Tuning Blog

by John Ellis, U14/16/FIS Coach, Gear
Geek, and SprongoMan.



  Where to start? Here's an
introduction to basic daily tuning

  • 17 Nov 2014 2:28 PM | John Ellis (Administrator)

    Note: Famous Dare Devil, Speed Skier, and Ski Racer/Coach Caden Hendrix skis all over the world and knows a thing or two about Ski Tuning. Here are two of Caden's Top Tips for CMAC Racers and Wax Dads:

    • A couple important tips. Always have a good sidewall planer. This is very important to rip down that sidewall so that you can get your (side) edge bevel true and to the accurate degree that you are comfortable. When you use a sidewall planer make sure that you don't take down too much material all at once because that can effect the integrity (of the ski).
    • Tip #2. Buy yourself a heavy duty Panzar file to help take down the sidewall in the tip and tail section of the ski. They also come in handy for reworking the edge if you have damage to the edges from rocks. With a Panzar you can really rip down a lot of material, then move to a good chrome file with medium to fine teeth. Then from there to a series of wetstone's diamond stones, to get that nice sharp clean edge.

    Gadget note: Make sure to wear a good pair of work gloves if hand-holding a Panzer file. They can cut into your hands really fast too.

    Thanks Caden!

    -John


  • 19 Oct 2014 5:54 PM | John Ellis (Administrator)

    Racer Parent: "I've seen the huge quivers of some of our racers- even the Mitey Mites. Must I buy ALL those skis?! It seems crazy to me!!"

    Gadget responds: "You mean like 'racer/trainer' setups where the kids have 2 pairs of everything?"

    RP: "Exactly! What's the deal with that anyway?"

    G: "For sure, U-8s, 10s, and 12s DO NOT NEED Racer/Trainer setups. U-14, maybe; U-16 probably. By the time the kids are at the FIS level, they do really need them. But the Good News is there are tricks to get some of the benefits of multiple pairs, without the cost."

    RP: "What?! There are ways to get 1 pair of skis to perform like Racer/Trainer sets?"

    G: "Well- yes, no and it depends. Yes- for the youngest racers, 1 pair can perform as well as 2. No, at the highest levels, kids need more skis. And It Depends on how big and strong the kids are, how fast, and how much they ski.

    Here are two tricks you can use:

    1.) Mark one set of inside edges as 'Race' and the opposite as 'TRAIN." R and T also work. The racer then uses the right ski on the left foot (and vice versa) for training, and the right ski on the right foot, left on left for racing.  This keeps one set of inside edges in better shape.

    2.) After ironing on the 'wax of the day,' leave it a bit thick- just a light scraping to smooth the surface a bit. The racer can train and slip the course before the race, THEN fully scrape and brush the ski. The excess wax  can help protect the thin layer of wax that is the fastest for the race itself."

    RP: "OK, that is kind of cool, but I am still confused. When does my kid NEED multiple pairs of skis?"

    G: So, when the differences in time between your kid and the other top kids gets much smaller, AND/OR your kid gets VERY strong, AND/OR the speeds get pretty high, AND/OR conditions really suck- then you need multiple pairs.

    For Example- Warm Up Slalom 2014 u14 boys class. The spread from 1st to 10th place was nearly 10 seconds. It is unlikely that the Racer Trainers were much benefit. But in the 2014 u-16 Western Regional Championship GS, the spread was only 3 seconds. Can't let any speed slip away in that sort of race."

    RP: "My u12 daughter only weights 81 pounds, and she barely skis the wax off of her skis in two days. She did get a 9th place once though. Does she need racer/trainers?" 

    G: " I really do not think so,"

    RP: " My u-14 tears it up though. He is 145 pounds and keeps bending skis. He has won a couple of races and skis over 100 days a season now. Does HE need more than 1 pair per discipline?"

    G: "Yup, I think your son can benefit from racer/trainers."


    The bottom line is this: When your kid's coach says they need better equipment, they probably do.  If unsure, you should ask a coach or two. You do not need to follow the lead of the other parents.


