Tuning Blog

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

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

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  • 12 Mar 2018 8:13 PM | Deleted user

    Greeting Tuning Blogs fans! Ok, tuning blog FAN, who am i kidding?!

    Yes, your aging Tuning Geek (no, I'm not Yoda) is winding down his CMAC Coaching career... on-hill at least. BUT! I WILL Still be around and available, although mostly in town, for tuning help, Speed Pool, and possibly even some Private Coaching and Masters Coaching. Stay Tuned.

    Because of the success of the Speed Pool, for sure CMAC will be continuing that program. Alan and I haven't worked out all the details yet, but we will figure it out soon and let everyone know What's Up.

    The blog will soon be Indexed and in a better order, hopefully more useful. It is on my to-do list...

    For next season (God willing), I will be introducing a Weekly Wax Call for all of our home and away races. Heck, I might even try it for Northwest Cup Final. Why not, right?  It will be in 4 languages: Swix, Toko, Homekol, and Dominator.

    For those who REALLY want the Tuning Secrets, I can do some individual (or small group) clinics. Contrary to popular rumor, I AM willing to share many secrets, but I only share what I think can be helpful. Too much information just makes some people dangerous.

    See you soon!

    -John (aka: Gadget)

  • 07 Apr 2017 5:41 PM | Deleted user

    The CMAC Speed Pool needs YOU! You know who you are: your kids are quitting/retiring and you have an overly full garage. Or your kids are growing and you don't need all those Junior Skis anymore. Or you quit racing yourself but still LOVE CMAC and want to see the Club get stronger.

    We need a few good pairs of FIS legal skis (200-218cm 40-50 meter) and a few young junior skis (172-190 25+meter) With quality bindings on them. Non-FIS skis 185-200 cm are still useful too. If you have some you don't need, please talk to me.

    Hey- I'm willing to sort, repair, tune, wax and STORE the skis, you can AT LEAST give a pair or 2 right?  The pool has 13 pairs now, I would like it to be at 30 pairs by next season. I am designing ski storage for 32 pairs Right Now, and I will have the storage ready by the banquet. (I have also donated 4 pairs)

    Wouldn't you like your racers to have access to Quality Speed Skis serviced by an expert? This is YOUR Chance to help your family AND the club.

  • 10 Dec 2016 6:07 PM | Deleted user

    In case you haven't already heard, we have started a CMAC Speed Ski Pool! This will be great- because Speed Skis get FASTER with use (if taken care of) and most skis get very little use. Not to mention they are the most expensive skis.

    In case you didn't know, nearly ALL of the fastest skis in the world are owned by Pools- manufacturer and team pools. When 1 skier is done with a pair of these skis, they go back into the pool. The best skis are shared.  The CMAC Speed Ski Pool is currently about a dozen pairs. I'm not sure how big it will become, I certainly have my limits.

    IF YOU HAVE GOOD Speed Skis (180-218 cm) that you no longer need, please consider donating them to the program. I will run the program for (at least) this year and 2017-18, and I will check all skis before accepting them AND before I loan them out.   Sometimes I tune and wax them also.

    Remember this is a FREE Program for CMAC Juniors and FIS skiers to help stretch dollars and make CMAC racers Faster!

    These pairs (and 1 more) are going into the hands of CMAC Juniors tomorrow morning.

  • 24 Oct 2016 5:20 PM | Deleted user

    Warning- this is the high end of things. Some want to do the absolute best possible, these tips and tricks will help you get there. They will NOT be critical in your U12's SG race (good skiing will win), as kids get older and better, these things can help.


    Ok, so I assume you've already read the CMAC tuning specs right?! You haven't? Well here they are:  Tuning Standards.pdf     So your skis are super flat, edges perfectly beveled, bases showing the effects of Love and Wax, sidewalls trimmed and smoothed right? GREAT!! That means your setup is already better then 95% of racers (99+% of skiers) out there. Good Job!!

    So what MORE can you do to get them even better? Well, that takes some special tools, skills, and thinking. What I'm talking about is Measuring and Assigning Roles, "What The Fogwax... is Gadget talking about now??!" Well, each pair (each ski actually) is a bit different right? SO, if you have a multiple-pair quiver (racer-trainers etc.) then you can take your ENTIRE QUIVER to a higher level by starting your setup work by measuring Each Ski and Assigning a Role to that ski.

    I measure: 1.) Mass in grams; 2.) camber in inches (to the .001); 3.) Flex in inches (to the .001); 4.) Thickness (.001 inch scale); and 5.) Sidecut.  No, I'm not going to tell you how I do it here- talk to me in person if you are dying to know. But- I WILL tell you that it makes a difference- a big difference to some skiers/racers.

