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Is slalom ski tuning a thing of the past ?

swbcaswbca Posts: 128 Baller
edited January 8 in Technique & Theory
Some dates are wrong
- Minnesota slalom skiers used Northland slalom skis. Warren Witherall, who had his signature on the ski cut 1.25 inches of the back of our skis and moved the fin forward. As a high-school student, I felt felt pain when he extended the fin slot forward with a big hand saw.

1967 - Just before the Texas Nationals I was trying to make a Maharajah ski work. KLP could make the ski work, but other skiers would just fall over into their good-side turn when they were on their difficult rope lengths. To widen the ski along front foot, I used a band saw to cut a slot down the right side of the ski from the tip to the back of the front binding, then spread the gap and filled it with resin. It worked pretty good. The 1967 Austin Texas Nationals were on a river during a Texas flash flood with logs, branches and huge rollers in the course. Jump champion Chuck Stearns won slalom, I think I placed 7th. Many of the top seeded skiers fell in the rollers . . Floods are an equalizer. When Merrill Lapoint saw my Maharajah ski, he thought the saw cut was to fix a manufacturing defect rather than to "tune" it. I declined his offer to send me a new ski.

1968 - When Dave Saucier wanted to get a skier on a Saucier ski, he would meet you at Lake Saucier in a woods in the middle of a farm somewhere. Before you ever tried the ski, he would fill his boat with white dust as he made the very large round bevels larger and rounder.

1969 - When Leroy Burnett was the slalom sensation on a wood Obrien, running 30 off (or was it 36 off ?) at every tournament, I drove to his house in Northern California to get a ski. It was the best ski I had to date after I widened the ski with epoxy about 3/32" on the good side turn from the front heal forward. Later MasterCraft-Obrien built in the same asymmetry with their La Point Radius ski, which was sold in 2 versions, for Left or Right foot forward.

Fast forward to 2021 - as an outsider trying to start over in M9 in a few months, I have the impression that sandpaper, saws, resin and files are no longer part of breaking in a new slalom ski. I just spent $1200 on a blank ski, where would I start with carpenters tools? But Finally, it looks like manufacturers have figured out that all the older skis were too narrow under the front foot. Now the top 66-67" skis (such as D3 EVO and ION) are 3/16 to 5/16" wider than the universal 6 9/16 width from the past.


  • skibrainskibrain Posts: 209 Solid Baller
    edited January 7
    In 1972 my dad bought a $30 pair of 68” Nash combos from Holiday gas station in my ND home town. It said “tunnel concave” on the 1/16” deep depression milled into the bottoms - so you KNOW they were made for performance. My older brother got the ski with the slalom toe. My dad took a jig saw and cut 4” off the tail, and 2” off the tip to make a slalom ski for 11 yr old me. We added a rear toe strap and I swapped the fin for the deepest metal fin I could find.

    I tried my hardest to ski on that thing for two years. It didn’t turn. I would occasionally bury the tip on wake crossings. I wiped out a lot.

    When I was 13, the local sporting goods store started carrying these skis called O’Brien. We scraped our money together and bought this red/silver/blue beauty of a ski called a Mach 1.
  • NandoNando Posts: 581 Crazy Baller
    @swbca, didn’t you also create some semi-Frankenstein’s? I seem to recall a Taperflex Apex with an aluminum top from a Vector (?) ski to stiffen it and a couple of other things I can’t recall. I know KLP has widened skis recently and he’s certainly an example of a guy who’s not shy about pulling out a file. As my icon implies, I was the beneficiary of Dave Saucier tuning both my Saucier ski and before that, an EP. Tuning in the old sense of filing bevels is pretty rare, but there a few doing it.
  • RednucleusRednucleus Posts: 561 Crazy Baller
    Great topic! You haven't seen anything till you have watched @AdamCord work on his ski between sets at Hilltop. Truly remarkable to see how he massages his ski set to set. Wish I understood anything he was doing!!
  • cougfancougfan Posts: 308 Crazy Baller
    @Jody_Seal sage advise from a wise old man😂🤣👍
  • thagerthager Posts: 5,145 Mega Baller
    @Nando Back in the early 70s at Lake X old man Farcus told us youngsters "Pee before you ski!" Don't want your bladder exploding if you have an accident in the water and infecting your insides. Jim Heins, John Ewalt and I laughed about that one for years! At that same tournament I remember Dave Saucier hand tuning your Saucier slalom for you. Amazed me that a few swipes of sandpaper on the edges after a couple of passes really improved your skiing.
    Stir vigorously then leave!
  • 6balls6balls Posts: 5,569 Mega Baller
    In our family we always called it a "Pre-ski Pooter"
    Dave Ross--die cancer die
  • WishWish Posts: 8,199 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    edited January 7
    First time I saw slalom ski tuning was my first yr in FL tournaments. Guy nicknamed Wild Bill was adding material to the top of his ski between rounds. Looked to have an arsenal of ski tuning items in the back of his truck. Hadn’t seen that again till @adamhcaldwell at the first Denali summit which was impressive to watch to say the least. Only thing like that I’ve ever done is to cut down a slalom ski for my daughter. Was fun cutting it up and shaping it. Crazy part was it actually worked well for her.
    >>> 11.25..a different kettle of fish. <<<
  • RGilmoreRGilmore Posts: 90 Baller
    Not for nothing, but in the early days of fiberglass skis, the entire bevel and a good amount of the sidewall - especially in the tail area - was solid a solid resin / glass fiber mix. I personally watched Bob LaPoint aggressively file the tail bevels on several skis in Acapulco one year.