    Full disclosure: We DO have more than one pair per discipline, and have for a while. If you can stand having more than once pair per discipline around, it can potentially prevent a few headaches. This is because multiple pairs makes it easier to keep one pair nice and fast- and you also have a spare should something happen to 1 pair of skis. If the athlete is skiing over 100 days/year, they probably do need multiple pairs. And yes, RP is also me... but I am a RP, so this just reveals one of my many alternate personalities.

    Please write if you need further clarification.

    -John

  • 30 Aug 2014 1:03 AM | John Ellis (Administrator)

    This ties into the post about Ski Tuning Education.

    WARNING: New Ski Prep is one of the most advanced tuning jobs to do, and the performance of the New Skis (that you just paid so dearly for) hinges on Getting The Tune RIGHT!!

    So considering that (and the fact that most people have neither the time nor the proper tools for this particular job), I suggest you do the following:

    Take the New skis (or quiver of skis) to Your Favorite Tuner (if you need suggestions, please write).

    BUT- lots of skis come into the shops this time of year. You want your racers' skis tuned Better Than Average (if not great) right? How do you ensure the best possible tune for the $$? By being Picky with how you specify the skis to be tuned, and Checking Their Work, that's how!! 

    Here are the specs for you- by age and ski type. I will suggest settings for all these:

    • Base Specs: (Flatness and Structure)
    • Edge Bevels: (Base and Side)
    • Wax: (Scrape or no-Scrape)

    Bases:

    Flatness: All Ages,All Ski Types- Tell the shops you want the bases Dead Flat- not almost flat or flat here and there. Be willing to pay extra money if they seem resistant or hesitant. If they are unwilling or unable, Walk Away. Change Shops. Flat bases are CRITICAL to the performance of the ski, and very few skis (especially on Junior skis)  are shipped with flat bases.  I have to give a shout out to Fischer here however- they simply have the finest New Ski finish on the planet, day in, day out.

    Structure: Most skis come with a pretty good structure these days, but often the skis must be re-ground anyway because they are not flat.  If the shop is using hand tools to flatten the bases, they may not need to grind the ski. BE VERY PICKY with the structure on Speed Skis. Ask the advice of your shop or of one us coaches. If you do get speed skis ground, ask the shop to break in the bases and wax them for you too.

    Edge Bevels:

    U-8, U10, some U-12; all ski types: 1 degree base bevel, 1 degree side bevel.  This will create a 90 degree edge that holds well, but is very forgiving and very durable. 

    Advanced U-12, U-14: 1 degree base bevel, 2-3 degrees side bevel. The ski will hook up and carve harder with a 3 degree bevel. I suggest you move at u-12/u-14 straight from a 1 degree side bevel to a 3 degree and not bother with a 2 degree.

    Advanced U-14 and U-16: 

    • 3 degrees side bevel for all race skis. It just makes things easier to use the same setup, and there is no good reason to use less than 3 degrees bevel for any discipline.
    • .7 base edge bevel for Slalom, 1 degree base bevel  GS. Speed skis should have a 1 degree base bevel with a progressive bevel at the tip and tail (progressing up to 2 degrees). Write if you want to know how to do this.

    FIS: 

    • Slalom .5 base, 3-4 degrees side. 4 degrees only for the iciest conditions and strongest racers.
    • GS      .7 base, 3 degree side.
    • Speed  1 base (progressing to 2) and 3 degrees on the side.

    Wax:

    Always have the shops finish the tuning job by waxing and scraping. This way, you can check the skis with a true bar while still at the shop. If there is a problem, leave them or get a refund. If they are great, make sure you tell them. A little Positive Feedback goes a long ways.

    Hotboxing:Baking skis in a waxing oven is a great way to help make skis faster. It is a nice option for tech skis, but it is almost a requirement for Speed Skis these days. If you want to know more about hotboxing, please write.

    If you want to know more, I have much more posted here in the blog, and I will continue to research and give you my best guidance.

    Side note: In case you are wondering, I have experimented with base bevels from .25 degree all the way up to 2.5 degrees and with side bevels from 0 degrees up to 10. The bevel settings I am suggesting here are the result of those experiments and due to multiple conversations with great racers, techs, and coaches about bevel angles. These settings WORK!

