Ski waxing iron

A regular coating of fresh glide wax makes your skis or board last longer, go faster and turn more easily. If you've never waxed before, this article teaches you the basics.

"Waxing isn't hard," says Dik Lang, REI Seattle ski shop master tech. "Even if you make a mistake, it's better than doing nothing." Dik also notes, "Don't worry; wax won't make you go fast. It just lets you go fast when you need to."

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Tools and Supplies

  • Vise
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Waxing iron
  • Glide wax
  • Plastic scraper
  • Brush
  • Metal file

What Needs Wax?

Glide wax is applied to the entire base of:

  • Alpine skis
  • Snowboards
  • Skating skis

Glide wax is applied only to the tip and tail zones of:

  • Classic cross-country striding skis, including so-called "waxless" skis

Choose a Glide Wax

There are many kinds of glide wax, from high-fluorocarbon racing varieties to inexpensive powder waxes that leave you some money left over for lunch.

  • Most common are temperature-specific waxes, engineered for optimal performance in a particular temperature range. Color-coded packaging makes shopping for these easy. You need to predict the approximate temperature of the snow you'll be skiing. The right wax will help you go faster - you'll have to experiment to learn the nuances.
  • If you are purely a recreational skier looking for good results with minimal hassle, choose a universal wax. These work decently in all temperatures. A 2-wax system (one for temps above freezing, the other for temps below freezing) offers similar convenience.
  • No time for a hot wax? Use a rub-on wax, applied with a sponge in the parking lot. But don't get lazy; this is not a substitute for regular hot waxing.

Prepare the Skis

  1. Retract the ski brake by depressing the pedal. The arms will pop up, parallel with the ski. Hook a large, strong rubber band on one arm, take it over the top of the heel piece and hook it to the other arm. This holds the brakes out of the way while you wax.
  2. Flip the ski base-up and tighten the vise around the middle of the ski to hold it securely in place.
  3. Using a clean rag, moistened with a little alcohol (not base cleaner), wipe off any dust or debris. Allow to dry, about 20 minutes.

Apply the Wax

Waxing application requires an iron that maintains its temperature well. Typical home irons have a lot of temperature fluctuation, so ski waxing irons are recommended.

  1. Power up the iron. The temperature should be lower for softer/warmer wax and higher for harder/colder wax. The approximate iron temperature is often printed on the wax box.
  2. Hold a chunk of wax against the base of the iron and let it drip onto the ski as it melts. Hold the iron 2" to 4" inches above the ski and move it from tip to tail and side to side, letting the molten wax droplets cover the base completely.
  3. Place the iron on the ski base and spread the wax over the entire base until a layer of wax coats the whole surface. Don't hold the iron in one place for too long, as this could cause the ski base to blister. Make sure that the wax melts all the way across the ski, from edge to edge and tip to tail. If an area is too dry, add more wax. The wax layer should be thin enough that one end dries as you reach the other end.
  4. Wait for the ski to cool and dry completely (30 minutes to 1 hour). Don't cool the ski outside because that will cause the wax to get pushed back up out of the pores of the ski.
  5. Carefully clean your iron so the current wax doesn't mix with the next round.

Scraping and Brushing

  1. Using a plastic (not metal) scraper, scrape the base from tip to tail, removing excess wax in overlapping, continuous strokes. You are finished when the base of the ski is nearly free of visible wax. Wax will remain in the pores of the base.
  2. Make sure to scrape the edges of the ski. Some plastic scrapers have a small notch for this purpose.
  3. Brush the ski base to bring out the structure or texture of the base, which increases your speed. Brushes vary based on size, stiffness and material. A stiff, nylon brush is a good all-purpose choice. Brush from tip to tail, using about 15-20 strokes.

Tips and Tricks

  1. Always apply wax in a ventilated area.
  2. Your iron should be just hot enough to melt the wax, but not so hot that it is smoking.
  3. Your plastic scraper should have a sharp, 90° degree edge when you scrape. Use a metal file to flatten the edge of the plastic scraper for efficient wax removal.

Contributor: Dik Lange, REI Seattle flagship store master ski tech

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