How to Sharpen Your Ski Edges at Home in 4 Easy Steps
Whether you only ski a few weekends per year or are out on the slopes all season long, you should take care of your skis to keep them in good condition. If you’re not sure how to sharpen your ski edges, have no fear. In the guide below, we will cover all aspects of ski sharpening and how you can easily do it at home. Maintaining your ski edges is an essential task to extend the life of your skis and retain maximum performance on the mountain.
Ski Sharpening 101
Before learning how to sharpen your skis, first you need to know the lingo. A ski has two edges, the base edge and the side edge. Each edge can be tuned at an angle, known as the edge bevel. Base bevels are typically between 0.5 and 1 degrees to give the edge flexibility. Base edges rarely need to be filed for most recreational skiers. Simply checking for burrs and removing them as they arise should be adequate for most base edge maintenance.
Side bevels are usually set to 89 degrees. The sharper the side angles, the more aggressive the cut into the mountain is. Getting your side edge hooked into the snow, also known as catching an edge, is possible in skiing, but tends to happen more to snowboarders. Unless you have specific needs or are a competitive racer, it is best to stick to the factory bevels.
A place to set your skis where they won’t slide around is essential. Dedicated ski vices exist and make the job easy, but are by no means necessary. Any stable platform where your skis can be placed horizontally and flat will work, preferably with some grip at the ends. We use two sawhorses, which work well.
You will need thick, strong rubber bands to hold the ski brake arms in the up position. This will give you a smooth base area free of obstruction.
Metal files are generally used for initially shaping the edge angles. They remove the most material, so if using metal or steel files, apply only light pressure in one direction.
Most recreational skiers can just use a diamond stone, rather than a metal file, to sharpen their ski edges. Diamond stones come in varying grits from coarse to fine. Ideally, having multiple grits and working from coarse to fine will provide the best finish and polish for your ski edges. However, most skiers can get by with just the medium, or all purpose, stones (200 – 400 grits) to maintain their edges throughout the season.
Gummy stones are used to remove burrs without removing too much material of the ski edge. This is a great tool for any skier to have on hand.
Guides come in a variety of shapes and forms but perform the same essential task of setting accurate edge angles. You can set your file guide at a particular bevel so that your ski edges are maintained at the same set angle.
How to Sharpen Your Ski Edges in 4 Easy Steps
Step 1: Prep Your Skis
To prep your skis, place them on your platform. This could be vices, sawhorses, a stack of books, or anything else you may be using to stabilize your skis.
Next, you need to get your brakes out of the way. Do this by looping your strong rubber band over one brake arm, over the binding heel piece, and hooking it on to the other brake arm. This should apply enough pressure to pull the brake arms up and out of the way.
Lastly, inspect your skis. Check for rust and burrs by sliding a towel along the edges and feeling for snags. This will help you identify areas that may need extra work.
Step 2: Remove Rust & Burrs
Place your diamond stone into your file guide, which should be set to the desired edge bevel. Typically the base angle is 1 degree and the side angle is 1-2 degrees. Check your factory ski settings if you are unsure.
Using smooth, overlapping strokes, sweep your file down the edge working from tip to tail. Start with your base edges and then transition to your side edges. Complete the full length of the ski 4-5 times, with any additional laps necessary for areas with more burrs or rust.
Step 3: Polish Your Skis
Rub your gummy stone over any lingering rust or imperfections for a smooth polished finish. Gummy stones are less abrasive than diamond stones, which make them great for a final touch up.
Step 4: Wipe Your Skis Clean
Clear your skis of any removed material or debris by wiping your edges with a towel and a small dose of rubbing alcohol.
Sharpening Ski Edges: FAQ's
Why Should You Sharpen Your Ski Edges?
Your ski edges provide a platform to grip your skis to the mountain and help provide stability. This is especially important in hard packed snow or icy conditions. Dull edges provide less grip and therefore less control in certain conditions. Additionally, sharpening your ski edges removes rust, burrs, and other imperfections that create drag and can weaken or reduce the life of your skis.
How Often Should You Sharpen Your Ski Edges?
The number of times you should tune your skis in a season depends on how many days you ski and the type of skiing you’re doing. Therefore, this differs skier to skier. In general, around 20 days of use or once per season is enough for most recreational skiers. Using a gummy stone to simply remove the rust and burrs without fully sharpening your edges is extremely quick and easy. This is recommended to extend the time needed to have a full edge sharpening done.
How Can You Tell If Your Skis Need Sharpening?
A quick and easy way to check your ski edges is by running your finger nail down the edge. If there are several snags, or burrs, along the way, then your skis may need tuning. Also, if running your nail along the edges does not shave the tips of your nail, the edges are likely too dull, and it is time for you to sharpen them.
Do You Wax or Sharpen First?
When tuning your skis at home, it’s best to wax them AFTER you have done any base or edge work. If you successfully sharpen your ski edges, check out this article on how to wax your skis to finish the job!
How Much Does it Cost to Sharpen Your Skis?
Most ski or general sport shops offer ski tuning services if you do not want to do it yourself. Sharpening ski edges alone usually costs $15-20. Waxing and other services can be added on for a complete tuning package, which typically ranges from $40-60.
What Does Detuning Your Skis Mean?
Detuning your skis means to purposely dull the edges in selected areas so that the edge doesn’t catch and therefore does not initiate a turn too quickly. This is typically done in areas of the tip and tail of the ski after first receiving a ski from the factory. How far you detune is dependent on personal preference, and you should ride your skis before deciding to detune them. Make sure to do this gradually because it’s harder to sharpen an already detuned edge.
Video: How to Sharpen Ski Edges
Sharpening your skis is a quick and easy task after you’ve done it a few times. Stone grinding and more complete ski tuning should be done at a shop by a trained ski technician every so often. Once per season for most recreational skiers is appropriate. Checking for burrs and rust throughout the season is your biggest task and can easily be remedied at home using a gummy stone or diamond stone.
Learning how to sharpen your ski edges will help to ensure your skis can dig into the snow without issue. This in turn helps improve your ability to control, turn and stop your skis quickly and efficiently. If you really want to step up your ski maintenance at home, then you should also learn how to wax your skis.
Do you have any other concerns or questions about sharpening your ski edges? Do you have a setup at home that’s worked well? Let us know in the comments below!