Ski Maintenance 101: The Basics of Waxing

December 23, 2015

  • by
  • Chris Dickson

Active Junky presents you with our Ski Tuning Series, a three-part look into the world of waxing, base repair and the edge sharpening.  Basically, it’s a crash course: you’re now enrolled in Ski Maintenance 101.

PART 1: The Basics of Waxing

First, lets answer the question, “Why do we have wax on the bottom of our skis?” In order to do that, we have to take a brief look at ski construction.

From top to bottom, a ski or snowboard consists of the topsheet, the core,and the base, sandwiched with a sidewall or cap and pressed with a metal edge. The base of the ski is made of P-Tex, a hard plastic that protects the core from damage as well as provide a gliding surface for you to ride on. So, when you hear someone say that they, “got a coreshot”, this means that an object gouged through their P-Tex base and exposed their ski’s core.

The role of wax is to protect this P-Tex base from superficial scratches and gouges and also to provide a predictable glide on snow. So, having fresh wax on your skis isn’t just about going fast, it also helps build protection into the base and will increase the longevity of your skis.

THE WAXING – Step by Step

A basic ski wax, done by hand, involves three major steps. The first is to prepare the bases for new wax, the second is to apply the wax, and the last step is to scrape off excess wax. To complete this process, you should have a waxing iron, a scraper and some universal glide wax. It’s great to set up a ski-waxing bench in a place that you don’t mind getting a little messy, like a garage or utility room.

STEP 1: BASE PREP

Before applying new wax to your skis, it’s important to remove the old wax that’s currently on your bases. This can be performed with a stiff bristled brush and a scraper, or you can even use a liquid base cleaner. Regardless, the process is the same: you want to scrape or brush from tip to tail, then wipe the skis clean after removing the old wax.

STEP 2: IRON ON NEW WAX

Now, its time to apply new wax. While there are many different types of glide wax out there, specific to different temperatures of snow, its best to start by applying a universal flouro glide wax directly onto the base first. And, the best way to do this is to use a waxing iron, which melts and liquefies the wax, allowing it to drip onto the base. Apply the wax liberally, because later you’ll scrape off the excess. Once you have dripped wax along the entire ski, you can now apply the iron to bottom of the skis, sliding it over the dripped wax until the wax melts and becomes smeared evenly across the entire bottom surface of the ski.

STEP 3: SCRAPE OFF EXCESS WAX

Once the wax has cooled on the bottom of your skis, its time to scrape off the excess. Using a large plastic scraper, drag it across the ski from tip to tail using the flat edge of the scraper to remove excess wax. Your goal is to keep scraping off wax until you can slide the scraper along the metal edges without any additional wax coming off. Then, you'll want to buff the wax with a brush or tough sponge.

At this stage, you have some options. Many skiers will do one hand-wax and call it good. Others will repeat this entire process several times, building a solid layer of wax under their bases. Others still will apply a temperature specific wax according to the snow conditions. However, for the average recreational skier, one hand-wax every few weeks will dramatically improve your glide on the slopes and increase the durability of your skis.

So, there you have it! The process of hand-waxing a pair of skis is really quite simple, especially once you have the tools for the job. Feel like you’re up to the task? Check out the Swix Waxing Iron, their Scraper and their Universal F4 Flouro Glide Wax for the gear needed to get it done.

On the next edition of Ski Maintenance 101, we will cover the wild world of base repair (ie. How to fix coreshots!).

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