    These days, file a little too much on a bevel and there's a decent chance you're gonna find you self looking at the foam core peeking out. That is a bad ski-tuning day for sure.
  • HortonHorton Posts: 30,230 Administrator
    Filling a modern skis is a good way to break a ski. I have never and would never sand or file a ski unless a had a stack of identical skis I could ruin in the process.

    Back in the day the designs were pretty crude so bevel tuning was all there was. Heck we did not have any idea what could be done with a fin until the mid-late 1980.

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  • swbcaswbca Posts: 128 Baller
    @Horton The designs were crude and the wood skis could completely stop working when they sat around in the dry winter air between summers. The wood Obrien which was my best ski ever at the time, didn't work at all the next spring.
  • Alberto SoaresAlberto Soares Posts: 333 Solid Baller
    @swbca I suggest you buy the book, lots of good information on it
  • ozskiozski Posts: 1,714
    The new GT just delivered a new era of brain damage for skiers to tinker with. I can already see the new whisper tail coming...
    'Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.'' 2021 MC As soon as it lands Ski - KD Platinum

  • HortonHorton Posts: 30,230 Administrator

    Support BallOfSpray by supporting the companies that support BallOfSpray

    Connelly ★DBSkis ★ Denali ★ Goode ★ Follow ★ Hobe Lake ★ MasterCraft

    Masterline ★ Performance Ski and Surf ★ Reflex ★ Radar ★ Stokes 

  • pregompregom Posts: 311 Baller
    How much did a top of the line slalom ski cost 50 years ago? Adjusting for inflation, how does that price compare to today's top of the line prices of close to 2 grand?
  • swbcaswbca Posts: 128 Baller
    edited January 9
    @eleeski Tuning Addiction ?    re: Bondo . . When skis made of aluminum, foam and composites started being built, I used multiple coats of catalyzed automotive paint to replace material that was "tuned off". It was easy to build thickness with the epoxy paint. I had a spray booth with infrared lamps setup just for skis. I rebuilt and reshaped the edges of my EP and Kidder skis endlessly. The ski always looked like new and occasionally worked better. But tuning is like gambling . . when you have a "win" you bet again, never know when to stop. All that matters is being ahead for the season "finals".
  • The_MSThe_MS Posts: 6,092 Member of the BallOfSpray Hall Of Fame
    Don’t mock bondo until you have skied on one of his skis. After that you can mock him all you want
    Shut up and ski
  • HortonHorton Posts: 30,230 Administrator
    Disclaimer: The administrator of this web site does not endorse or encourage anyone to file or sand on modern commercially manufactured slalom skis. Any removal of the outer laminate will diminish the structural integrity of the ski.

    Support BallOfSpray by supporting the companies that support BallOfSpray

    Connelly ★DBSkis ★ Denali ★ Goode ★ Follow ★ Hobe Lake ★ MasterCraft

    Masterline ★ Performance Ski and Surf ★ Reflex ★ Radar ★ Stokes 

  • thagerthager Posts: 5,145 Mega Baller
    It's not paranoia if it's true!
    Stir vigorously then leave!
  • ballsohardballsohard Posts: 445 Crazy Baller
    It’s awesome that @eleeski loves tuning skis that way and seems to understand it enough to make it work for him. Though, I still have zero interest in taking my new D3 and turning it into a D4, D5 and D6 in my next three sets.
  • swbcaswbca Posts: 128 Baller
    edited January 8
    @Horton I won't be touching the skin of my new D3. When the blank ski only weighs 3 pounds you know the ski's structure is its skin.
  • lpskierlpskier Posts: 3,080 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    Not to mention voiding the warranty.
    John Wilkins- Si non pro sanguine quem ludus ne. #iskiconnelly
  • swbcaswbca Posts: 128 Baller
    edited January 9
    @eleeski @The_MS I wasn't mocking Bondo. for relevance, I was referencing eleeski's practice of adding material to ski edges as part of ski tuning process. @eleeski uses Bondo or similar, I layer spray coats of colored epoxy. No Mocking here . . tournament scores are what count.
  • VONMANVONMAN Posts: 235 Crazy Baller
    There's a lot you can do to tune a ski. Fin tuning or different fin shape. Different wing or wing position. Boot placement, angle or cant. But not the bevels. Sell the ski first and get some money back for a new stick. If you truly understand that Black Art, I Salute you.
    Ernie Schlager

    A Good One Ball Gives You Six
  • swbcaswbca Posts: 128 Baller
    edited January 10
    @eleeski @Bruce_Butterfield and others
    FINS . . I experimented with edges of skis and binding positions constantly for 30 years, making skis work for me, but what I learned doesn't mean anything with the new skis which aren't constructed with surplus non-structural sidewall material like the old skis.

    We never experimented with fins decades ago, except in the 60's everyone learned that drilling a couple of holes would prevent the ski from turning sideways after crossing the wake, throwing you out the front apparently because of a vacuum pocket behind the fin.

    CAN SOMEONE ELABORATE ON FIN ADJUSTMENTS ?   at least of few of the basics.
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