By Dan Egan EBS Contributor
In the basement of my childhood home we had the ultimate ski-tuning bench. It was wide and long and covered in P-tex, wax drippings, metal shavings and wax scrapings. We had files, scrapers, Mom’s old irons, waxes of all colors, sticks of P-tex and corks for polishing the bottom of our skis.
It was our ski-testing laboratory and we experimented with wax combinations, mounting bindings in different positions and even making our own “mono” skis.
The skis were stacked across from the bench. With seven kids and two skiing parents, we had a huge collection of boards from Rossignol Strato and Olin Mark IV, to Hexel Honey Comb and K2 Cheeseburgers, with some Head Standards in the mix.
I remember spending hours down under the hanging lights working away preparing the skis for the next adventure.
By the time I was 14, I was tuning skis at the local ski shop just 7 miles outside of Boston and learning the finer techniques of base and edge repair as well as mounting bindings without jigs.
The shop sent me to ski tuning clinics and I discovered what a base and edge bevel was, how to structure the base so it would hold more wax, and other useful tricks like how to get the carbon out of clear P-tex so the repair would blend in better with the base.
The shop had a grinding machine to flatten the bases and sharpen the edges. It took great skill not to over grind the bottoms of the skis or burn the edges while swiping the ski across the belt on the grinder. This mechanical addition broadened my ability to fix core shots and flatten railed skis, and before long I was being called up to the sales floor to consult with customers on their damaged skis.
The result of all this ski repair knowledge helped me understand how a ski should perform when properly tuned. I could ski on a pair of skis and notice if the tips and tails were too sharp or the base was railed. Over time, I developed an appreciation for the manufacturing process and the difference between an injected construction and a layered or sandwich-built ski.
Understanding the construction, the flex, the mounting position of the bindings, plus how length plays into the arc of the ski all combined to ultimately allow me to pick the skis that would best suit my style of skiing in different conditions and situations.
With the many shapes, sizes, and types of skis on the market today, it’s more important than ever to have a proper tune on the ski or snowboard you choose to ride. Some skis have early rise, some have no camber, others are rockers, and that is just the beginning.
These products are engineered with a specific purpose. Shaped skis carve, fat skis float, rocker skis pivot, and some companies like Elan make a left- and right-footed ski. It only makes sense to tune these products to the manufacture’s specs.
The key to a good tune is the ski shop. Get to know the crew behind the scenes who do the work. Explain to them the type of rider you are and where on the mountain you like to ski. Find out if they hand-tune or use a machine. Ask them about edge bevel and what their recommendation is for you at the level you ski.
Take a few days this winter and demo skis from different shops and see if you can notice a difference in the tunes or ask the shop to structure your bases, or try a different bevel on your edges and discover for yourself how tuning can impact your skiing.
Extreme skiing pioneer Dan Egan has appeared in 12 Warren Miller ski films and countless others. He was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2016. Today he teaches clinics and guides trips at locations around the world including Big Sky, where he’ll be teaching Feb. 22-24, March 1-2 and March 8-10 and throughout the season (contact Big Sky Mountain Sports for availability). Find more information on Dan Egan camps and clinics by visiting skiclinics.com.
Join Dan Egan Feb. 28 and March 3 at 7 p.m. for his presentation “Mountain Odysseys: From the Arctic to the Alps” at the Big Sky Conference Center Theater.