You will often hear skiers talking about the wax on their skis. They will either be complaining that they haven’t got enough or talking about how well their skis are running because of it.
There are a few things you need to learn about ski wax, including the different types.
In this article, we will take you through everything you need to know about waxing your skis.
Image by Barna Tanko from Shutterstock
- Why Do We Wax Skis?
- How Do I Know My Skis Need Waxing?
- Should I Take My Skis To A Shop For Waxing?
- Can I Wax My Own Skis?
- How Often Should I Wax My Skis?
- Do I Need To Wax New Skis?
- Different Types Of Ski Wax
- The Different Compositions Of Ski Wax
- Different Styles Of Ski Wax
- Experiment With Layering Your Ski Wax
- What Do I Need To Hot Wax My Skis?
- Final Thoughts
- Enjoyed Different Types Of Ski Wax & Tips On Buying One? Share it with your friends so they too can follow the Kayakhelp journey.
Image by IM_photo from Shutterstock
When you don’t wax skis, the bases dry out. Dry bases run slowly, making them work inefficiently, especially on flat sections. They may even require you to use your poles to push yourself along, where waxed skis will naturally glide.
Ski wax protects your bases from rocks and other things that may damage them. Wax won’t protect them from significant impacts, but minor dings and scratches will be kept to a minimum.
Ski wax doesn’t just protect your bases, but it does a great job of looking after your edges too. The thin layer left on your edges prevents surface rust from building up.
Rusty edges are vulnerable to dings and burrs while making you susceptible to catching an edge.
The main reason for waxing your skis is that it makes your time on the slopes more fun. You can ski faster and your skis will perform how they should. You will be able to perform effortless turns rather than battling with sticky skis.
Image by anatoliy_gleb from Shutterstock
While skiing, you will notice a lack of performance from your skis. They will feel like they are dragging, almost like the brake is on.
Before you head off on your ski trip, inspect the base. If you notice that the bases are discolored, the layer of wax will be gone or very thin.
The discoloration will give the skis’ bases a chalky white appearance. This is more obvious on skis with black bases, but colorful bases will look less vibrant.
The other indication of a dry base is a change in texture. When you compare the surface of a dry base with a freshly waxed one, the dry one will feel rough, almost fuzzy in bad cases.
If your skis show any of these characteristics, you must wax your bases.
Image by guruXOX from Shutterstock
No matter how experienced you are as a skier, you need to keep your skis in tip-top condition. You cannot wax your skis enough, but there is no point doing it if your skis’ bases are full of holes and scratches and your edges are blunt.
To get the best performance from your skis, you should service them regularly. A great way to do this is to take them to a ski shop at the end of a day on the mountain and pick them up in the morning.
A ski tech will grind your base to get rid of all the scratches, sharpen your edges, and give them a fresh coat of wax. There are a couple of issues with doing this, though.
The first issue with taking your skis to a shop is that you have to collect them in the morning before heading to the slopes. This can be frustrating, especially on a powder day, as you have something else to do before you can claim fresh tracks. You may miss the first lift and not get the first tracks on your favorite run.
Another issue with taking your skis to a ski tech is the base grinding machine. The machine takes a small layer off the bottom of your skis, removing the scratches and gauges, which is excellent, as it makes them look brand new.
However, you can only do this so many times before the bases of your skis are ruined. So if your skis are pretty old and you want to keep them, another base grind may be too much.
The other thing about base grinding is that a ski tech may put your skis through the grinder to save time when they don’t really need to. Don’t forget; they probably need to service hundreds of skis other than yours by the morning.
If your ski tech isn’t on the ball, they may even grind too much off the base, ruining your skis forever. Unfortunately, there isn’t much chance of proving that they have done something wrong.
These negatives are rare but not unheard of. You should be fine in most cases, but it is worth knowing about them. Try to find a reputable ski tech who will care for your skis.
Image by Pearl PhotoPix from Shutterstock
Waxing your own skis also has its advantages and disadvantages. The best part of doing them yourself is that you can be sure that they will be ready when you need them.
You will also know that you have done a good job on them and haven’t cut corners.
But to wax your own skis, you need the correct equipment. We will go into this later, but you will have more stuff to carry with you if you plan to wax your skis during a trip.
Waxing your skis is a messy process, and you need to put aside some time to do it properly. This may not be the best use of your time during a ski trip. But you can make sure your skis are ready before you leave.