    Yes, the winners of the CMAC Auction Tuning Package will get this level of setup. The Brand R skis currently in the shop will too (of course).

    Measuring is the FIRST thing I do, then I decide which ski will be a racer, a trainer, and which will be left and right.  As soon as I quit this exercise I will be back prepping again... it's just that time of year.

    From the long tape, you can tell I do a lot more than measure- and I keep track of it so that I can have a consistent (and consistently improving) system. This is from a pair of Ty's skis that I just finished.

    In case you were wondering, I rarely tune at this level with others around. Reason? Heads explode and the cleanup is so messy. 
    See you on the hill!

  • 22 Apr 2016 7:59 PM | Deleted user

    Free Stuff!!  Good stuff too: Wax, tools, maybe some brushes, stones, juice (fluros)... who knows. Could be anything- stuff you never knew you needed or stuff you always wanted more of.  The qualification: You (the racer) have to be caught in the act (by me) of tuning and or waxing your own gear. Parents do not qualify. Those tuning at a race or participating in a tuning clinic get extra points.

    I have a LOT of tuning tools and supplies. You would be shocked if you knew how much. It is time I begin to pass on my skills and my stuff. If you are interested (some may not be), remember to ask me if this offer is really true.

    See you soon!

  • 21 Apr 2016 12:14 PM | Deleted user

    As Promised, here is an installment in my Spring and Summer Series

    Comparison of waxing methods

    (Overlays not considered)







    Ray’s Way


    Application time

    3- 12 hours (*1)

    2-5 minutes

    2 minutes

    5-15 minutes (*2)

    5 minutes or less

    5 minutes or less

    Cure time

    .5- 8 hours (*3)

    .5-8 hours

    10-15 minutes

    .5- 8 hours

    0 minutes

    0 minutes

    Finishing time

    15-45 minutes

    15- 45 minutes

    0-2 minutes

    15- 45 minutes

    2-3 minutes

    2-3 minutes

    Equipment Cost


    $5,000 +





    Application Cost

    if done by shop







    Wax Use per ski

    10-15 g.

    .5-1 gram

    1 gram

    10-15 g

    .2-.4 gram

    .2- .5 gram

    Percent Wasted

    >90 %

    <10% (est.)

    <5% (est.)

    >90 % (*4)



    Amount absorbed

    .5-3 grams (*5)



    .5-1 gram



    Best Use

    Soft wax soak, new skis.

    Hard wax and difficult applications

    On hill ease

    Cleaning, new skis, HC waxes

    LF wax, HF wax, and overlays

    On hill quick wax

    Worst Use

    In a hurry


    Race Wax




    Durability  (*6)








    *1: Hotbox Application Time includes iron waxing time, and varies with purpose

    *2: Iron Application time varies depending on purpose and patience. Long ironing must be done carefully.

    *3: Cure time is defined as how soon the skis can be scraped, brushed and polished. Soft waxes cure slowly. The hardest waxes should be finished when slightly warm.

    *4: Waste wax can be successfully down-cycled as a fire accelerant for those with a fireplace.

    *5: Data from my long term study measuring ski weight backs up these estimates.

    *6: Durability is generally an over-rated characteristic for racers. The highest performing waxes are only expected to last 1 run or so. But for training, all day protection/glide is very important.


  • 19 Apr 2016 4:59 PM | Deleted user

    Hi Crew! I have a few things planned for the next couple of months: 1.)  A comparison of waxing methods, 2.) putting skis away (recycled content), 3.) Videos of "secrets," to ONLY be posted on Sprongo so that CMACers ONLY can see them. 4.) Brushing tricks, 5.) Juicing Tricks.  Should be fun!

    First the recycled content....

    Re-running a popular post from last year:

    You may well have a couple races left (as we do), but for sure you are starting to put some gear away. 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. (update: these skis were completely restored for a later blog post)

    HERE is what you want. These skis are trainers ready for the next training day (believe it or not): I consider this Race Ready condition for most races and racers.

    Wouldn't you rather find bases like this 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) down to about 10% above 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.

    I am available through the Summer if you need help prepping new skis, or if you want some tuning/waxing instruction. Use my email address on this article, if you do not have a different address for me already.

    I AM getting CMAC Tuning Training completed. It will be rolled out a little before the Fall meetings.

    See you on water, or maybe in the ballpark. Go Mariners!

  • 24 Mar 2016 9:02 AM | Deleted user

    This link will take you to a sizing document made 2 years ago, but still valid:  Ski Sizes by Age Class.pdf

    The only changes I would make to it are to say that for the U-16 skiers who have the biggest dreams,  they should move to the FIS ski (whenever possible) as a 2nd year u16. It is just easier.

