When Does My Ski Need To Be Sharpened?

by Simon Naylor | Updated: January 9th, 2023 |  Skiing Articles

If you've always rented your skis or are new to skiing, you might not realize that all skis have a sharp edge that needs to be sharpened for maximum performance.

If you're a normal skier who skis 1-2 weeks per year then your skis should be sharpened once per season. You should use a ski file to remove burrs and rust at home between a full professional sharpener. Skis are limited to a set number of sharpening until the edge disappears.

bluebird ski days

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How Often Should I Sharpen My Skis?

If you ski 1-2 weeks per year then professionally sharpen your skis annually but use a handheld file to remove burrs or nicks in the edge every 1-2 ski days.

Your side edges will require more filling than your base edges. If you ski more than 2 weeks per year consider professional sharpening twice a season. If you ski every day of the season, professionally sharpen your skis every month or two and use a file regularly.

If you ski mainly on ice or hard-packed snow, sharpen your skis more often. If you ski mainly on soft powder you can sharpen them less often. If you need more specific advice, ask the ski tuner for his or her recommendation.

How Do I Know If My Skis Need Sharpening?

Your skis need sharpening if they don't grip as much as they did. Over time the edge becomes duller and duller until it can no longer grip.

Because the process is gradual, there is not a clear difference from one day to the next (unless you're a professional skier). If you feel like your skis aren't providing the control you had before when skiing on hard-packed snow, then it is probably time to take your skis in for an edge tune.

If you ski mainly powder then sharp edges are not as important. The harder the ice, the more important sharp edges become. Ski racers have very sharp edges and ski on very icy slopes.

If you notice that there are small nicks or burrs in your ski edge or you see any rust, then buy a file sharpener from Amazon and keep your ski's in tip-top condition before their annual professional sharpens at the pro shop. This will give you better performance, a smooth edge, and more control in skiing.

Skis have a limit of professional sharpenings before the edge disappears and you need to replace your skis. So it's better to keep your edges sharpened at home with a file between ski shop visits. 

The Best Ski Sharpeners

Here is my in-depth review of the best ski sharpeners and tuners on the market.

How To Keep Your Skis Sharp?

Skiing on hard-packed snow or very icy conditions will blunt your blades faster as more of the edge is being used.

Avoid skiing over pebbles, stones, or grit. This can damage your edge and ruin a new sharp edge.

ski edges

How Sharp Should My Skis Be?

Your skis edge should be sharp enough to shave tiny bits of your nail when rubbing your nail up and down across the edge.

Ski edges should not be as sharper as a butter knife but not as sharp as a dull kitchen knife.

Gently rubbing your finger across the edge should not cut your skin, but rubbing a firm finger should.

⚠️PLEASE DON'T TRY THIS. I know because I cut my finger holding my skis the other day without gloves! 

Why Sharpen Skis? ✅

Sharpening your skis will improve your skis performance and your skiing.

  • Sharp skis give you a sharp edge to dig into the mountain while controlling speed, parallel skiing, and stopping.
  • Sharpening skis will remove burrs so your edges are more even and glide more smoothly across the snow.
  • Sharpening removes cuts across the plan of the edge and prevents rust - which will weaken and reduce the lifespan of the ski.
  • Sharp skis make it easier to ski on ice and hard-packed snow.

What Happens If I Don't Sharpen My Skis? ❌

Your skis will become blunt and you'll have to work harder and harder to ski.

  • Parallel skiing will become more difficult, without a sharp edge, gripping through your turn will become very difficult.
  • Sliding on ice will become impossible and extremely difficult on hard-packed snow.
  • Stopping on a steep slope will require greater leg strength as the angle of the skis will need to be greater, in order not to slide downhill.
  • Rust and burrs will build up which will reduce the lifespan of your skis.
  • Uneven edges can cause you to catch parts of your ski on the slope, making it harder to maintain balance at speed.
  • It will take longer to turn, control your speed and stop.
  • You won't be able to use it to cut cheese for your picnic. 🧀

Are Sharp Skis Dangerous?

Sharp skis can be dangerous if they hit you at speed or if you carry them without wearing gloves. Always wear your ski gloves when carrying or picking up your skis as the edge will very easily cut through your skin. Sharp skis cause very few reported accidents and are not a major factor when it comes to ski accidents.

Further reading: Is Skiing Dangerous?

How To Sharpen My Skis At Home With A File or Scraper?

You can keep your skis tuned at home by using a scraper or file to manually remove burrs and rust along the sides of your skis.

Here is a basic video guide to removing burrs from the edges of your skis:


Sharpening Instructions:

  1. Prop your ski up and keep them still, propped up horizontally on a table.
  2. Tie your brakes out the way using string or a thick rubber band.
  3. File your base edge. Match the angle of your edge with the filling tool and fil across the length of the ski. Use light and even pressure.
  4. Sharpen your side edge. start with the areas that have burrs and rust but go across the full length of the ski. Overlapping strokes as you go.
  5. Touch up any remaining spots with a gummy stone.
  6. Wipe your edges clean with a towel and rubbing alcohol.

What Angle To Sharpen Ski Edges At?

There are two angles, the angle that meets the base of the ski (base angle) and the angle that meets the top of the ski (side angle). Check with the manufacturer of the skis to check the base & side edge angle, as different skis have their own optimum angle.

Typically the base angle is 1 degree but different skis have a different angles. Typically the side angle is 1, 1.5, or 2 degrees but different skis have different angles.

The Sharpening Tool Angle

Match the angle of the sharpening tool with your skis. You want the ski to be inside the file so it meets the metal plane.

Make sure you put the file inside the filing guide at the correct angle, following the direction marked on the file. For more advanced ski tuning, take your skis to a professional ski tuner. For more technical and advanced tuning check out this Edge Tuning guide

How Much Does It Cost To Sharpen Skis?

Typically it costs from $15-20 / €12-13 to sharpen your skis at a ski shop.

Here is what a typical ski shop price list for tuning looks like:

Hot Wax
Ironed on, scraped, and buffed
Edges only sharpened and polished
Stone Grind
Bases belted flat and stone-ground polished
Sharpen and Wax
Edges sharpened & polished and hot belt waxed & buffed
Basic Tune
Bases wet belted, edges sharpened & polished and
hot belt waxed
Full Tune
Bases wet belted, edges sharpened & polished, basic p-tex base repair and hot belt waxed
Deluxe Stone Grind Tune
Bases wet belted, stone ground and structured, edges sharpened, beveled and polished, p-tex repair and ironed on hot wax and buffed

Best Ski Tuning Kit

What is Ski Tuning?

Ski tuning refers to servicing a ski to reach its maximum potential. Ski tuning includes deburring, sharpening & waxing, polishing, and other ski care.

A well-tuned ski will improve your skiing and keep your skis in excellent condition for long life.

What is Ski Waxing?

Ski waxing is the application of wax to the base of the ski to make it slider better (downhill Alpine skiing) or grip better (cross-country skiing).

If you're a normal skier who skis 1-2 weeks per year then your skis should be waxed once per season.

You can use harder wax for colder weather, a softer wax for warmer weather, or an all-weather wax for the year.
If you want to know more, read my free guide: Ski Wax for Dummies | Why, How & When?


Final Thoughts

Keep your skis well-maintained and sharp to enjoy optimum skiing performance.

Skis are designed to have sharp edges to dig into the snow and a flat, burr-free edge that will improve your ability to control speed, turn and stop on a dime.

Get your skis annually sharpened and use a file tool at home to keep them at peak performance.