    See you on the hill!
    -Gadget

  • 30 Jul 2014 8:08 AM | John Ellis (Administrator)

    I am currently developing a curriculum for 3 levels for Tuning Certification for CMAC. I am not sure exactly the direction it will go yet (and I would love some input), but my gut feelings is for 3 levels of classes/certifications starting with Daily Maintenance, then Heavy Tuning, and finally Speed Ski Prep. Each level will have its own medals/awards, recognition, etc.

    My ultimate goal is that our Juniors will be able to go to regional competitions without parents in tow as a support crew- and be the best prepared racers there! This sort of training is standard at academies, and I hope to match or better their quality. 

    For parents- not only will you know your kids are well prepared, you can also have more free time- instead of Tuning Time! Let's get the Racers doing the tuning again!!

  • 30 Jul 2014 7:25 AM | John Ellis (Administrator)
  • 30 Jul 2014 7:00 AM | John Ellis (Administrator)
    I ran many more experiments this past Winter and I am ready to apply the lessons learned to any and all CMAC racers' equipment.  I will update this blog when I finish prepping Race Skis for the new season. So far, I've prepped 16 pairs...

    Open this link to find more than 35 separate tuning blog entries.

    ADVANCED SERIES:

    START HERE?

    WAX SERIES- LARGE! 

    EASY TUNING SERIES- 

    TOOL SERIES


  • 14 May 2014 6:32 PM | John Ellis (Administrator)

    Recommended Ski Sizes by Age Class

    Note for ALL ages:

    Ski size preferences are very personal, and are only part of the racer’s setup. Therefore, this is ONLY a guide, NOT hard and fast rules- with the exception of the strict FIS equipment rules. Work with your coaches to help you decide on best ski sizes for your racers.

    U-8/10: Skier age 6-9

    The youngest racers need a tuned and waxed front side/all mountain ski/junior race (waist width 65-75mm) in good shape as their primary skis, NOT Twin Tip fat skis. Rockered fat skis discourage carving and are only useful on powder days.

    Skier Height

    Eyebrow

    All-Mountain Ski Length

    4’       (122 cm)

    3’ 9”   (115 cm)

    120 CM

    4’ 2”  (126 cm)

    3’ 11” (120 cm)

    120 CM

    4’ 4”  (132 cm)

    4’ 1”    (125 cm)

    125 CM

    4’6”   (137 cm)

    4’3”     (130 cm)

    130 CM

    4’ 8”  (142 cm)

    4’5”     (135 cm)

    135 CM

    4’10” (147 cm)

    4’7”     (140 cm)

    140 CM

    5’       (152 cm)

    4’9”    (145 cm)

    145 CM

    Kids who are very slight can use 5 cm shorter, stocky and/or super aggressive, 5cm longer.

    U-12: Skier age 10-11

    Skiers in this age group are predominantly Pre Growth Spurt, but are getting much more technically advanced. Slalom and GS skis are recommended, SG skis are nice if you can find them but get very little use. Junior GS skis in a longer length are easier to find and can be used instead. Twin Tips are fun for Powder days. Slalom and GS rule of thumb: Slalom skis: chin to nose height. GS Skis: just past top of head.

    Skier Height

    Slalom

    GS

    SG

    Twin Tips

    4’6”

    130 cm

    140 cm

    155 cm (GS ok)

    135 cm

    4’8”

    135 cm

    145 cm

    160 cm (GS ok) 

    140 cm

    4’10”

    140 cm

    155 cm

    165 cm (GS ok)

    145 cm

    5’

    145cm

    160 cm

    170 cm (GS ok)

    150 cm

    5’2”

    150 cm

    165 cm

    175 tweener GS

    155 cm

    5’4”

    155 cm  tweener

    170 cm  tweener

    180-185 SG

    160 cm

    5’6”

    155 cm  tweener

    175 cm  tweener

    185-195 SG

    165 cm

    5’8”

    155 cm  FIS

    177+ cm adult

    190-200 SG

    170 cm

     


  • 14 May 2014 6:30 PM | John Ellis (Administrator)

    Recommended Ski Sizes by Age Class

    Note for ALL ages:

    Ski size preferences are very personal, and are only part of the racer’s setup. Therefore, this is ONLY a guide, NOT hard and fast rules- with the exception of the strict FIS equipment rules. Work with your coaches to help you decide on best ski sizes for your racers.


