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How to Wax Skis and Snowboards
Published: Nov 27, 2020
To make your skis and snowboard go faster, and make turning and handling easier, you have to regularly wax them. Waxing the bases of your skis and snowboard will also protect them from abrasion.
Wax is the mediator between snow and your skis' or snowboard's bases. And with changes in snow conditions, you also have to change the material in your bases. Thus, you have to change the wax on the base that is compatible with the conditions.
This is one of the most important things that you can do to enhance your experience on the slopes. Whether you are a serious skier, or a casual sports enthusiast, keeping your skis and snowboard in top condition is an utmost priority.
To get the most out of your board or skis, it is best to wax them after every tuning, because when they are full of gouges and their edges are dull, waxing won't make much of a difference.
How do you wax your skis and snowboard?
To wax your skis and snowboard, you have to make sure that you have all the supplies. Select the right wax, prepare your board, and then apply the wax using a ski-waxing iron, working your way from tip to tail. Then, scrape and brush to remove excess wax. Read our guide below for more details on how to do this.
Tools and materials
- Ski or snowboard vise/Work bench/Waxing platform
- Rubber bands/Zip ties (for holding the skis' brakes up)
- Rubbing alcohol
- Waxing iron
- Plastic scraper
- Metal file
Choose a wax
All-temperature ski & snowboard wax (universal wax)
This type of wax is designed to work in any temperature and snow conditions. It is a good choice if the temperature changes a lot where you ride, and it is preferred by many recreational skiers.
Temperature specific ski & snowboard waxes
Snow temperatures can change with moisture levels, air temperature, and a lot of other factors. Because of this, there are temperature-specific waxes that are designed to work best at certain snow temperatures to provide maximum performance.
A rub-on wax is applied with a sponge, and is used when you do not have time to get the waxing iron out. However, this is not a substitute for regular hot waxing.
Fluorocarbon ski & snowboard waxes
Waxes are available in hydrocarbon, which is more basic; in low-fluorocarbon, which tends to glide faster; and in high-fluorocarbon, which glides the fastest. The more fluorocarbons, the more expensive the wax is. A basic hydrocarbon wax is more suitable for recreational skiers and snowboarders, while high-fluorocarbon waxes best suit racers.
A number of ingredients found in regular ski and snowboard waxes, such as fluorocarbons, have been found to have negative environmental effects. That is why some manufacturers have created more environmentally friendly products, and claim that these products work just as effectively as their traditional counterparts.
Your base should be clean and properly structured. This will help you get the most out of every waxing session. Make sure that your base is flat, and that the edges are not railed, or in other words, higher than the base. If your bases are not flat, you need a stone grind for correcting them. If your board's edges or bases need a grind or other maintenance, you have to do that before you start to wax, making sure that no metal filings are stuck onto the base. If your edges have any burrs or knicks, they can scrape the base of your iron, and can scratch your bases.
Use a base cleaner or a solvent to remove grime and oil if your bases are dirty, but use it moderately, and make sure that the bases are completely dry before waxing. If you use a solvent, just a tiny amount on a cloth goes a long way. Note that base cleaners and solvents may remove all residual wax that is left on your base, which can leave them dry. So, be careful, and just skip this step if your bases seem clean.
- For downhill skis, you have to retract the brakes first. The brake arms will pop up, so that they are aligned with the ski. You have to hook a large and strong rubber band on one arm, then take it over the top of the heel piece, and hook it to the other arm. This way, your brakes will be out of the way while you wax.
- Turn the ski base up, and then carefully tighten the vise around the middle, so that it will hold it securely in place. For a snowboard, just rest the board on top of the vise. If you do not have a vise, you can improvise by using a couple of bookstacks.
- Using a clean cloth or rag, moisten it with a little bit of alcohol, and wipe off any dust or debris. If the base is visibly dirty, you may use your wire brush to clean it before you apply the alcohol, then let it dry for about 20 minutes.
Apply the wax
- Start the iron. For softer/warmer wax, the temperature should be lower, and for harder/colder wax, it should be higher. The appropriate iron temperature is usually printed on the wax box.
- Hold a considerate amount of wax against the base of the iron, then let it drip onto the ski or snowboard as it melts. You then have to hold the iron two to four inches above the ski's or snowboard's base, and move it from its tip to tail, and then from side to side. Let the molten wax droplets completely cover the base.
- Put the iron on the ski's or snowboard's base to spread the wax over the entire base, making sure that a layer of wax coats the entire surface. Don't hold the iron in one place for too long, as your base may blister. You have to make sure that the wax melts entirely across the ski or board, from tip to tail, and edge to edge. If it is too dry in some areas, you have to add more wax. However, the layer of wax should be thin enough that one end dries as you reach the other.
- Wait for the ski or snowboard to dry and cool completely for about 30 minutes to an hour. Note not to let the ski or snowboard cool outside, because the wax will get pushed back up out of the pores of the base.
Scraping and brushing
- Using a plastic or non-metal scraper, scrape off the base from its tip to tail. Remove excess wax by using overlapping, continuous strokes. When the base of the ski or board is nearly free of visible wax, you are finished.
- Make sure that you are able to scrape the metal edges of the ski or snowboard. There is a small notch in some metal scrapers for this purpose.
- Finally, brush the base to bring out the texture of the base, which helps in increasing your speed. Brushes differ in size, stiffness, and materials. For a good all-purpose brush, choose a stiff, nylon brush. Brush the base from tip to tail, using just about 15-20 strokes.
Some tips to remember:
Always apply wax in a well-ventilated area.
When applying wax, always work from tip to tail, scraping and brushing.
Make sure that the iron is hot enough, but not so hot that it is smoking.
When you scrape, your plastic scraper should have a sharp, 90-degree edge.
Use a metal file to flatten the plastic scraper's edge to make it more efficient for removing wax.
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