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October 19, 2008

Ski Waxing – How to Wax Skis?

wax

Let’s talk about ski waxing, and especially HOW to wax skis.

The ski season 08/09 is about to start in a few weeks. Have you already prepared your skis for the first snow? Have you waxed your skis already, or have you actually ever thought about ski waxing? Many skiers invest a good amount of money in new powder guns, but never actually take care of them. Many people don’t even bother to maintain their skis, and only a fraction of skiers regularly wax their skis. If you are interested in waxing skis, then read this post.

Ski waxing is an important part of ski maintenance. Wax protects the base of a ski and lessens friction. Ski wax is like the motor oil that keeps a motor running and in good operating condition. Ski wax is necessary to keep skis operating well. You can go skiing without ever waxing your skis, but the performance of your skis will not come even close to the level of properly waxed skis.

Waxing skis is important – Cold snow can damage skis

You might not have ever heard this before, but as snow gets colder (like -20 Centigrade) it can actually damage the base of your skis. In cold temperature snow crystals become sharper. In order to avoid skis from getting damaged, you must use cold temperature ski wax which protects the ski base from getting cut by sharp snow crystals.

How about warmer snow? In warmer temperature snow becomes wetter, which causes more friction between the ski and snow. Warm temperature ski wax removes some of the friction, which leads to easier and faster gliding.

What equipment is necessary for waxing skis?

Different weather conditions require different ski waxes. So the first thing you need to know before waxing skis is to know the weather conditions. Next you need some tools for waxing skis.

• Ski wax for the current temperature and snow conditions
• Iron for ironing the wax into the ski base
• Vise for stabilizing skis while waxing
• Scraper for removing extra wax
• Brush for removing extra wax

Note that the iron should be a special ski waxing iron, not the one you use to iron your shirts. If you use the same iron for waxing skis, you will destroy your shirts the next time you iron them. A ski waxing iron is also able to maintain a consistent temperature, which helps to avoid burning the ski wax. Therefore it is recommended to purchase an iron specifically made for waxing skis.

Ski waxing iron differs a little bit from traditional household iron

It is not always easy to find a place for vise at home, but I strongly recommend you try. The reason is that waxing skis without a vise can be really frustrating: if the skis are not locked down, they keep flopping around as you’re trying to work on them. Some skiers wax their skis without a vise, but I can tell you that a vise makes waxing skis a lot easier and less frustrating.

Ski waxing scraper can be a regular car window scraper, but the best performance is provided by scrapers designed for ski waxing. Ski waxing scrapers are pretty cheap, so I recommend buying a good one. One good scraper can easily serve more than 10 years. A lousy one can break after a few days.

Ski waxing scraper is needed for removing bulk ski wax

There are different ski waxing brushes available, from steel to nylon. It makes sense to purchase both of them, but if you want to buy only one, then choose the nylon brush. We recommend you purchase a ski waxing brush that integrates both nylon and steel brushes, like the one in this picture. A brush is used to remove extra ski wax.

Ski waxing brush is needed after scraping the wax

How to wax skis? – Homeboy’s tips for waxing skis

Now that you have all the necessary equipment, it’s time to start waxing skis. Here are our tips for waxing skis at home.

Start by selecting the right wax for the current temperature. Check the temperature outside or in the weather forecast and find the appropriate ski wax. Notice that ski waxes are designed for snow temperature and air temperature is usually couple of degrees lower than snow temperature, so you may need to do a little bit of math here.

Start waxing skis by dripping melted ski wax from the iron to the ski base. Hold your iron about 5-7 inches above the ski base, and drip melted ski wax constantly around the ski base. One 60-gram ski wax bar should be enough for waxing five skis and three snowboards. The actual number depends on the size of your skis. If you have so-called fat skis, then you naturally need a bit more wax than for regular skis.

Next, start ironing the ski wax by moving the iron constantly on ski base. Make sure not to stop moving the iron because keeping the iron in one spot can seriously damage the base of your skis. After ironing the ski wax into your ski, let it cool for an hour.

Next you need to scrape off the excess wax. Start scraping from the tail of your ski. Hold your scraper at a 45-degree angle to the ski, and scrape back and forth. Continue scraping until you cannot remove any more ski wax.

The last phase is brushing. Start with your stiffest brush and move to softer ones along the way. Start brushing from the tip of your ski, and head towards the tail of your ski. Continue brushing until you cannot remove any ski wax with your softest brush. Clean your skis with paper towel in between when you switch from stiffer to softer brush.

Finally clean your skis with paper towel. Congratulations, you’re done waxing your skis.

How often should my skis be waxed?

It would be optimal for you to wax your skis before each skiing outing, like ski racers. But for most of us this is not possible. I usually wax my skis a few times a year. A good rule of thumb is to wax your skis every tenth skiing day.

