The purpose of tuning the edges of alpine (downhill) skis and snowboards is to improve the control of the ski or snowboard when turning and when moving across the snow. Also by having clean edges (no rust, dings, chips or burrs) the glide and control should be better.
When tuning the bases and edges the order of operations is important. You must do the side (hanging) edge first and then do the base edge. Reversing this order will have a very rude effect for the skier when gliding over a very hard surface or executing a hard turn. The result is usually a wipeout. The reverse order will result in a burr hanging down off the moving ski that will grab and catch a hard surface strongly. To repeat: side edge first, then base edge.
After you perform the edge tuning the edge will be sharp. So use caution when handling the skis or snowboard after tuning. You do not want to cut yourself or others.
Before you start to tune the edge of the ski or snowboard you want to make sure that there is no dirt or wax left on the metal edge. Dirt and wax will clog the file or other tools you are going to use. It can be very difficult to clean dirt and wax from some of these tools.
The available tools to do these tuning operations can be found on the Tools webpage.
There are a variety of different tools that can be used. If you are a recreational skier then you are most likely looking to use an "all in one" tool. If you are a racer you are likely looking for specific tools to do each task because of the extra precision afforded and needed at higher speeds. All in one tools include the Ergo Plus and DMT Diamond Edge Tuner. An all in one tools is usually augmented with a small coarse diamond file that is used "freehand".
Before setting an angle to the side or base edge you want to remove any rust or burrs from the edge. Rust will often appear after the skis have been sitting for while, particularly if they have been left damp or wet. Burrs will be caused the ski or snowboard running over hard objects such as stones, dirt or metal. Clearing rust and burrs off first means the next stage (setting the edge angles) will go faster and more smoothly. It also reduces the hazard that you'll snag something on a burr as you work.
Removing the rust or burr is usually done with a coarse grit diamond file. Diamond files work best with the work area being wet with water. The water helps the file move smoothly and helps keep the file from clogging with removed material. The first stage is to remove the bulk of the rust or burr. Work on the entire length of the edge (tip to tail) or at least on an area large than the specific problem area; you want to do this to prevent causing a "dishing" in a specific area of the edge. Use the freehand diamond file with a light to medium force to remove the rust or raised portion of the burr(s).
With the edges now clean and free of rust and most of the burr you can now start to use the edging tools. The edging tools will either already be set at a specific angle or you can set it for a specific angle. In general, when you set an edge "sharp" it will grab the snow or ice surface very agressively. This means an immediate response. This can be great for skilled skiers and snowboarders, but may be more than can be handled by a beginner. An example of a "sharp" edge would be a setting of 86° for the side and 0° for the base -- this sort of setting would give a ski that is hard to handle. More typically the side is set with an angle of 89° or 88° while the base is 0.5° or 1.0°. This makes the edge have a lower profile so the ski won't grab the snow too hard. More information about what the angles mean are described in another section.
Run the tool from tip to tail along the entire edge. It may take several passes to get the angle set. If you are doing a "touch up" job that is using the same angles as a previous tuning job then you may only need to do one or two passes. If this is a new set of angles or a there are a lot of dings and burrs then more passes may be needed. When the edge looks smooth and polished you are done. Caution: the edge is now sharp.
When choosing the tools to start with on the edge use the side tool first. The side tool will put a small micro-burr down the side. This can catch in the snow making for an unpleasant experience. By using the base tool second this micro-burr will be removed.
The freehand file is used as a final touch-up after the edge and base tool. The edge will be very sharp after the tools. This means that the edge tips and tails will grab snow and ice very readily. This can be dangerous. So the file (or sometimes an edging rubber) is used on the tip and tail edges to "break the edges". This means lightly passing the file or rubber over the sharp edges in the tip and tail regions. This will make it easier to control the ski or snowboard without it grabbing the surface suddenly while doing a turn.
Over time you will tune the edge many times resulting in the edge material being removed. The side edge in particular will start to receed making it difficult to set the edge. This is when you will want to use a sidewall planer or buy new skis. The sidewall planer literally removes (planes) off some of the ski's sidewall. This re-exposes the side edge allowing you to set the edge easily again.
Edge and base angles are are one of the most confusing topics to not only understand but describe. It doesn't help that there are a couple of different ways of the describing the same angle.
Note: Most manufacturers have a pre-set base angle that works well with the ski. Maintaining this angle is usually the best choice for skiers and snowboarders. For racers it's a different. The manufacturers usually will list what the ski or snowboard was originally set at.
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