    U-14/ 1st year U-16: Skier age 12-14. In color for clarity.

    Junior TECH and Speed skis: Maximum weight about 115 lb:  Radius (in parenthesis)

    Skier Height

    Slalom

    GS

    SG

    DH  (SG skis OK)

    4’10

    145

    160

    170-175 (21 M+)

    Same or longer

    5’

    150

    165

    175-180 (23 M+)

    Same or longer

    5’2”

    150

    170

    180-185 (23 M+)

    Same or longer

    5’4”

    150

    175

    185-190 (27 M+)

    Same or longer

    Note:  “Tweener” skis are adult construction skis with a junior plate, or visa-versa depending on brand.   Tweener TECH, Junior Speed skis: Maximum weight 130lbs. Radius (in parenthesis)

    Skier Height

    Slalom

    GS

    SG

    DH  (SG skis OK)

    5’2”

    150

    165

    185 (27 M+)

    Same or longer

    5’4”

    150

    170

    190 (27 M+)

    Same or longer

    5’6”

    155

    175

    190 (27 M+)

    Same or longer

    5’8”

    155

    175

    195 (27 M+)

    Same or longer

    FIS (adult, legal or once-legal) skis : Weight 125lbs. and above. Radius (in parenthesis)

    Skier Height

    Slalom

    GS

    SG

    DH  (SG skis OK)

    5’6”

    155

    175 (21 M+)

    195 (27 M+)

    Same or longer

    5’8”

    155 W/160 M

    180 (23 M+)

    200 (33 M+)

    Same or longer

    5’10” and above

    155 W/165 M

    183 (23 M+)

    205 (33 M+)

    Same or longer

     

    U-16 2nd year: 

    Bigger Skis to help the racer transition to FIS skis are highly recommended.  Kids are very adaptable at this age, and most are able to adjust to the new equipment quickly. It is best to start in the summer.

    Women

    Slalom

    GS

    SG

    DH

    120lbs or below

    155 tweener

    180+ (23 M+)

    195 (33 M+)

    200 (40 M+)

    125lbs or above

    155 FIS

    183+ (23 M+)

    200 (33 M+)

    205 (40 M+)

    Men

    Slalom

    GS

    SG

    DH

    150 lbs. or below

    155/160

    182 + (27 M+)

    200 (33 M+)

    205 (40 M+)

    160 lbs. or above

    165

    185 + (27 M+)

    205 (33 M+)

    210 (40 M+)

     

    FIS Skiers- FIS 2014-2015 regulations: Smaller sizes= Entry Level FIS. Ski waist width is also critical. Skis made in 2012 or after are required due to changes in profile width.

    Gender

    Slalom

    GS

    SG

    DH

    Women

    155+

    183/188 (30 M+)

    200/205 (40 M+)

    205/210 (50 M+)

    Men

    165+

    190/195 (35 M+)

    205/210 (45 M+)

    213/218 (50 M+)

     

  • 10 May 2014 4:34 PM | John Ellis (Administrator)

    Part 1: Planning and managing ski life/selecting used skis.

    As most Long Time skiers (especially those with a race background) know, Skis Change with time. What I am attempting to address here is how to manage your family quiver to maximize the useful life of your skis. I will talk about:

    Buying and Selling

    Construction types

    Disciplines (Slalom, GS etc.)

    Skier-Age considerations, ages 3-18

    Re-use, resell, repair, or scrap.


    Buying and Selling Skis: Buying used skis is always challenging because it is so hard to know what you are getting. If buying from another family on the team, you at least have some idea of how the ski was used, how it was maintained, and how it performed. In general, the More you Know about a ski’s history, the more the ski is worth. The less you know, the less it is worth and the greater chance of it being a bad deal.


