Setting Up an At-Home Ski & Snowboard Tuning Workshop
Some of my favorite memories of skiing and snowboarding aren’t always on the mountain—it’s hanging out with friends tuning our boards. The anticipation and comradery only adds to the actual fun of skiing and snowboarding. Clearly, socializing is not the main reason you should consider tuning your equipment—maintaining your equipment in top shape allows it to perform at its peak and it extends its life. Extending the life of your equipment matters for many reasons: the obvious one is that you get more bang for your buck, also keeping your gear in good working condition keeps it out of the landfill, and of course, well-maintained gear has a better chance at being resold for a nice profit.
We checked in with Ryan McDermott, owner of Mono Cera tuning shop in downtown Dillon, Colorado to get his thoughts on setting up a basic tuning workshop. Ryan is a legend within the snowboard community, traveling with the world’s top professional snowboarders and tuning their boards for the most elite competitions in the world. He has worked as the technician for the Canadian and Norwegian National Teams and is trusted by athletes including Olympic snowboarders Mark McMorris, Jamie Anderson, Scotty James and Anna Gasser to keep their gear precisely tuned. So yeah, he’s more than qualified to offer advice on tuning your skis and snowboards.
We asked Ryan why he thinks you should care about waxing your board/s. Ryan responded by equating putting a new board on snow to driving a new car off the lot—“As soon as you pull that board out of the wrapper and put it on snow, you’ll always be taking something away from the board,” he says, adding, “The only thing you can invest back into it is wax. And in doing so you’re conditioning that base for what you’re riding—whether that’s for speed or durability.” So waxing is beneficial for both speed, which most of us are aware of, but also for the durability of your equipment.
As for speed, “A good snowboarder can go fast, what we want to do is create that glide ratio so it carries through flats,” says Ryan, “What’s worse than unstrapping and having to push through the flats?” For contest riders, speed is lost in the belly of the pipe, or once you land a jump and approach the next. For commoners like us, think about where you lose speed or need to maintain speed at your home resort. Is it at the bottom of the run to get back to the lift? Maybe it’s at the top where you’re pushing and gliding across the mountain? It’s definitely that flat mid mountain cat track—every mountain has at least one of these, right? So waxing isn’t necessarily about going faster when you're pointed straight downhill on the steeps, it’s about getting through the lulls.
As for durability, Ryan makes a great point about how waxing makes your board/s more resilient to the elements you’re riding on by reducing friction. You can hear the horror in his voice as he talks about the damage done by impacting rocks or stumps. The analogy he makes is how applying wax to the base of your board is akin to hydrating your skin with lotion. Ryan says, “The more wax you infuse into the base, it can build the resiliency of the polyethylene base.” The wax makes your base more pliable, so instead of gouging or splintering—or in the case of your skin, breaking and bleeding—the impact is absorbed or dispersed thanks to the glide and resiliency provided by a healthy waxed base … and disaster is averted.
Ryan shares his essentials for setting up your own tuning workshop along with encouragement to give it a go—“Any attention to detail is unmeasurable, it’ll always be better than not.”
Setting up your Tuning Bench
If you have a bench with an overhanging ledge that can accommodate vices, go for it. Ryan also offers some alternatives including stacking one-foot long 2x4s on both sides. “That’s a cheap way of cheating vices.” Or he offers a bit more “crude option,” of a couple cases of beer on either side.
Ryan says, “I always encourage people to get an iron that’s waxing specific. Your home iron has elements that aerate it to allow oxygen through so you don’t burn your clothes. Aerating irons don’t hold their temperature like a wax iron does, so you can end up damaging your equipment or ruining your wax.”
Wax is available in cold, warm, all-temp and on and on. Ryan says there’s no such thing as waxing your board too much—“You could wax your board every time you come in from riding,” he says. As for which wax, “I always tend to lean on the colder side because it adds more durability. But it depends on where you’re riding—snow in Vermont is different than the Pacific Northwest is different than Colorado.” Pressured to name just one wax, Ryan offered Purl eco-friendly, universal purple—"it runs everywhere.”
Ryan says, “Plastic is always better—it won’t damage your base like a metal scraper. Ryan also adds that a nice cheat is to have a bastard file or a Swix Panzer file to sharpen your scraper (heavy grit sandpaper also works).
A medium-grit diamond stone will allow you to work on your own edges. Ryan says, “A diamond stone is strong enough to take burrs off your edge—a clean edge is a fast edge— but not so strong that you’ll accidentally change the bevel or angles of your edge.” Keep one at your tuning bench and one in your pocket for on-the-go edge tune-ups.
Ryan advised a gummi stone as a better option than a file for the home tuner looking to detune their edges. His sage advice—“When you take it away, it’s way harder to get it back.” Start with a gummi and “knock” your edge back to where you want it. He also used the term “nibbling,” which is fun.
Set the Vibe in your Workshop
This might actually be the most important part, okay, not really, but at least we’re coming back to the social aspect of tuning. When I asked Ryan about whether tuning is social, he casually dropped that his shop Mono Cera also has a beer and wine license. So, that’s a yes. Of course, music is a big part of setting the tone, too. The music you might encounter in the tuning shop runs the full spectrum, Ryan reminisced about working on professional snowboarder Ben Ferguson’s board, “And I had just gotten into Band of Horses. One time I was doing a board for Danny [Davis] and I was really into Jazz. Another time, I was listening to some questionable white trash music tuning Mark McMorris’ board … and I remember thinking that I hope this vibe doesn’t carry over to Mark’s board.” When in doubt, go with ski and snowboard soundtrack playlists, you’ll be surprised how easy they are to find on Spotify. And stickers! Your tuning zone is a great place to finally display all those stickers you’ve accumulated over the years.
Annie Fast writes about winter sports and outdoor adventures from her home in Bend, Oregon.You can read more about her and her work at anniefast.com
It is now easier than ever to sell your gear on Geartrade. With our new Consignment Selling option you can finally reclaim your gear closet. Send it in. We take care of the rest.