An Insight on Ski Waxing

Snow Crystals Soften Over Time

An Insight on Ski Waxing

There are essentially two types of cross country skis available to the individual, waxable and waxless. Another form of definition is that waxable skis are best suited for performance and waxless skis for convenience. It all depends on the desires of the skier . A ski that has been waxed well for the existing snow conditions will almost always outperform a waxless ski . On the other hand, a waxless ski will always outperform a poorly waxed ski . So if you are willing to spend the time to learn and experiment, the waxable skis are worth that extra effort.

The waxing guide found on the back cover will supply information at a glance , but a little knowledge on the purpose of the wax will help the skier understand why, how, and which wax to apply.

The basics of skiing critically relies on what one skis on: snow. All the waxing systems available depend on the snow conditions. For simplicity’s sake , there are two general snow conditions; fresh or new snow and old or wet snow. If it has just snowed, each individual snow crystal tends to be well formed. As time and changes in temperature occur, the crystal slowly melts and eventually reaches the final stage seen in Figure E.


Snow Crystals Soften Over Time

The purpose of wax selection is to conform the wax with the existing snow crystal formation. When the crystals are “fresh” or well formed, Figure A, the hard waxes allow the sharp points of the crystal to grip enough to allow the skier his kick without slipping, and prevent snow from building up under the ski . As the crystal transforms to Figure C , a softer wax is needed in order for the ski to stick . This is the factual theory by which the waxable ski operates. With this knowledge floating in the skier’s mind, choosing the correct wax for the conditions becomes much easier.

With wax-able skis , the key area is the kicker wax pocket. For wax-less skis, the same area is covered with “fish scales.” These, in effect, replace the wax system. The wax or fish scales are needed in order for one to gain traction when weight is applied to the ski.

The Ski Wax Pocket
The Ski Wax Pocket

Each color wax is proportional to the condition of the snow. The colder the snow, the harder a wax is needed to grip. The warmer the snow, the softer wax is desirable. If one uses a real soft wax, i.e. red , when it is very cold , your wax will stick too well and your glide will be sluggish and short. The harder wax, i.e. green, will grip to the snow crystals and allow enough traction when weighted and enough glide when unweighted. The waxable ski method is like a jigsaw puzzle. Only your experience will provide a reasonable solution.

Two styles of waxes are most widely used. During the months of December through March, when it snows regularly in the Adirondacks, the hard waxes, the cylinders, are most useful. In the Spring or in warm spells, the tubes of klister provide the best traction when the snow is wet and the crystals are very deformed. Both styles of wax are applied to the critical wax pocket.

If you have determined that a hard wax is today’s ticket, rub it on the kicker area just like a crayon. It is recommended to use a cork afterwards to better adhere the wax to your skiis. Corking helps the wax to stay on your ski longer . If you feel klister is needed, squeeze some of this toothpaste stuf f in small blotches on the wax pocket . Use the spreader to smooth the sticky goop into a uniform layer; all the while avoiding getting the klister on your pants, hair, nose , mittens. Do not place gobs of the stuff on, thin layers are most effective. When it finally snows again, or you can’t stand leaving the stuf f on your skiis, the best klister remover is white gas or gasoline. The remover sold commercially works fine, but costs five times as much.

Snow conditions and thus wax conditions can vary by the hour and by elevation. The best and most obvious method to determine this change is by your ski effort. if you find yourself slipping alot on any uphill, you may consider a warmer wax. Simply stop and crayon on the next warmest wax.

Sometimes, especially as the temperature drops in the afternoon, you will find yourself sticking to the snow. You should then stop and use your trusty scraper to remove the warm wax, and then apply the colder wax. Remember you can always spread a jelly (warm wax), over peanut butter (cold wax). But it is a tough trick to spread peanut butter over jelly.

The best method overall to get the knack of waxing your skis is to practice. Nordic skiers have been using the wax system for centuries and personally, this method is worth the extra effort of figuring out your wax system.

Base Binder Waxing

Most ski manufacturers recommend a base wax on their ski before any usage. This is most desirable because on the one hand, this extra layer helps to protect your ski from abuse due to rocks, trees, bushes, squirrels, etc. Also, the base wax acts as a binder; a layer which allows all your kicker wax to adhere better and longer . Your base wax also becomes a glider for your tips and tails . In other words , it ‘ s a real good idea to melt on a base wax.

Plastic Base Skis

Most skis today have a plastic base. The best way to apply your binder base wax is to get an old iron and set it on a moderate temperature where the wax will not smoke. The most effective binder I have found is Polar wax. It is the coldest and hardest cylinder available. Press the polar on the bottom of the iron and allow it to melt. As the wax builds up, it will easily melt and drip off the tip of the iron. Drip the wax along the entire length of the ski, avoiding the groove.

Waxing the Ski Bottom
Once you have drops covering the ski, place the iron flat down on the ski. It is a good idea to have a good support system such as garbage cans, a workbench, or saw horses to work on. With the iron, proceed to melt the drips until you have a uniform layer of wax on your ski. Let it dry for a half an hour and then scrape off the excess. That’s all there is to it . If you are wary of doing it for your first time, aiiy experienced friend or ski shop will be willing to lend you a hand.

Wood Skis

You must have a pine tar base for your wood skiis before waxing. The pine tar prevents water from entering the wood and also allows the kicker wax you applied to adhere well . There are two ways to apply this stuff, a hot method and a cold one. I prefer the cold method because I do not own a propane torch which is vital in adhering the hot method pine tar. I use Bergendahl’s Grunnsmoring pine tar. It is pretty basic stuff. I have no idea what Grunnsmoring means, I only know it works. On your workbench, paint this pine tar on your ski bottoms. A good, even coat works well. This stuff is effective as well as easy to apply. I do recommend someone showing you how, because even though it is simple, it never hurts to watch an experienced person.

Good skiing!!