    Construction types: In general, there are 2 types of construction used on high performance and race skis: Cap and Laminate. The third main construction (torsion box) has fallen into disfavor and is mostly used on recreational skis as it is cheaper to make.

    (cap ski)

    Cap skis (most Atomic, Salomon and Elan) wear invisibly because the graphics are molded into the construction. The ski might have lost all of its “pop” and liveliness but still looks like new. The age of the ski and the days of use must be tracked closely or you might give your racer a dog of a ski- without even knowing it. In the picture above, you can see that the colors are as thick as the entire top (and side) layer of the ski.

    (laminate ski)

    Laminate skis (Nearly all other manufacturers) wear externally because the graphics are just painted onto the ski, then covered with a clear coat. Each day of use on the ski shows dramatically. The tops begin to peel off, cut develop on the top edge, etc. Sometimes the skis begin to delaminate after really hard use. It is much easier to tell how old the ski is and how hard it has been used. In the picture above, you can see the graphics are paper-thin.

    Race Discipline: This is critical. The useful life of the ski is totally related to its discipline. In general, skis lose edge hold and “pop” over time, but they gain glide speed and forgiveness. 


    Slalom skis are best (after proper prep) right out of the box. However, some (see next section), lighter skiers MAY appreciate an older Slalom ski.

    Giant Slalom skis typically are best after a couple of days of use, and they can stay really good for quite a while- depending on snow conditions, maintenance and damage.

    Speed skis (SG and DH) get faster and faster with use- until they start to wear out or are damaged beyond repair. Knowing the seller and the history of the ski is important too. Speed skis often bend during a crash. A ski that is bent back MAY be OK, but it is important to know if the ski has suffered any crash damage.


    Skier Age: Very few kids younger than 5 or 6 really “push” a ski. They do not yet have the strength or speed to develop a lot of force.  So the littlest skis tend to last a long time. Perhaps TOO long- because those little, light bindings take a beating and are rarely given any attention. There are many obsolete kids’ skis out there- too old to be useful. About 5-6 years is the maximum useful age of this type of ski. Also- the flatness of the bases and condition of the ski edges IS ULTRA CRITICAL for the youngest skiers. Early proper ski technique fundamentals include balance, edge control and rotary motions. A flat ski responds properly and rewards proper motions with great performance. A concave ski (80%+ of little kids’ skis I have seen) will not respond properly and the skier learns to force the ski to do what they need. This is a bad habit and can take years to unlearn.  A convex ski (or skis that are too short) will wander and hunt. Such a ski can make a young skier (understandably) nervous about going fast. Learning to let a ski run (glide) is another basic skill that a young skier can learn and use their whole life. It is best to start them out right with flat skis and smooth, burr-free edges. A little work on skis at this age will pay BIG dividends later.


    Grade school age (6-11) kids have a HUGE range of skier ability and size. The main factor in successfully choosing skis (and all ski equipment) at this age is to Stay On Top of their needs. DO NOT buy too early for future needs, and DO NOT WAIT until “next season” if they out-grow (or ski out of) current gear.   As an example- I watched 1 parent buy their daughter skis that were 2-3 years too advanced for her. They made a “great deal” on some excellent skis, and it just seemed like a good decision. The poor girl skied 1 day on the skis, got frustrated and quit racing all together. Shame- she was one of the better skiers in her age group up to that time. Your kid’s coaches are your best source of advice about gear needs. Very few ski stores really understand what racers and high performance kid-skiers need- or have the gear that they need. 


    Middle and High School kids: Again- there is a HUGE range in size and ability, but in addition there are ski regulations that begin to come into play. One of the BEST ways to buy used skis for this age is to buy from families/skiers that you know. Since I mentioned that Slalom skis “age” and lose pop fairly quickly, 1 option is to buy a slight worn ski from a heavier, stronger skier. One of my best friends used to sell me his “worn out” Slalom skis. He was about 35lbs. heavier than I was. By the time he softened them up a bit, they were perfect for me! GS and Speed skis last longer, but ski regulations must be considered too. Skiers should be progressing up in size so that they will be ready for FIS skis when they get to that age.


