Getting Up to Speed With Tuning
Whether you’re a pro athlete or a recreational day skier, everyone’s sticks can stand a little TLC. Beveling an edge, buffing or waxing; it can make the difference between a good ski day and a bad one so it pays to have a pro take a look.
You know you’re doing something right when people ship their skis to you for a tune. Jeff Butz at Podium Ski Service in Park City has been waxing and sharpening racers’ skis from across the country for 16 years. To say Podium knows a thing or two about what makes the difference between a lifeless ski and one that can move you to the next level is an understatement.
With all of the ski shops in Park City, why did you go and open your own?
I definitely tune a lot of skis but part of the benefit is training and working with people who want to work; where they get to do a good job and take pride in their work. There aren’t a lot of places doing what we do. We have a great local reputation. We specialize in ski tuning. It’s our only business so we really focus on that while with the other shops, tuning is just a department of a whole operation.
Why does it matter where you get your skis tuned?
We do more than what a high-volume shop can do. You know where the skis show up with a ticket on it and they do the same thing to every pair. You want communication and contact with the store. You need to take the time to ask the questions if you want the right tune for your customer. We give a lot more individual attention because a good tune depends on the type of skier you are and the terrain you like to ski. We tailor the tune whether you are an elite athlete or an old guy who likes to ski Deer Valley.
If I am an intermediate skier why would I want a high-end tune?
Most people don’t give themselves enough credit. They may not have enough experience with ski tuning so they’ll struggle with a bad tune and blame themselves. We give them the consistency and confidence that the ski will do what it’s supposed to do.
How are tunes different depending on a skier’s experience?
A high level athlete will have a more aggressive edge bevel because they want something that’s sharp and more reactive. They aren’t making the mistakes that would warrant a more relaxed, user friendly experience. Someone like Bodie Miller may have a flat or half-degree base bevel but a four-degree side bevel. (A base bevel will affect how a ski pivots on the snow and a side bevel determines how it grips the snow.) A recreational skier will normally ski an all mountain ski with a one-degree base bevel and two-degree side edge bevel.
What have you learned from tuning US Ski Team racers?
You really learn what a small difference can make in someone’s skiing even at a recreational level.
If you are struggling with your equipment should you blame your tune first?
No matter how perfect your skis are you will struggle if you have ill-fitting boots. Your boots transfer what you are doing to your skis. But if those are dialed in and you are still struggling, then it’s probably your tune.
What is your best advice for locals?
For the type of season we normally have, you can go all year without a tune if your skis are in good shape. If you feel your edges and notice they’re rough and jagged, it’s time to get them smoothed out and rewaxed. It’d be great if you waxed your skis every three to five days you ski. It will condition and maintain the base so that you can go longer between full tunes.
Racers wax every time they go out.
Advice for visiting skiers?
Bring them in and we can take a look. All they may need is a little wax. Also, if you haven’t skied since last season, they’re probably rusty. If you have major base damage we can reapoxy and make it look like new. Your skis may not be goners. You can choose to do more or less. If you have dated equipment you aren’t doing yourself any favors. If it’s five or six years old consider something more modern.
What’s the first thing you do when someone brings you their skis?
I have a conversation with the customer to see what the ski needs. It depends on where they like to ski and what type of ski they have. Then I see how flat the ski is and what its actual condition is. I check the bevel and make a recommendation as to what the ski needs to be right. You might only need an edge sharpening instead of a full tune.
What if you want to do it yourself, how do you get started?
Start with skis that are in good shape. Don’t learn to tune on bad skis. Learn how to wax skis and smooth out edges; keeping edges sharper and then go up into more advance tuning. You can always check out those YouTube tuning videos. Some are informative and some I wouldn’t recommend. We host private tuning clinics for people who are setting up their garage. We also sell waxing tools and are happy to show you how to use them.
If you are experienced what are some things you might not know about tuning?
Base repair can be tricky. Calculate how thick your ski base is. You can regrind it about six times before you run out of materials but you can sharpen and wax maybe 50 times. So doing a little bit of maintenance all the time will give you better consistency in your skiing and a longer ski life versus letting them get into really bad shape and having to remove all that.