The first shop dedicated purely to ski tuning has set up in Tignes this winter. We get the lowdown on this little-known art from Gravity Lab owner Florent Carreyron and pick up some handy tips for keeping our skis and boards in top condition.
First question, why should you get your skis tuned?
To maintain your skis in good condition and use 100% of their performance on the snow. If you keep riding on skis damaged with gauges, cracked sidewalls or worn edges, it can get worse and even become dangerous. Water can get inside the core causing the ski to delaminate and start falling apart. It’s essential to always maintain your equipment as this will increase durability and provide performance and fun!
OK, so how do you know when your skis need tuning?
It depends on how much you’re riding, the weather conditions and where you store them when off the hill. I recommend you ‘hot wax’ skis regularly; it’s usually not too expensive and this will improve the glide. The more you wax, the faster you ride.
Don’t wait for the rust to come – that will decrease the ‘ski life’. Keeping your ski or snowboard edges sharp will assure you good grip on hard packed snow and make sure you stop quickly when needed, preventing accidents. It will also help with linking turns together smoothly and not having ‘catchy’ skis.
What’s the process for tuning?
There are four important stages:
When out of the factory press, skis or snowboards are not usually perfectly flat with right base/side edge angles. They are usually way too sharp on tips and tails, causing that catchy feeling and making it hard to turn. Also, factory wax or some glue residues can be left over, which won’t help you glide nicely. That’s why I recommend grinding your skis flat and making sure the edges are the proper angles.
We use a stone base grinder because it takes off less material compared to a basic belt grinder. We program the machine to grind various lines and patterns into the ski depending on snow, weather conditions and the style of skiing. They help you glide over the snow – otherwise your skis can act like suction cups on the snow and you feel stuck to the piste. When the base is damaged with scratches or deep gauges we use a polyethylene material to fill them in.
To allow you to link turns properly and keep a grip on hard packed snow it’s critical to keep the edges sharp. Now your ski base is flat, the base of the edge needs to be less than a degree off to allow you to turn nicely. The angle on the side edging depends on your type and level of riding but is usually between 87 degrees for racers and 89-90 degrees for everybody else. This process is usually only possible with specific machinery but can be done by hand with real care, skills and the right tools.
When your skis are off the machines and finally on the workbench, it’s time to make sure the edges are not too sharp, especially on tip and tail. Using specific diamond stone and gummy stone, any ‘catchy’ bits are taken away to get a smooth aspect and the base is cleaned off before waxing.
A hot wax completes the process. I recommend leaving the wax on the skis when you store them away at the end of the season. This will keep a good protection on the base, feed it and prevent the skis from drying out. It’s important to store the skis in a shady, dry and cool place. Preferably, lay them flat – treat them like French wine bottles!
Using an iron specifically designed for the ski’s shape, a thin layer of wax is applied by heating up the base and the wax block. The base is mostly composed of polyethylene and when heated the pores of this material open up and absorb the wax. When it has cooled down the excess of wax is scraped off and the base is brushed to get a nice polished aspect.
Now it’s time to ride!
Is there anything we can do at home to look after our skis?
If you have the skills and the basic tools, you can wax and sharpen your skis at home. Using liquid wax tubes or powder will have a temporary effect, but only a hot wax can do a real job. Unfortunately, a base grind will require some expensive machinery and serious skills!
Tell us about the ski tuning service you offer?
During 12 years in the ski industry living in both France and Canada, I’ve managed a few shops including a specific ski tuning shop in Whistler, where I learned most of my skills. I was riding powder during the day and looking after people skis at night – not a bad life! I had the idea that I’d bring this concept back to France.
We are a specific ski and snowboard workshop where tuning is our only activity – no rentals or ski equipment for sale – we are technicians! We offer all types of service from regular to custom tune and specific race preparation. We like to discuss with our customers their specific requirements to match their style. Working with hotels, shops and ski schools in Tignes, we pick up skis at the end of the day, tune overnight and deliver them back in the morning.
Our shop is open for people to come in and see what really happens when skis get tuned. We’re there non-stop during the winter from mid-afternoon until late. Outside of these hours… sorry, we’re busy skiing!
Find the Gravity Lab shop on Rue de la Poste, opposite the Post Office.
www.gravitylab-tignes.fr / +33(0)4 79 00 58 84
A full list of partner shops/hotels/ski schools is available on the website.
Check the Gravity Lab Facebook page for details of ski tuning demonstrations.