space saves you time and frustration. Your local ski shop carries a selection of ski-specific vises that work best. You’ll also need a file and file guide, which are available at your local shop.

Now your skis are ready for inspection. Each ski will have two sides to its steel edge, namely the base edge and the side edge. If any part of the edge is broken, split, or dented, you’ll need to bring them to your local ski shop for repair.

Grab your file and file guide—you’re ready to sharpen. The best file guide is one that offers a set angle for the base edge, usually one degree, but also an angle for your side edge, usually 89 degrees. The guide will slide along your ski, cutting only the edge portion of the ski with the file at its specific angle. Starting at the tip, pressure down on the ski with your file and file guide, making smooth, sweeping, six-inch-long passes toward the tail. These passes should overlap each other a few inches and will cut the steel edge material away, leaving you with a clean, new finish.

The idea is to remove surface rust, small burrs or imperfections on the edge. Once you’ve filed both base and side edges on both skis, you’re done rough-cutting your edge. Repeat the sweeping passes using a diamond stone or ceramic stone instead of your hand file, making an ever sharper, cleaner cut to the edges.

Now use the hand file without a guide, “detuning” or rounding off just the first few inches of the tips and tails of the skis edge. This makes getting out of your carve and putting your skis across the slope easier. The next step is to take the burrs off your newly cut edge. Using a gummi stone or pocket stone, make the same sweeping passes along the now-sharp point of your edge, at an approximate 45-degree angle, with moderate to heavy pressure.

Clean the bases off with a lint-free cloth or base-cleaning liquid if you are about to wax your skis, and you’re done. The most common mistake in edge-tuning is not deburring enough. It’s easy to make a quick detune or deburr with a gummi stone on the slopes if they are too sharp for your skiing style, so keep that gummi in your pocket for the first few ski days after tuning.


Ashley Coulthard is the head shop tech at Chalet Sports.

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