Image by n_defender from Shutterstock
You should wax your skis at the start of every winter, and several times per month, especially if you ski every day. You may notice that your skis need waxing more often when the snow conditions are slushy. Slush is more abrasive, so your skis don’t retain the wax as well as they usually would.
But how often you wax your skis depends on how much you use them. So it would be best if you looked for the telltale signs highlighted above to determine when your skis need waxing.
It is advisable to give your skis a coat of storage wax at the end of the winter. Just apply an even layer of wax without scraping off the excess. This layer of wax will prevent your bases from drying out, and they will be ready for you to scrape for your first day on the mountain next winter.
Image by Aleksandra Suzi from Shutterstock
When you buy a new pair of skis, they will come with a layer of factory wax. This wax is pretty thin, and you don’t know how long ago it was applied.
Therefore, you can’t expect it to last very long. It may be suitable for a couple of days for skiing. Still, you will benefit more from a proper layer of wax, especially if you are an experienced skier.
If you really want to take care of your skis, no matter how experienced you are, you should wax new skis before you use them. It will prevent them from drying out and allow them to perform at their best.
Image by indukas from Shutterstock
There are a few different types of ski wax you can buy. All have their own characteristics that will affect your decision on which one to use.
Here is a rundown of the different types of ski wax:
You can use all temperature ski wax in any condition. This type of ski wax is commonly known as universal ski wax and is a general wax that protects your skis and gives them a reasonable amount of glide.
Universal ski wax is ideal if the temperatures fluctuate all the time. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about applying a wax that isn’t suited to the current conditions.
You will also use universal wax if you want to make things as easy as possible or if you don’t ski too often. It keeps everything more simple, but it won’t give you the edge in any specific situation.
The average air temperature you experience in a ski resort will depend on its location, altitude, and the time of winter.
When applying temperature-specific wax, you can get the most out of the conditions. If you ski throughout the entire season, you can start with a wax suitable for colder temperatures and gradually change it as you get closer to spring.
If you are skiing in a high-altitude ski resort, you may want to choose a low-temperature wax. In comparison, lower ski resorts require warmer temperature ski wax.
Temperature specific ski waxes generally come in the following ranges:
- 10°F/25°F — -12°C/-4°C
- 19°F/28°F — -7°C/-2°C
- 25°F/39°F — 4°C/-4°C
- 36°F/50°F — 10°C/2°C
However, if you happen to have applied low-temperature wax on your skis and the weather is unexpectedly warm, there is no need to worry. It won’t damage your skis, but you will notice a lack of performance and reduced glide.
It is better to have wax designed for cold temperatures in warm weather than the other way round. If you used warm weather wax in very cold temperatures, the bases of your skis would be very sticky, almost allowing you to walk uphill on them.
Image by Danicek from Shutterstock
Ski wax is made up of various compositions. The compositions dictate what use they are best suited to. Ski wax manufacturers use multiple additives and chemicals to create ski wax for different temperatures, humidity, and snow conditions.
Fluorocarbon ski wax is slightly more expensive than other types. Still, it is better at repelling water, making your skis faster. Most ski racers will choose fluorocarbon ski wax for its superior speed advantage.
But there are four subcategories of fluorocarbon ski wax, low, high, pure, and hybrid.
If you are an amateur skier, it would be best to use a low fluorocarbon ski wax. But if you are a pro or advanced, you would benefit from one of the other types. Low fluorocarbon wax is easier to apply, cheaper than the more advanced alternatives, and is suitable for low humidity conditions.
High fluorocarbon ski wax is faster, even when the snow is wet or slushy. Skis retain this type of wax more easily than other types, so it lasts longer. Use this stuff when the snow is wet, or the humidity is over 55%.
A hybrid fluorocarbon ski wax is a mix of two different waxes at a molecular level. It works nearly as well as high fluorocarbon wax, but it is cheaper.
You can buy pure fluorocarbon ski wax as a block, powder, or liquid. Most of the time, you will get it as a liquid that you spray onto the base of your skis.
It is best to apply several layers for your skis to be resistant to dirt, creating a fast-gliding base. This stuff is best when the snow conditions are dry.
Base preparation wax makes your base more absorbant to your wax of choice. It soaks into the pores in your skis’ bases, and once you have scraped off the excess wax, you can apply your preferred wax on top.
It isn’t essential to use base preparation wax, but it will help the lifespan of your skis.
Most ski waxes are made using petroleum products. As you can imagine, this isn’t great for the environment, both in its production and the fact that it will eventually come off your skis and get into the water system.
Therefore, some skiers like to use plant-based ski wax. It costs a little more than a hydrocarbon wax and is said to have similar performance characteristics.
