Beyond the obvious – dry bases, dull edges, maybe a core shot or two – why should you get your skis tuned? To go faster, of course.
So, momentarily ignoring irons, files, and the P-tex gun, it’s time to talk about an all-important reason to have your skis tuned consistently. It takes a skilled hand, a strategic understanding of textures, and a very, very expensive stone. And when ground into the base of a ski it is the true denominator of speed.
Structure & Ski Tuning
As the bases of your skis engage with the snow below, friction between the two converts kinetic energy into heat. And given heat’s propensity for returning frozen water back to it’s normal, liquidy self, a layer of water develops. Though short lived, it is this watery bridge between bases and snow that allows your skis to slide.
Now that being said, this layer of water can also be a speed thief – if too much builds up it creates suction, which disrupts your skis ability to glide fore and aft and side to side. And while it has taken me a while to get to it, this is where structure comes in.
Think of structure as a channel system. When matched appropriately to snow conditions and temperatures, the structure on your bases helps funnel the friction-produced water from under the ski and out to the edges where it is released. It is this shedding process that eliminates suction, and enables your skis to slide forward along the snow.
Structure can also be used to play with the lateral movement of a ski. Depending on the orientation of the pattern, and the depth of the grooves and their proximity to each other, structure heavily influences how a ski reacts to lateral forces. Looking for quick, side to side maneuverability? Try a cross-hatch pattern. Want stable confidence for all out, tips-down-hill speed? A straight linear pattern will be the answer. The possibilities for grinds are endless, with every region, mountain, and even shop tech creating their own sworn-by hybrids.
When implemented by experienced, knowledgeable ski tuners, the right structure on a ski will make changes to its performance you didn’t think were possible. With the current snow’s water content and temperature in mind, a local tune shop will configure their stones accordingly. These insightfully devised structures will ensure that your skis are adequately equipped to manage the amount of water building up underneath them, while accounting for the current coarseness of the snow.
So while dry bases, core shots, and dull edges are absolutely important reasons to bring your skis in to your local tune shop (if you’re in Park City, I humbly recommend Rennstall), take a minute to investigate the structure of your bases. If you haven’t had a fresh base grind in recent memory, it’s time to hand your skis over to the experts.
Nate Tomlinson, Content Writer