    And for those FIS aged skiers (u19-u21) who do NOT plan on racing any FIS races at all (Northwest Cup would be their highest level), they DO NOT HAVE to have the newest FIS skis. Some of the Masters' skis are much less demanding and more fun. 

    Here is a link to the USSA requirements. A quick glance will let you know that CMAC has more stringent recommendations than the USSA requirements. This is because we want to maximize Skier Development.


    Happy Ski Hunting! See you at the banquet.

  • 15 Feb 2016 8:14 AM | Deleted user
    Sure, there are lots of ways to get a ski to glide better including structure, waxes, overlays, etc- but often I find the most basic area is overlooked: Putting the skis away properly every day after use and transportation.

    I will cover these 3 subjects: 1.) Clean, Dry Skis; 2.) Ski straps; and  3.) Waxed Edges.

    Clean and Dry skis:

    Put the skis away Clean and Dry. This is often as simple as a napkin, paper towel, or even dirty t-shirt wiping dirt and water off of the edges before the skis go into the car after skiing, and again when they come out after the trip. This is even more critical if salt or other chemicals were used on the hill. Rust and dirt are super slow. You don’t want them on your race skis.

    Ski Straps

    I see a lot of unneeded wear on bases because no (or too few) ski straps were used.  A fast base structure is a lot of work (and/or money) to establish, you want to preserve and protect it. Ski straps are cheap and easy to find, so use 2-4 straps per pair of skis and protect those edges and bases!

    Wax Edges

    Does wax make edges faster? Well yes and no. Wax rubbed onto edges wears off on the snow within seconds so it doesn’t help much there. But wax rubbed onto a Clean, Dry ski retards the formation of rust considerably, and ANY rust is Super, super slow. So as soon as the skis are clean and dry, rub some wax onto them and rub it IN with a clean, dry cloth. 

    These 3 tricks will not cost you anything (you have ski straps and wax already, right?), and combined they will make for longer lasting, faster, and better turning skis. 

    See you on the hill!

  • 05 Jan 2016 4:42 PM | Deleted user

    We tell our racers to get themselves prepared off season to perform in season, but the same is true for techs/equipment geeks/Parents/ATMs.  I will talk about 1.) Getting Gear ordered, 2.) Getting gear (and tools) prepped, 3.) What gear you really want, 4.) Long Term planning. 5.) And the why...

    First the why (#5): We live busy lives. Most of us have NO time to do a good job in the heat of season. This is work that needs to be done slowly, purposefully, carefully. In my case, I tuned 3 pairs of skis today while I thought about/composed this article. I have 4 more pairs to work on before I get to bed. Then tomorrow (and the next night), I am back on the hill again. Time? It is really precious, I could not do planning, purchasing and prepping while also maintaining gear- and coaching, not to mention working, parenting, cooking, driving...

    outside of the hotbox- and inside:

    #1: Ordering Gear (and tools): Many people don't like to think about skiing until after Summer- labor day at the earliest. Up to age 12 or so, you can get away with that, but once kid grow into Big Kid gear, you should start shopping in May or June (for great used skis/boots/bindings), and try to place orders for new FIS gear by late June at the latest. Does this seem crazy to you? Well, I know plenty of people who are sure this IS crazy, But you will get better prices, more selection, and overall higher quality if you START EARLY. DO IT!!

    tool boxes #1 and 2 outside, and 1 drawer open:

    #2:Prepping gear and tools: Boots should be fitted, stanced, and aligned before Summer camp, if at all possible. Skis should be prepped for Summer Camp, and again after. TOOLS: Wax, files, stones, and larger tools (irons, hotboxes, etc). should be purchased, prepped, organized, and setup for the year. IF you have a large volume of work to do and little time to do it, consider buying or making a hot box, and buying rotobrushes. Start working with your tools in July, and by the time December rolls around, you will be ready!

    Bulk waxes under the hotbox- my double brush. For cleaning primarily in2 directions.

    #3 Gear you REALLY want: A "ski glide" tool (also known as a Ray's Way Wax Wizard) is a HUGE time and money saver. A digital iron is a requirement, a Hotbox, is super handy, and rotobrushes.  Those last 2 are not requirements- but they can save 10s of hours over the course of the season. A GREAT toolbox helps with organization, and base flattening tools can help keep your racers fast and learning faster!

    Skis after a night in the hotbox. Note the "dry" spots... This tape has my personal code to help me keep track of work done. The translation to my son is "Dad loves you and is helping you ski fast!"

    #4 Long Term Planning: Get to know the older racers and parents of racers. Much of their Prized Gear will soon be surplus and could be yours. Develop relationships with gear peddlers and techs. As soon as is practical,  pick a ski brand to work with. Ask for and listen to the advice of the reps from the ski companies you like best. These people are smart, and they are at least as passionate about the sport as you are.  

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