During the ski wax manufacturing process, there is a lot of waste. Factories tend to have lots of wax leftover in the form of off-cuts and shavings.
Some companies manage to sweep up the shavings and off-cuts, melt them down, and form them into a new product. Recycled wax is often limited to a universal wax and is usually cheaper than other types.
Image by Catalin Grigoriu from Shutterstock
As you look deeper into the different types of ski wax, you will notice different ways you can apply it. Here is a rundown of each and how they perform:
Most ski wax comes in blocks that you melt onto your skis with an iron. You then use the iron to spread the wax around the base, using the warmth to allow the wax to seep into the microscopic pores that retain it.
You need to be careful when applying block wax, as too much heat can affect the chemicals within the base, ruining it. In extreme cases, it can cause the ski’s top sheet to separate after the heat has damaged the glue.
Once you have applied a layer of wax using moderate heat, you need to let it cool. Ideally, you should leave the wax on overnight or at least an hour before scraping off the excess and structuring the base.
Image by DjaDjuWorld from Shutterstock
Liquid ski wax is very easy to apply. All you need to do is apply it with a cloth or a special applicator that comes with the wax.
The problem with liquid ski wax is that it only lasts about 24 hours. So don’t expect it to keep your skis running smoothly for the entirety of your ski trip. But it is a good alternative if you are short on time.
Rub on ski wax is the easiest to apply. It will come in a small pot, in a stick, not unlike a deodorant.
This stuff is not as good or as durable as hot wax, but it can help you get some extra speed if your skis feel a bit slow. You can keep some rub on wax in your backpack and use it at lunchtime to speed you up for a couple of runs.
Paste ski wax is only good for one run, but it is easy to apply. You rub it on with a fabric applicator for a little speed boost. But don’t expect it to keep you sliding fast all day.
Powder wax is an additional layer you apply after applying block wax. Sprinkle the powder over the base of your skis and use a cork to buff it in.
This stuff is pretty expensive due to the significant amount of fluorocarbon. But if you want to experiment with the performance of your skis, it may be worth a try.
After waxing your skis with block wax, you can enhance their performance with some spray-on ski wax. But make sure you use some high-end wax, such as a high fluorocarbon ski wax, for best results.
You need to spray it onto the base of your skis and let it soak in for about five minutes. Then, buff it with a cork to achieve the ultimate glide from your skis.
The longer you buff the base with the cork, the longer your skis retain the wax, keeping them performing at their best for longer.
Image by fotoliza from Shutterstock
If you want to service your own skis and get geeky with wax, you can do lots of experimentation. You can’t really do any damage, so if you spend enough time on the slopes, why not try out various combinations of wax?
It is best to start with a good hot wax suitable for the air temperature. But you can have a lot of fun trying different brands and then add powder, spray-on, or rub-on waxes to see how they perform. You never know; you might just find the magic combination for ultimate speed.
Image by Barna Tanko from Shutterstock
You need several items to do a proper hot wax job on your skis.
Obviously, the first thing you need is a block of wax that will suit the conditions you plan on skiing in.
The next thing is a base cleaner. This is a solvent that you can spray onto the bases of your skis to dissolve old wax and clean off any dirt. After spraying it on, all you need to do is rub it off with a paper towel and let the base dry.
You need to apply the wax with a hot iron. This can be an old clothing iron that is no longer in use but make sure it isn’t a steam iron with lots of holes that will clog up with wax.
It is best to use an iron that you can adjust the temperature on. As we mentioned earlier, you don’t want your iron to get too hot, but it needs to be hot enough to melt the ski wax and warm the base.
You can buy waxing irons specifically designed for this purpose. These have dials that make adjusting the temperature easy and are shaped to allow you to cover the base of your skis or snowboard efficiently.
Image by fotoliza from Shutterstock
After your wax has cooled, you will need to scrape off the excess. A plastic scraper is best, as it won’t damage your base like a metal one can, although it makes the task a little harder.
When you have scraped off the excess wax, you need to wipe the base with a cloth along the length of the ski to buff it to a shine. Then structure the base with a stiff brush.
To structure the base, simply run the brush along the length a couple of times to create tiny lines in the wax to help the ski slide along their plane.
Image by Fotosr52 from Shutterstock
Waxing your skis is extremely important for how they perform and how long they will last. It can make a difference to you having a great time on the slopes and having a frustrating one.
Whether you want to wax your own skis or hand them over to a professional. You won’t regret looking after your stuff.