What kind of waxing tips and ideas do you have? Do you wax your skis using a different method? Please tell us how you wax your skis and what you would do differently. Just leave a comment below.

Also check out our last year’s ski waxing tips.

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About the Author

Marko Pyhajarvi
I am an old-school alpine skier, snowboarder and telemarker, and I love writing. Therefore I founded Homeboy. I (too) enjoy powder, mountaineering and backcountry skiing as well as photographing. Nowadays, as an old fart, I mostly ski with my kids and focus on financing their hobbies.




 
 

 
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28 Comments


  1. If you wan´t to be prepared for unstable weather you can apply multiple layers of wax.
    Wax that is made for colder snow needs a higher temperature before melting than wax made for wet snow. An iron made for waxing skis (Holmenkol makes superb irons) has a very accurate scale for adjusting the temperature.
    So first you apply a layer of very hard wax, wait, scrape and brush. Then you turn down the heat a bit, and apply a layer of wax meant for a bit warmer conditions. This wax does not need that much heat to melt, and when you put on this layer you will not affect the first layer.
    After a week you will be able to go skiing, after your boss has postponed your trip for a couple of days.
    The weather on the mountain is really cold. What happens now with the wax meant for warmer conditions? Nothing really, it will just “wear off” very fast, and underneath you have the coldweather-wax.


  2. okka, thanks a lot for these valuable tips! What you said really makes sense. Could you recommend some brands for waxes, brushes and scrapers? You already mentioned that Holmenkol irons are superb, so how about the rest of the tools?


  3. It is easiest to choose one specific brand if you want to put many layers of wax upon another.
    Holmenkol Ultra Mix for snow -12C thru -25C, Holmenkol Beta Mix Red for snow -6°C to -2°C and Holmenkol Alpha Mix Yellow for snow 0 to -4C. I must admit I usually do not often put all of these, it takes too much time. Perhaps two layers and one layer of Holmenkol Nanowax on top of everything. The nanowax really adds speed when conditions get warmer.
    The colourcodes differ from brand to brand, and surprisingly from year to year. 2002 had another colourcode than we have in 2008 and so on.
    When it comes to brushes i do not have any specific favourit. Start, Holmenkol, Star, all of them make good products, none of them is very cheap.
    The scrapers i order from a friend, who cuts me about 100-200 scrapers every winter. I hate to work with old ones, and I sharpen them once in awhile. Do not use a scraper that is so thick that you can´t bend it. It is much faster to scrape if you bend the scraper a bit, and you do not have to use so much raw force to get the job done.


  4. It looks like you really like Holmenkol waxes, so you probably would recommend them as well, right?

    Good to know that thing with color codes, thanks!

    You mentioned Holmenkol again with brushes. May be it could be a good idea to buy all the tools from Holmenkol. I’m just trying to figure out which brand is good, because I see you are experienced with ski waxing.

    It’s good that you mentioned the tip of bending a scraper. Probably those who wax their skis the first time have never heard of this tip. So when buying a scraper, one should check if it’s possible to bend it.

    Thanks for your advices mate! I’ve got just one question. How much time you need for waxing one pair of fat skis?


  5. If you do the waxing thoroughly, it takes 25 – 45 minutes to wax a pair of fat skies. Than I do not take into account the time the skies have to wait before i scrape the wax off.
    The Kitewing Skimbat – guys are waxing their skis a lot. I have picked up a lot by listening and watching them. They race on the ice in the wintertime. Multple layers of hard basewax is the only way to go if you want to race for a whole day on a frozen lake.
    I learned that supercold hard wax must be scraped off when it is still warm. You will not gain anything by letting the wax cool down before scraping the eccesswax off, you will only get frustrated and angry.


  6. Thanks for these tips Okka! Very nice to hear such detailed and useful ski waxing tips that otherwise are difficult to find.


  7. John Provocative

    THIS WILL PUT THE SKI WAX COMPANIES OUT OF BUSINESS
    Ingredients and formula for super fast ,all temp, racing ski wax:(1)5 lbs of paraffin wax(preferably 150degree or higher melt temp)
    (2) 1/2 lb of paraflint wax hardener (3) a bar of Ivory soap (4) a regular size tube of Crest high fluoride toothpaste (5)a heaping tablespoon of spruce gum(resin from a spruce tree)

    The paraffin and paraflint hardener can be easily and cheaply obtained from most candle supply companies.The soap and toothpaste should be easy enough.The spruce gum can be obtained from any specie of spruce tree.It exudes from wounds in the bark or broken branches.Make sure it is soft and clean,free from any dirt or bark.

    In addition to these ingredients you will also need: An outdoor cookstove or grill,a freezer,a large and small cooking pot,stove mitts,a butterknife,a blender,a clock or watch,a bowl,and a few pie tins or tin bread molds to pour the liquid wax into.