    (this is a repairable bend)


    Re-use, Repair or Scrap: If you have ever been in my shop or hung out with me in a wax room, you know I will try to fix almost anything- for fun/challenge if for no other reason. But having done all those repairs, I can tell you sometimes it makes more sense to just throw the skis away- or down-cycle/recycle them if you are more creative.


    (this bend is not repairable- the ski is splitting)


     Bent skis CAN be bent back- most of the time. The skis will not be as strong as they once were, but they will keep going. Occasionally, the skis are actually better after suffering a big crash and being re-straightened. This mostly happens with Speed skis, which sometime glide better after such abuse. The process of straighten a bent ski isn’t too hard, I have taught several people how to do it but I will not explain it in print. Re-Use Bent skis whenever possible.


    (repairable de-lamination)


    De-laminated skis CAN be successfully re-glued back together- more often than not- but this should only be done to skis out of warranty and that won’t be resold. If I do major repairs on a ski, I generally give them away when we are done using them. I consider them to have ZERO resale value.  The main challenge is opening the ski up enough to get glue back into the ski. Then all you have to do is clamp the ski together and wait for the glue to dry.


    (this is a ski that has been badly over-heated. the base is pulling away from the core)


    Base repairs can range from simple scratches to whole sections of the base being torn away. How much you choose to do will depend on your skill and determination. The resale value of the ski after a major repair is very little, but they can often be made to ski pretty well. I repair most damage because we wear out enough skis. I try to fix whatever I can to save money.


    (this ski will require extensive base patching. it was brand new...)


    Scrap? IF the ski has suffered traumatic damage (broken core or laminate, torn edge, a bend beyond about 30 degrees), it is time to throw it away. I have made such skis into Trophies or other Non-skiing use, but such major troubles are beyond reasonable repair. The only exception is keeping ONE ski if only 1 of a pair is damaged. Pairing together odd skis which would you normally not think of as a pair CAN be done. It is worth experimenting, if you are so inclined.


    In case you are wondering, most of these skis were destroyed in my shop. Such is the fun of being Gadget!

  • 19 Apr 2014 5:16 PM | John Ellis (Administrator)
    You may well have a couple races left (as we do), but for sure you are starting to put some gear away. I will give an overview first, then the details with some photos included.

    Some people try to sell some really NASTY gear- don't be that person! Here is a list to make sure your gear is ready for next year whether you keep it or sell it.

    Keeping OR selling it:
    Clean and dry
    Tune and wax
    Wax the edges
    Turn Down bindings
    Repair and/or scrap

    Clean and dry- you should really do this everyday, but it is hard sometimes I know.

    Dry gloves and clothes before packing to prevent mold and mildew.


    This is our drying rack. It is a little too full.


    Separate Liners from boots and allow to dry for several days or so... nice and slowly.


    Use Lysol to freshen up stinky liners. Your kids' roommate at camp will be glad you did!




    These are NOT skis you want to buy!


    Note the rust. NOT put away DRY.


    So- this ski should scare you. They are in my "waiting for time" pile of things to do. I will have to replace whole sections of base... bad news.

    HERE is what you want. These skis are trainers ready for the next training day (believe it or not):

    Wouldn't you rather find that when looking for a ski to buy? Or a ski that you (or your kids) were about to use?

    Use Wax to preserve the edge. Wax DELAYS rust by keeping water and air away from the edge, but it will not prevent rust completely.



    Rub the wax onto the edge:


    Then buff the wax INTO the edge with a polishing cloth. Medium Hardness wax works best.


    Turn the DIN (spring tightness) to almost the lowest setting. This prevents the spring from weakening during the off-season.


    Once you have your skis clean, dry, tuned and waxed, mark what you did on Masking tape and put them away in your rack. Ready to go!  Sometimes it is a good idea to leave a thick coat of Storage wax on the skis. I do this if I am sure they won't be used for a month or more.Use your warmest, softest wax for that.



    See you at the banquet!

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