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From paragliding and speed flying Sun Valley to ski tuning, Nordic Town USA, Baldy's Big Mountain Skiers and this Winter's Art Scene.

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Skis and snowboards have the same basic tuning philosophy

Lexi DuPont perfects her planks. Courtesy Eddie Bauer First Ascent (Will Wissman)


Think you only need to tune your skis after hitting that rock in the Bowls? Think you can get by tuning your board only once a season? Or do you think that a weekly tune is just for racers? Think again. We talked to some local experts, Baird Gourlay of PK’s Ski and Sports and Tal Roberts and Erik Tiles from the Board Bin, about the art of tuning.


The first thing that we learned is that tuning isn’t just an art … it is definitely a science as well. From belt sanders, stone grinders, Wintersteiger “Green Machines” and ceramic disk grinders, to hand files, rotobrushes and more, tuning shops have plenty of tools and procedures that work to reproduce factory specs.

Techniques, applications and materials can differ from shop to shop but everyone agrees on one thing—tune well and tune often! “We invest so much in our skis these days that a $50 tune is critical to maintain our investment,” explains Baird Gourlay, an owner and operator of PK’s in Ketchum. Gourlay not only emphasizes the importance of a good tune, in fact, he tunes or touches up his fleet of skis every day. As he says, “In the early season, with our surplus of firmer, man-made snow, you should tune your skis every four days. And under normal conditions, you should never go more than seven days without a tune.”

Board Bin tuner Tal Roberts says the same thing applies to snowboards. He explains, “Getting your board stone-ground a couple times a season helps out quite a bit, especially in spring when it gets slushy. But you should definitely wax your board every two or three times you ride.” And if you can’t afford a weekly tune, Roberts suggests consistently waxing and de-burring your edges at home.

"Getting your board stone-ground a couple times a season helps out quite a bit, especially in spring when it gets slushy. But you should definitely wax your board every two or three times you ride." –Tal Roberts

In the PK’s tuning shop, a basement underneath their rental shop, three to four guys work every night, devoting 45 minutes to each pair of skis. For Baird and his crew, the bottom line of tuning skis comes down to two critical things: First, making sure each ski has a perfectly flat base with the correct structure for the snow conditions (this comes from the stone-grinding program). Second, a ski needs to have the correct bevels on its edges (Gourlay typically recommends from 1.0° to 1.5° for the average skier). From there, each ski is hand finished and the edges are polished with ceramic stones. Gourlay says, “If this isn’t done, the ski just won’t ski well.” Finally, each ski is waxed with the “wax du jour” and rotobrushed.

The Board Bin guys point out that the process of tuning a board is pretty similar to that of a ski. “We just have a bigger space,” Tal says. “It’s pretty much the same idea just on a larger surface. We do things a little different with the bevel and de-tuning of edges.”  

Walking around the tuning shop with Gourlay was a mix between taking a studio tour with an artist and a lab tour with a doctor. And even though the shop wasn’t completely set up for winter yet, we could almost hear the machines humming through the night . . . a skier’s dreams of big turns and face shots coming to fruition with every whirr of the grinder. -Katie Matteson

Sun Valley Magazine encourages its readers to post thoughtful and respectful comments on all of our online stories. Your comments may be edited for length and language.

Dec 12, 2011 06:34 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Nice but im really surprised Collin Collins wasn't mentioned.

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