    CAUTION:MELTING WAX CAN BE VERY DANGEROUS.IT IS ADVISABLE TO HAVE SOMEONE ELSE PRESENT WHEN MAKING THIS WAX.MELT IT OUTDOORS AWAY FROM BUILDINGS TO AVOID FIRE.KEEP CHILDREN AND ANIMALS AWAY

    Step1-Put the pie tins or tin bread molds in the freezer to get them cold.

    Step2-With the butterknife grate the entire bar of soap into the bowl.(you could also use a wood rasp or cheesegrater to grate the soap into tiny pieces.)

    Step3-With the butterknife thinly spread the spruce gum on one side of all the bars of paraffin.(To make this easier you may need to warm the gum near a gentle heat source)

    Step4-Pour the paraflint into the small cooking pot,put it on the burner and turn on the flame(low heat).

    Step5-Put a bar of paraffin in the big cooking pot(gum side up),put it on the burner and turn on the flame(high heat).When the bar melts put in another and when that melts another…until all are melted.(If any impurities rise to the top,skim them off with a spoon or mesh spoon.There shouldn’t be any if the gum is clean.)

    Step6-As soon as all bars of wax are melted begin blending the wax and gum while pouring in the soap.Continue blending.(high speed)

    Step7-When the soap and wax are thoroughly blended, squeeze the entire tube of toothpaste into the mixture while blending and continue to blend until the toothpaste is thoroughly incorperated into the mixture.

    Step8-By now the paraflint hardener should be completely melted.If it is turn off the flame under the small pot of paraflint and pour it into the big pot of wax.

    Step9-Continue to blend the mixture for 2 minutes.

    Step10-Get the wax molds out of the freezer,turn off the flame of the big pot,put on the stove mitts and carefully pour the hot wax into the molds.(THIS IS VERY DANGEROUS. ALSO,DO NOT POUR THE WAX TO THE TOP OF THE MOLDS)

    Step 11-Carefully but quickly put the liquid wax in the freezer.(It is important that the wax cool quickly) Wait for it to harden in the mold.

    Step12-You now have a super fast,long lasting, all temp ski wax.Enjoy!

    I can’t believe what a racket the ski wax industry is.
    Being a recreational ski racer and skiing often I go through a lot of wax. I realized I just couldn’t afford the expensive waxes and powders anymore so I decided to make my own. After much study and experimentation I finally got it.I can’t believe it is so simple and cheap.
    WHY IT WORKS:
    The addition of the hardener makes the wax fast in cold, dry conditions. Hard wax is also more resistant to dirt and doesn’t wear off as fast.The spruce gum acts as a flexible bonding agent to the base of the ski and a bond and vehicle for the chemicals in the other ingredients.The soap also has some of these properties as well as being a surfactant and detergent to break the surface tension of the layer of water between snow and ski and repel dirt and grease.This is also chemically enhanced by the surfactant in the toothpaste.This makes the ski faster in all conditions and temperatures but is especially helpful in warm weather when snow gets wet and greasy. And the toothpaste? What a cheap way to get fluorinated ski wax! The turpines in the spruce gum and chemicals in the soap and toothpaste combine to chemically alter the fluoride in the toothpaste,bonding and completely suspending it as fluorinate throughout the ski wax during the heated mixing.This makes the wax so much faster. And there you have it- Over 5 lbs of durable,superfast,all temp and condition,fluorinated ski wax for less than $30.

    Note:I am not responsible for anything that may happen as a result of anyone reading the above.


  8. Jim Cowart

    I got to hill and discovered my wax was sticky. what can I do?


  9. John Provocative

    I forgot to add in step 7 that you must skim off the floating scum from the soap and toothpaste.Make sure it is not poured into the wax mold. This scum is ingredients in the soap and toothpaste that won’t mix with the wax. Other ingredients in the soap and toothpaste readily mix with the wax and it is these that are so effective.
    J.P.


  10. Tony Volarno

    Thanks for the recipe for making my own ski wax using toothpaste, soap, wax and tree gum. I have a big family and we all enjoy hours of skiing this will save us alot of money! Can`t wait to try it!


