Ideally, skis should be waxed after each day on the slopes. However, it's usually more practical to wax skis after every three days or so of skiing. Whether you're an expert or beginner, waxing your skis is important because you'll get maximum performance from your skis and you'll increase their longevity.
At most ski shops, the average cost of an iron-in wax is around $20. At that rate, in a single season of waxing your own skis, you'll make up the cost of purchasing all of the necessary tuning equipment.
Remember, you don't have to be an expert skier to wax your own skis. Once you've done it a few times, you'll be surprised at just how easy and fun it is.
Let's get started!
Tools for the job
To get going, you'll need a few tools:
- Base cleaner. A citrus-based product to help remove dirt and grime from the ski base.
- Ski vise/clamps. You'll need a stable platform for brushing and scraping. There are several types of clamps and vises available, or you could build something that works. The main thing is to have the skis stable so they don't slide around while your working.
- Ski wax. There are many types of ski wax. I recommend purchasing wax at your local ski shop, because the knowledgeable staff can help select a wax that's right for you.
- Waxing iron. You can buy irons that are made specially for ski waxing. They are light, compact, and they make it very easy select specific temperatures. (You can use a household iron, but know that once you use it you'll never be able to use it again for anything else.)
- Scraper. Buy a plastic scraper that's purpose-made for scraping off ski wax. They're only a few dollars and are best for the job.
- Brushes. A variety of brushes exist for structuring the base and finishing. Brass, nylon and horsehair brushes are commonly used.
- Rubber bands. A couple of thick rubber bands will keep the ski brakes retained and out of the way while you work.
Step 1: Prepare the base
The first step is to prepare the bases for hot waxing. To start, clean the base of each ski using a base cleaner. The goal is to remove old wax and any dirt or grease that may have worked its way into the base.
Spray an even coat of base cleaner onto your base and let it sit for a minute. Use a lint-free cloth or paper towel to wipe the base clean. Make sure you read the directions for the cleaner you purchase, as each may vary slightly.
Tip: Cleaning the base becomes most important during spring conditions when the snow is much softer and more prone to being dirty.
Now that the base has been cleaned, we’ll use a brass brush to expose the base structure and further remove old wax. Take the brush and make a few passes up and down the length of the ski. Only a gentle amount of pressure is required – don’t be too aggressive.
Tip: Cleaning and brushing is an important step as it will allow the new wax to get into the base effectively. Remember to tread lightly when brushing – only a light amount of pressure is required.
Step 2: Apply the wax
Plug in your waxing iron and make sure that it’s set to the appropriate temperature. (Decent ski waxes will come with instructions that indicate the temperature setting). While the iron is warming up, rub the base of the ski with the solid wax just to get a thin coat applied prior to hot waxing.
Now it’s time to apply the hot wax. Hold your iron a few inches above the ski and hold the block of wax to the iron. Let the wax drip onto the ski and work from tip to tail in a snake-like pattern.
Tip: Apply wax conservatively. You don’t need to use an excessive amount of wax. You’ll get a feel for how much is required after you have done it a couple of times.
Tip: Ensure your iron is set to the correct temperature setting. Your iron is too hot if it smokes when it comes in contact with the wax.
Work the wax into the base by moving the iron slowly back and forth, moving along the length of the ski. The goal is to saturate the base evenly with the wax.
Tip: Always keep the iron moving. Holding it in one place will create hotspots that can potentially damage the ski.
Now that you have applied the wax evenly, let the skis sit for 20-30 minutes. This will give the wax time to cool and set before scraping.
Step 3: Scrape and finish
Scrape off the excess wax using a plastic scraper. Work along the length of the ski from tip to tail and angle the scraper toward you. Scrape until there is very little or no wax coming off the ski. Don’t worry, you haven’t just undone all of your work. The ski base is porous and has already absorbed the wax -- we're just removing the excess.
Most scrapers have a small cutout in one corner. This is to allow you to run the scraper along the edge of the ski to remove any wax that get onto the edges.
Tip: Keep your scrapers sharp. A sharp scraper makes the job easier and quicker and is more effective. You can use a scraper sharpener to maintain your scrapers.
Tip: Plastic scrapers are best. Metal scrapers are available, but they can seriously damage the base.
Brush out the remaining wax with a nylon brush, making several passes along the length of the ski. This will get any last bits of excess wax off the base and structure. You can go one step further and make a few passes with a fine horsehair brush if you have one.
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Step 4 (optional): Grab a beverage
Congratulations! Sit back, relax, and think about your next day on the slopes.