One of the best ways to keep your cross country skis gliding and functional season after season is by caring for the bases by waxing. Waxing your skis prevents the skis from drying out (eventually damaging the bases) and repels water, thus improving glide. There are so many wax options out there, but it is best to do a hot wax. The heat from the iron allows the wax to get deeper in the bases and lasts longer than a rub on or liquid wax. For hot waxing at home, you will need an iron, wax, scrapers, and brushes. But how do you go about choosing all of that?
What You Need
Let's start with waxing irons; why get a waxing specific iron in the first place? The number one reason is temperature regulation. Wax irons are designed to maintain specific temperature and come with a dial to set a specific temperature for applying glide wax. Not only does this make waxing easier, but it also protects the bases of your skis. Next up are the scrapers you’ll use. You’ll need a groove scraper and a plexiglass scraper, you’ll use these to remove the wax from your skis.
Finally, you’ll need brushes to get the remaining glide wax out of your bases. There are many other brushes you can add to your waxing bench set-up however, I recommend a bronze brush and a nylon polishing brush for getting started.
Now that you know what to get, how do you actually use these tools? Let’s walk through the waxing process!
Select the wax of the day and set the temperature on your wax iron. Every wax indicates (on the package) the correct temperature to set the wax iron to. Once you set the iron to the proper temperature, it will indicate in some way that it’s reached the indicated temperature.
Apply the block of wax to the heated iron until it starts to melt and “crayon” or rub the heated wax block onto the base of the ski. Some people prefer to drip the wax directly onto the ski. I prefer crayoning because it's more economical but both methods work!
Once you’ve covered the entire base of the ski, iron in the wax. Do this by placing the iron directly on the base of the ski and, moving tip to tail, spread the wax evenly on the ski. Make sure to keep the iron moving so you don’t overheat and damage your bases.
Let the ski cool for at least 10 minutes. If it's going to be a while before you ski again, feel free to leave the wax on until then.
Once the ski has cooled, take your groove scraper and scrape the groove of the ski.
Take your plexiglass scraper and at a 45° angle apply downward pressure and scrape from tip to tail. Do this until most of the wax has been removed.
Using the bronze brush, apply downward, forward pressure (once again moving only from tip to tail) and make quick passes over the ski. Do this until you no longer see wax particles (usually around 3 passes). Finally, do the same with a nylon polishing brush (2-3 passes) to remove the last of the wax particles.
Enjoy your fast skis!
Waxing isn’t the only way to care for the bases of your skis. If you want to take it a step further, stone grinding and adding structure are also ways to give your bases some love.
The stone grinding process removes damaged base material, flattens the base of the ski, and can remove small (superficial) scratches in the base. This process makes it easier for wax to penetrate the base of the skis, therefore getting the most out of the waxing regimen. This also adds a permanent structure to the ski, which helps optimize glide by wicking away water. Stone grinding isn’t something that can be done at home, however, you can bring your skis into the service shop to have them done!
Finally, you can add a temporary structure to the bases of your skis by using a hand structure tool (like the ones from Toko or Swix). This is best for racers, but if you’re having fun with waxing and base prep as a casual skier, you can try this out as well! There are different structure rollers, but once you’ve selected one you can get started. After waxing, roll the structure tool with moderate, even pressure from tip to tail. It’s a pretty simple process!
Caring for your skis can often seem like an intimidating process, but ultimately you can decide your level of commitment and interest and adjust your ski care regimen accordingly. Hope to see you on the trails!
- Meg Charles,
Skirack Nordic Specialist