Maintaining your equipment is an important thing to do throughout ski season. Although sometimes its a good idea to get a professional tune job that might include base grind and belts, recreational skiers and snowboarders can do some basic work on their own, applying their own wax in between tunes. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to wax your skis or board this winter. Be sure you are in a well-ventilated area and wear a respirator mask if possible.
Typically there are a few warning signs to indicate you need a wax, including moving slow on the hill or when the bottom of your skis or board look dry or flaky. It is also usually necessary if you haven’t used your equipment in awhile, particularly at the beginning of the season.
What does wax do?
- Glide wax (used for downhill skiing) reduces the friction between your skis and the snow, allowing you to ski faster.
- Grip wax is placed on the tips of Nordic skis, to give the skier a better grip when pushing forward.
What kind of wax should you use?
- Recreational skiers looking for an easy wax with little hassle should opt for a universal wax. These perform relatively well in all temperatures.
- One step up from universal is a 2-wax system. One is designed for temperatures above freezing, one is designed for below, and it offers a similar level of convenience to universal.
- If a skier is interested in performance, he or she should choose a temperature-specific wax. The skier will have to predict the temperature of the snow he or she will be skiing in and choose the corresponding wax (they are color coded).
- Rub-on wax is also an option, because it can be conveniently applied in a parking lot or ski lodge, but it is generally regarded as lower quality than hot waxing.
Prepping your skis
You need to move your brake out of the way and clean off any dirt or gunk that might weaken the wax you’re about to apply.
- First, press the pedal to retract the ski brake. Its arms will pop up, parallel with the ski.
- Wrap a sturdy rubber band around one arm, take it over the heel piece and hook it to the other arm. This will keep the brakes out of the way.
- Tighten the vise around the middle of the ski.
- Dab a small amount of alcohol onto a clean rag and wipe any dust or debris off of your ski. Allow the alcohol to dry.
You can use any heat source that maintains a regular temperature, including irons or hot air guns. Many home irons aren’t able to keep consistent temperatures, so ski waxing irons are recommended.
- Heat up your iron. You’ll find the recommended temperature on your wax box. Generally speaking, softer warm-weather waxes need cooler temperatures and harder cold-weather waxes need a warmer iron.
- Hold a piece of the wax against the iron, about 2-4 inches above the ski, and allow it to drop onto the ski. Move from tip to tail, side to side, covering the ski completely with the melted wax.
- Press the iron against the base of the ski and spread the wax across the base until it is entirely covered. Make sure the entire bottom surface is covered. The wax layer should be thin enough that one end dries by the time you reach the other.
- Allow the ski to cool (about 30 minutes to an hour) indoors. Cooling your skis outdoors will push the wax back up out of the pores in the ski.
- Clean your iron.
Scraping and brushing
Now it’s time to scrape to remove any excess wax.
- Use a plastic scraper to remove excess wax. Use light, overlapping, continuous strokes. The ski should be free of visible wax. Scrape any wax off the edges as well.
- Brush the ski base to bring out the texture of the base and improve your speed. All it takes is about 15-20 strokes with a stiff nylon brush.
Terry Hertel, owner of Hertel Wax, responded to an online survey asking about top products for the season, the best way to wax a set of skis and any waxing horror stories he has seen working in the business.
Terry Hertel of Hertel Wax (hertelwax.com)
On their headline product this year: Our headline product is all temperature Super HotSauce. It is sold by the 3/4 lb brick. This product can be applied hot or cold. It is so unique, not one competitor has anything like it. Our web site hertelwax.com tells a lot also. On Amazon.com searches titled ‘ski wax’, we have been number one with over 144 positive reviews. If you ski or ride, you must experience the added fun offer by the product. Last is accident avoidance technology. You will understand this after your first use.
On the best way to wax a set of skis or board: Getting the wax thin with heat allows some penetration and light bonding.
On any waxing horror stories he’s seen: I often stop by an accident and view the base of the ski or snowboard. It is amazing what poor condition the edges are in as well as chunks missing out of the base. Last is colored wax is so out.