Waxing - For Glide
- Why do I need to glide wax skis?
- What you need
- How to "Hot Wax"
- How to Scrape Wax
- General Glide Wax Tips
Both Classic and Skate skis periodically need to be glide waxed for optimal glide and performance. Classic skis are glide waxed above and below the wax pocket while skate skis are glide waxed the entire length of the base.
Glide waxing both protects a ski base and "customizes" the pores of the base to the snow and temperature conditions. Glide waxing also maintains the "health" of the base by filling pores in the base and preventing damage during off months and even days/weeks during the ski year. In order to maximize the durability of glide wax, the wax is heated into the base using an iron with the excess wax scraped off.
What you need
The first step in glide waxing is to find a good place to heat the wax and a good support system for the skis. A well-ventilated area is essential which we will explain in the Safety portion. The bare-bones approach in the house is to just lay down some newspaper with some pillows or books underneath to support the tips and tails. You can also use a workbench or two sawhorses outside or in a garage. This kind of makeshift set-up is fine for heating in wax for beginners and scraping can be done anywhere shavings aren't a problem or where they can easily be cleaned up.
If you move past simple hot waxing into actually structuring skis or if you are working with high-priced performance equipment, you really should make or purchase a profile bench. These are wood or metal forms that fit the bow of a ski with a clamp in the middle. Profile benches allow for much more precise ski work and generally protect a ski while waxing, scraping, or structuring.
The only tools you REALLY need will be:
- a good iron with an adjustable heat control (no holes are the best)
- a thick plastic wax scraper with sharp edges
- a rounded groove scraper (clean klister paddles work great!)
- glide wax
- a nylon brush or soft pad for finish work
You can sometimes find acceptable irons at thrift stores, but the ski-specific models in ski shops and catalogs are well worth the extra money. Think of it this way...you spend hundreds of dollars on skis and wax, why not make sure the one tool you need is built for the job? Scrapers and wax you can find at any XC ski shop or area.
How to Hot Wax
Heat your iron to a point just hot enough to melt the wax you will be using. The lowest possible setting you can get away with is the one you want to always use. If the iron smokes it is way too hot! For beginners, simple paraffin waxes are all you need to worry about and they melt at a very low temperature. (Note: Fortunately, paraffin waxes are also cheaper and are easier to apply than high-end waxes.)
The most efficient application method is to rub the end of the block or stick of wax on the iron face and then crayon the heated end of the wax on the base of the ski. By crayoning on semi-heated wax you waste less wax than by dripping wax from the iron tip. You just need enough wax to cover the entire base (on skate skis) with a smooth layer...any more will simply be wasted.
Remember, never touch the middle of a waxless ski (where the waxless grip surface is) with any kind of glide wax! Also, you only glide wax outside the wax pocket (top one third and bottom one third) of a Classic waxable ski. Glide wax on the area that you'll put kick wax can sometimes compromise the ability of the kick wax to adhere to the ski.
Once you have the base covered, gently warm the wax into the pores of the base by moving the iron up and down the glide wax areas for a minute or so. Keep the iron moving until you have clearly melted all the wax. NEVER let the iron touch a bare ski base. Let the ski cool completely before scraping.
How to Scrape Wax
If you are doing this without a profile bench, make sure to support the ski with your body and your free hand as much as possible. Always work on skis from tip to tail using gentle, fluid motions with the scraper. NEVER use a metal scraper to scrape wax! Even with a plastic scraper, you should be very careful and take your time. Try to angle the scraper towards the direction you are scraping and use your entire hand to hold the scraper since they often slip creating little nicks and base cuts. It can be easier to clean the groove first, but regardless, make sure it also gets scraped. Try to get as much wax as possible off the surface for superior glide. A good nylon brush is an excellent finishing tool to really leave a ski clean but it is not necessary for beginning skiing.
General Glide Waxing Tips
- Selection of glide wax is actually pretty easy for beginners. Just follow the temperature ranges on the package of any brand on the market and you'll be in the ballpark. In purchasing wax, a beginner's best bet is a combi package with several colors in one package. Glide wax stores very well as long as you keep the wax in cool areas away from heat sources or direct sunlight.
- Forget about the high-end waxes until you have mastered at least intermediate technique and you are skiing on performance equipment. Just to provide some perspective, elite athletes and coaches use up to $200(US) worth of wax on just one pair of skis for major international competitions! You can buy a pair of used low end skis for that much. Save your money for more ski lessons until every little second starts counting...and for most folks it's never that important.
- Once you learn the basics of hot waxing and scraping skis, it'll be useful to learn the basics of structuring skis to further improve the performance of even low end skis. Several videos and manuals are on the market that describe this process.
- Remember to leave a layer of glide wax on your skis whenever you will be traveling a long distance or when you won't be using the skis for several months. The wax protects the skis from drying out and from the scratches during the rigors of travel. Protect your investment!
Research studies in both North America and Europe have proven that waxing fumes do represent a certain amount of health risk--particularly the high-end fluorocarbon waxes. Most researchers conclude that cheaper, paraffin waxes burn fairly "clean", but still advise heating waxes in well ventilated areas and limiting exposure.
For a beginner that hot waxes skis one-three times a year, all you really need to do is make sure to open the windows when you wax or better yet, heat waxes in an open garage or even outside. If you have a good organic vapor mask (used in painting and other industrial uses), be sure to use it, but don't make a special trip just for low-end paraffin waxes.
If you do invest in high-end flurocarbons, xcskiworld.com strongly recommends investing in the best possible organic vapor mask and waxing in the safest location possible.
At all times when waxing, be aware of fire danger and risks to children/pets.