A Basic Guide to Cross Country Ski Waxing

Ski wax is an integral part of modern cross country skiing. Wax improves the performance of skis and maintains the health of ski bases. There are hundreds of wax options to maximize performance in different snow types and temperatures. For the beginner, starting a collection of waxes can seem like a confusing and expensive process.

Here is a very basic guide to help you find the most affordable, effective, and easy to use waxes. 

Waxless Fishscale skis: These skis have a fishscale or crown pattern engraved into the kickzone of the ski. Many of the basic backcountry and touring skis have fishscales.  These are the easiest skis to wax and maintain. They do not require kickwax; however, many skiers will use a rub on glide wax to prevent the bases from icing. We recommend Maxiglide, a wipe on paste that works well on a wide variety of skis. Just rub it down the ski bases tip to tail, and let it dry for a few minutes before skiing. You don't need much, a very thin layer will do. 

Waxless Skin skis: These have a mohair insert on the kickzone, instead of the fishscale pattern. Although they do not require any kickwax, there are a couple of products you can use to keep the skins in good condition. We recommend Swix Skin Care and Swix Skin Cleaner. The Skin Care is applied before skiing and like Maxiglide, improves glide and keeps the skins from collecting snow or icing. The Skin Cleaner is used after skiing to clean the skin of dirt and debris. Neither product is required; however they enhance the performance of the skis. You can also use Maxiglide on the tips and tails.

Waxable Classic skis: These skis are typically narrower, longer, and higher performance than the waxless classic skis. A properly waxed classic ski will be faster and more effective than a waxless one. However, a ski that is not waxed properly can be difficult to kick on, or very draggy and slow. The most effective wax varies on by the day, and depends on temperature and snow conditions. 

There are many variations on kick wax available for purchase. For the basic setup, we recommend Toko. Toko kick waxes aren't always the fastest in terms of glide; however they give a reliably good kick, they are easy to use, and they are more affordable than other options. They are therefore a staple for both recreational skiers and competitive skiers' training sessions. Here is a good selection to get you started:


Swix V50 Violet Hardwax: for soft natural snow in temperatures 30-32 degrees
Swix V40 Extra Blue Hardwax: for fresh natural snow in temperatures 19-30 degrees
Swix V30 Blue Hardwax: for old or dry snow in temperatures 5-25 degrees

Swix Universal K22 Klister: for slushy or manmade snow in tempreatures 26 to 50 degrees
Swix Universal Silver Klister: for icy or manmade snow in temperatures 22 to 38 degrees
Toko Yellow Klister: for slushy transformed snow or man made snow 28 degrees and warmer
Toko Red Klister: for icy/slushy transformed snow or man made snow with temperatures between 18 and 36 degrees.
Toko Blue Klister: for icy transformed snow or man made snow with temperatures 20 degrees and colder. 

Swix Natural Cork: to cork hard wax into the base of the ski.

The Swix / Toko systems are fairly simple. For naturally dry, fluffy snow, select a hard wax that best fits the temperature. Hard wax is crayoned on the base of the ski in thin layers and then rubbed in with a cork. For icy/slushy snow that has been transformed through periods of freeze/thaw, or for manmade snow that has a slipery icy quality with a high moisture content - use a klister wax that best fits the temperature. Klister is a jelly-like substance that is applied to the ski bases like toothpaste from a tube. It can be rubbed into the base of the ski with your thumb. 

Klister is incredibly sticky, and often skiers are reluctant to use it because of the mess it can create. However, in New England, with the conditions so often man made or icy, Klister is an essential wax for the waxable classic ski. Klister can be cleaned with Toko Wax Cleaner, and will naturally dissolve when exposed to the oils on your skin. Toko also makes their klisters in a spray form for easier application. 

Glide Wax for Skate skis or Waxable Classic Skis: Higher performance classic skis and skate skis will perform best with an iron-in glide wax. These help keep the bases healthy, and will provide the best glide. If a wax bench and an iron is out of your budget, you can also apply a rub on glide wax. The Swix F4 premium glide wax comes in a block that you crayon on to the glide zones of the ski and then cork in. You can buy them in coldwarm, and universal temperature ratings. If you choose this method, we recommend getting the skis infared waxed by a ski service shop at least once a year. This will keep the bases saturated and increase the life and performance of the ski. 

If you are new to waxing your cross country skis or just need a refresher, this overview will help you! If you have any questions, give us a call or stop in and we will gladly assist.

Sara Falconer is an assistant coach to the Mansfield Nordic Club Junior team. She works at Skirack in the Nordic Skiing and Running departments. 

Click here to read Sara's bio