Tales From the Tuning Room

The waxing room at Collingwood’s Skiis & Biikes location where anyone can get their wax on.

words & photos:: Colin Field

You know that impression you have of the tuning room? The one where a bunch of brain-dead ski bums huff wax all day while setting stuff on fire in a dingy, dark basement? As much as we romanticize this idea of the tuning room, those days are long gone. They went the way of the monoboard and the Ditrani. 

While we may lament the loss of the good old days, the brain cells of ski techs everywhere are much happier. What you’ll find now, especially at the Skiis & Biikes Collingwood location, is a clean, well-ventilated, state-of-the-art workshop where guys with tons of experience tune skis for every level of skier. Whether you’re a complete gorb, or a world-renowned pro, these guys have you covered. 

Brett Proctor loading up the Montana tuning machine.

Brett Proctor has been working at Skiis & Biikes since 1993, and over those many years, he’s seen it all. And  just like the often used bike-shop expression, “I was just riding along…” the ski techs get it too. 

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“People will come in with a bent tip, a delaminated top sheet, or a separated edge and be like, ‘I was just skiing along,’” says Proctor. “We still get people coming in with 30-or-40-year-old skis too. We usually warn them about the bindings being too old to service.” 

But do you really need to get your skis tuned? Proctor says you do. 

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“It helps you ski,” he says matter-of-factly. “Some people say, I’m a good skier, I don’t need a tune. But good skiers need it as much as a beginner. The ski needs to be flat so it pivots easily and it needs to be waxed so it glides easily, and the edges need to be sharp for an edge to hold.” 

The actual process of ski tuning is pretty simple. 

“We examine it, take a look at the base, see what condition it’s in,” he says. “We examine it for gouges, take a look at the edges, how much material is left that sort of thing.”

Then they run the ski through the massive, and expensive Montana ski tuning machine.  

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“That machine does everything but waxing,” says Proctor. “It does the base grind, cleans it up, flattens it, does the edges. It basically does everything but the wax. Then our regular tune goes from there to this wax wheel and buffer. For our race tuning we do a fancier structure and a few more passes in the machine. With the race stuff we hand finish, so we diamond stone and polish the edges a little bit more, try to make them sharper and then we do a hot wax.”

Brett Proctor hand-finishing some race skis.

So how often should the average weekend warrior be getting their skis tuned? 

“That’s a tricky question,” he says. “But it really depends on conditions. In wet snow, the edges will wear out quicker. You don’t keep as sharp an edge. If you’re out there all day, eight days a month, then you should get your skis tuned at a shop once a month. You can also diamond stone the edges yourself after every ski. That’s something everybody can do.”

That’ll buff right out.

So what does it feel like to ski on freshly-tuned skis? Remember how much you loved your skis when you first got them? When the edges would hold, the base would glide and they’d do exactly what you wanted them to do? Remember when that new set of skis had you convinced that new gear was the path to becoming a better skier? 

Freshly tuned skis feel exactly like that. And that feeling is, to borrow an expression, like money in the bank. —ML

To learn more about tuning, head over to the Skiis and Biikes blog!