  11. Dear John; I think I have tried some of these excellent homemade waxes on some occasion. Now and then somebody whispers in your ear; “Try these waxes, these are great”. “Buy 10 kilos, a good friend of mine makes waxes”……….
    “Jim Cowart said:
    I got to hill and discovered my wax was sticky. what can I do?”
    Always carry a small bottle of liquid nanowax or paste in Your pocket when the temperature isn´t steady.
    It is troublesome to apply the wax in the middle of the woods, when snow keeps coming down…


  12. Mark Kaplin

    I just recently waxed my skis using your instructions John P. Everything went great so far, one thing however I need to find a better way to get that pine tree gum in larger amounts. —Mark K—-


  13. Tom Trentworth

    I donno? I tryed it all when it comes to ski wax. It all depends on the weather and current ski conditions. When i was a kid i used to rub wax on my sled. That seemed to to the job for the most part. I think most of the wax that is sold is all hipe ,FASTER! FASTER! FASTER! What ever happined to just goin up there on the summit and using you everyday low grade wax and just havin a GOOD TiMe! sincerly Tom Trentworth ps. Whatever you do in life Just have a good time and enjoy yourself!!


  14. Steve

    Re: This will put them out of business.

    Use the same formula to brush your teeth. Rx: At least once every 67 runs. SnFl works better than SodiumFL if you can get it.

    Was a dentist in my former life.

    Cheers!


  15. John Provocative

    Mark
    I hope it wasn’t to difficult.I have to say I am sorry because in my haste to post the formula from my notes to the computer I omitted a simple yet important step. Insoluble particulates from the soap and toothpaste must be strained before pouring into the molds. Did you strain it? When I first tried this formula I just poured it as is and there was a lot of gunk which floated to the top which I had to scrape off when the wax hardened. It didn’t affect the performance because I scrape the ski after hotwaxing but it did make things more difficult. Now I just strain before pouring.I was using an old curtain fastened to the pot with a strip of an innertube but recently I found out that Walmart has a good selection of fine mesh strainers in the cooking aisle.Havent tried them yet but will. I also got a good electric hand mixer there for less than $10.They also sell cheap cooking pots or you could also go to a dollar store for material. Get mini bread tins for wax molds. Best of Luck,
    John Provocative


  16. John Provocative

    Have someone hold the strainer and pour the finished hot wax out of pot ,through the strainer, and into the mold. Dont try to scoop the particles out of the pot with a hand held strainer.You will not get them all. You must pour the wax through the strainer. Be careful not to get burnt with hot wax.
    John Provocative


  17. Abe Ali

    I had a quick question. I have a large quantity of cold temperature wax that is ideal for temperatures under -20C. However, I really need a wax with a slightly higher temoperature range. I was wondering if anyone knew if I could dillute this wax with normal paraffin wax or with a higher temp wax to bring up the temperature range.

    Thanks


  18. RonS

    Interesting discussion on waxes.
    Here’s a question that I can’t seem to find an answer for: Let’s say the weather forecast for a race is variable, like -9 overnight but a forecasted high of -1 during the daytime. The race start is variable, and seems that two ranges of wax might work [such as HF7, -8 to -2c and HF8, -4 to -1c], depending on the time of your start [which you have little control over].
    Do you choose the colder HF7 wax, or the warmer HF8? Would HF7 work better at temps warmer than -2c, than HF8 at temps colder than -4c?
    In other words, if a mistake is to be made, is it better to err on the side of a colder wax or the warmer wax?
    cheers from upstate NY, and Thank You for any info,
    Ron S.


  19. John Provocative

    I found a better way to make this wax!!! Skip the part about heating the paraflint. You don’t need it! Instead of buying paraffin, just go to walmart and get the big white unscented or mildly scented candles. They’re already the right hardness!heat them up and add the other ingredients like I said. Saves money! saves time!


  20. Make sure you are careful where you decide to do this. Wax scrapings can make a real mess of your floor (even on hard floors such as tiles). I made the mistake and it took ages to clean up properly. Go for outside or in a garage if you have one!


  21. “Step7-When the soap and wax are thoroughly blended, squeeze the entire tube of toothpaste into the mixture while blending and continue to blend until the toothpaste is thoroughly incorperated into the mixture.”

    Toothpaste is a water based surfactant. It iwll not ‘dissolve’ into the paraffin. Why add toothpaste, unless the flourides are not water based and will disperse or dissolve into the wax or at 200F maybe they will react with the paraffin to form the FH? (flourinated hydrocarbon)


  22. My wife was a Ski Instructor for 5 seasons here in NC and she prefers Dominator Wax over Swix. We get our ski wax from ProForm Skiing (www.proformskiing.com)


  23. richard

    I am a bit puzzled by the toothpaste as well. The fluoride (F-) in toothpaste is a very stable and inert anion that is water soluble and should not mix or react with the wax to fluorinate the hydrocarbons. I believe this is done through reactions with more reactive forms of Fluorine such as F2. However, I can see that hydrocarbon chain in the SDS surfactant from toothpaste should be long enough to mix with the wax.


  24. Jason

    CHeck out Choad Cheese Wax, Locally sourced, handcrafted wax that’s made in the USA.


  25. Wow, many really logical points! I truly appreciate you crafting this editorial and the rest of your website is outstanding!



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