The ski industry is a bubble, sure. But somehow we still manage to have a few friends who aren't involved in the ski business, and those folks always ask some of the best questions.
A thought-provoking one that comes up often: "is it worth it to buy a home waxing and tuning kit?"
Typically this is coming from someone with little or no experience in ski tuning. For a lot of people interested in doing their own ski work for the first time, there is an initial sense of fear about this question. In reality, it's actually several questions rolled into one.
What if I'm bad at it?
What if I screw up my expensive skis?
How will I even learn to do it?
What's the advantage of doing your own tunes over going to a professional shop?
So, with all that in mind, is it worth it for a total novice to buy a home tuning kit? YES, ABSOLUTELY!
If you are even the slightest bit interested in doing your own ski work, just pull the trigger. Yes, it can be a little intimidating at first, and yes, you're going to have a bit of a learning curve, but just go for it. Ski tuning is a great skill to cultivate, and once you get decent at it, it's a very enjoyable and relaxing way to spend a Winter evening. If you get REALLY good at it, you can even charge your friends money for tunes! Hey, sweet side hustle, dude!
There are lots of things you'll still want to take your skis to a professional shop for, like big core shots, major edge work, and obviously the occasional base grind. However, you can do a lot with a home kit. You can clean up minor edge damage decently well, you can fill smaller base gouges, and in particular, with practice, you can achieve a professional-quality wax job. Hot waxes at the shop can get really pricey, so if you're someone who really likes to have a freshly waxed ski every 2-3 ski days, a home kit will easily pay for itself within a season.
However, if you want to get into ski tuning but you're stuck on the starting line, here are a few tips to get you going.
How to Get Started:
1) Buy a tuning kit of some kind. See below. You don't know what you're doing yet, so buy a fairly simple kit and don't add much to it until you get some experience and know what you like.
2) Seek advice. Either ask a friend who's experienced with tuning to help you get started, or get on YouTube. You can learn how to do just about anything online these days with free instructional videos, and ski tuning is no different.
3) Just start tuning...but start simple. Bite the bullet and try to put what you've learned into practice. Start with something forgiving, like a basic wax job. Waxing can become a science if you treat it like one, but even a super basic job is better than no wax at all. Grab your iron, apply some wax, scrape it off, simple. On top of this, it's really hard to damage your ski no matter how badly you screw up, just keep that iron moving and you should be fine.
4) Get a practice ski or board. More ambitious projects like major base repair and particularly edge sharpening should never be attempted for the first time on your favorite pair of skis. If you're driving by a yard sale and see a junk ski sitting out there for $10, buy it. Well, actually, make sure it doesn't have paper-thin edges from years of tunes, THEN buy it. You want to have a lot of edge left to practice on. The more chunks missing from the base, the better...you gotta work on your P-Tex game.
So, now that you're ready to take the plunge, what next?
What to Look for in a First Kit:
1) An actual waxing iron. Whatever size kit you decide on, get one that comes with an iron. Dakine makes an affordable iron that gets thoroughly mixed reviews from people who have owned and used it (which we touch on in the video below) but even a so-so dedicated waxing iron is better than a re-purposed clothing iron. Despite the Dakine iron's shortcomings, it is durable, it moves wax around well, and practically every professional shop and ski manufacturer we know uses at least one of them. If it's good enough for those guys, it's good enough for you.
2) A larger bag. Not a MASSIVE bag or anything like that, but something big enough to grow with you. If you plan to take your kit with you on ski trips (which is kinda half the point), it needs to be able to pack up and travel well. Eventually, you're going to want to add stuff to your kit as well, most of which takes up space. If you want to be able to fit a bench vise in there, for instance, you're gonna need a bit bigger bag. Once you get some experience with different kinds of wax, you're also going to want to have options there, and wax can be bulky. Look for a kit that comes with a bigger bag, or look to get a cheap aftermarket bag with good organization inside. Pistol range bags are a good option, as even the cheaper ones often have great organization and come with stuff like velcro dividers you can use to customize the main compartments.
3) Quality components that you know you'll need. If you don't see yourself doing a ton of edge work in the future, try to find a kit that leaves the edger out altogether, or that comes with a more budget friendly edge tool. If you know it's something you'll want to learn to do, then go ahead and find a kit that comes with a quality tool and skip the cheapo starter stuff. At the very least, you're looking for a decent waxing iron, but anywhere else you feel like shaving costs is acceptable. Spend the extra money on wax to practice waxing as much as possible, you can always add/upgrade tools later.
For more info and insights on consumer tune kits, including suggested upgrades once you've found the kit that's right for you, check out our video overview of the Dakine Super Tune: