This section is not intended to be a “how to” guide because there many sources that expertly cover the subjects of how to tune and wax skis. Instead, this section helps you understand “what” is done to properly prepare race skis. Resources where you may find the expert “how to” information are near the end of this section

Edge tuning

Edge preparation will determine how the skis feel on snow. The edge geometry chosen should match the skiers’ ability and the equipment. By preparing and maintaining your own skis a dependable level of consistency can be achieved. Instead of tuning skis once at the beginning of the ski season, only to let them get progressively worse until they are tuned again, maintaining the base and edges means that your skis will always perform well. Predictable performance is not only safer but can also become the foundation for improvement.

When you hear about edge bevels there are two angles that are being described, base edge angle, or base bevel, and side edge angle, or side bevel. It is very important to understand the difference between base and side bevels, as they have different effects on the ski. Base bevel is the amount that the edge is tipped up off the snow relative to a flat base.

Base bevels range from 0 degrees to 1.5 degrees. Less base bevel makes a ski quick and grip hard. Slalom skis often have only a half degree of base bevel. More bevel on the base lets the ski transition from edge to edge more easily, making the ski more forgiving, especially at speed. For this reason, downhill skis often have base bevels up to 1.5 degrees. Side edge bevel refers to how much the edge is “pointed” and is measured relative to 90 degrees of the base. To confuse you further there are three methods to describe this angle. Some people describe the angle as an increase from 90 degrees, therefore two degrees is 92, conversely this angle can be described as a decrease from 90 degrees making two degrees 88. Most simply this angle can be described by its difference from 90.

Side bevel determines how the edge will hold, mild bevels of 0-1 degree provide some bite, but remain forgiving for less advanced skiers. For someone seeking a higher level of performance, side bevels of 2-3 degrees will allow the ski to hold better, especially on hard snow. Extreme side bevels of 4+ degrees hold even better, but can become too demanding for most people. Because of the increase in hold, the ski will be harder to break loose once it has been set on edge making a line correction very difficult.


Regular use of wax will allow your skis to glide and turn easier than skis with an untreated base. Skis actually ride on a very thin layer of water as they move across the snow. The water-repellent wax reduces the friction of the ski base over the snow making the ski glide easier. Most waxes today are paraffin, a hydrocarbon petroleum byproduct that has hydrophobic (water-repellent) properties. Wax will also protect your base from oxidation.  Bases exposed to oxygen will oxidize and become rough, similar to the roughness created when steel oxidizes in the form of rust.  Wax seals your base to prevent harmful oxidation which slows ski glide. 

Fluorocarbon Waxes
Since their introduction in 1990, fluorocarbon waxes have proven indispensable for serious racers. Unlike regular paraffin-based hydrocarbon waxes which are comprised of carbon molecules with neutrally-charged hydrogen atoms, fluorocarbon waxes are comprised of carbon molecules with negatively-charged fluorine atoms. Somewhat like Teflon, they repel water better by reducing friction (capillary attraction) between bases and water in the snowpack, plus help keep bases cleaner and faster in dirty snow by repelling dirt particles (which, like the fluorine molecules, are negatively charged).

As of the 2019-2020 Season, U14 and under competitors should refrain from using fluorinated wax. In any case, application of any type of waxing solution must not be applied at U14-and-under competition venues. Use of ski preparation benches at U14-and-under competition venues is not allowed.

Choosing waxes

Both hydrocarbon and fluorocarbon waxes are offered in a variant of universal and temperature-specific formulations. In addition, fluorocarbon waxes also are offered in humidity-specific formulations with low-fluoro wax is best suited for dry, low-humidity conditions (when it’s hard to make a snowball), and high-fluoro wax is for wet and high humidity (when it’s easy to pack a wet snowball). 

It penetrates deeper into p-tex bases and lasts the longest when melted in using a hot wax iron. When a ski is waxed, heat transferred from the iron to the ski’s base expands its pores allowing it to be impregnated by molten wax. 


As your racer moves up into the more competitive age classification, the preparation of the ski becomes more important, especially in the “speed events” of GS, Super G (and Downhill…but this does not concern entry-level racers). The final step for preparing a ski for a speed event is the application of a fluorocarbon overlay. Overlays are available in liquid, paste, or powder form. The overlay is applied to a race ski after it is properly waxed with the temperature-specific wax for the conditions on race day. The overlay is applied based on manufacturers’ instructions with each form of overlay requiring a different procedure. Once the overlay is applied, the ski should only be placed on the snow just before the starting gate. While overlays will provide for a fabulous glide, they last but one run.

Getting this done…

While a good ski shop can handle the task of race tuning and waxing, at some point most racers and/or their parents become “ski techs” and take care of the racers’ skis. In order to do this, there are special tools required. The following list provides an overview of what is needed for the “do it yourself ski tech”

Tuning Equipment

Basic Tuning Average Racer Competitive Racer
Tuning Bench Tuning Bench Tuning Bench
Tuning Vise Tuning Vise Tuning Vise
Wax Iron Wax Iron Wax Iron
Plexi Scraper Plexi Scraper Plexi Scraper
Metal Scraper Metal Scraper Metal Scraper
Nylon Brush Nylon Brush Nylon Brush
Gumi Stone Gumi Stone Gumi Stone
Ski Break Retainer Ski Break Retainer Ski Break Retainer
Multi-Tool Base/Side Edger All Angle Base Edge Guide
All Angle Side Edger Guide
All Angle Base Edge Guide
All Angle Side Edger Guide
File Brush File Brush File Brush
Blue 70-mm
DMT Diamond Stone
Full Set 70-mm
DMT Diamond Stone
Full Set 70-mm
DMT Diamond Stone
Hydrocarbon Wax Hydrocarbon Wax Hydrocarbon Wax
Brass Brush (opt) Brass Brush Brass Brush
Horse Hair Brush Horse Hair Brush
Brass Brush Brass Brush
Fibertex Buffing (3) Pads Fibertex Buffing (3) Pads
Polishing Cloth Polishing Cloth
Natural Cork Natural Cork
Scraper Sharpener Scraper Sharpener
Sidewall plane Sidewall plane
Brass Brush Brass Brush
Hard Chrome File
Synthetic Cork
Synthetic Cork (hardwood)
Felt Block (hardwood)
5X Magnifier
Red Gumi Stone/td>
Steel Brush
Base Cleaning Brushes
(extra brass, just for dirt)

There are a large variety of guides on how to properly tune and wax your skis, providing detail on how to use all the above tools.

Here are a number of good sources:

If you decide becoming a ski tech is not for you, there are a number of shops that can take care of race skis.  Just be sure to be clear about what you want done. The quick “roll on” wax job is not adequate for a racer’s needs. Bear Valley Sport Shop in the Village can handle all your tuning and waxing needs. Also, the Repair Shop at the Mountain can handle tuning and waxing, but make sure you are clear on what you want. For base grinding and top-of-the-line ski prep, The Start Haus in Truckee can’t be beat. Granite Chief in Truckee is also an excellent race prep shop.