If you hear the word ‘waxing’ and the first thing you think of is skis, you probably already know how to wax your boards. However, if you hear the word wax and think of legs or cars, and you’re the owner of a brand new, shiny pair of cross-country skis, then read on.
Waxing is essential for the health of a Nordic ski’s base. Not only does waxing give cross country skis the ability to skate or glide, but it also prevents the base from ‘oxidizing’ or drying out. Modern-day ski bases have pores which accept wax. If left unprotected without wax for a long period of time, the pores harden and close up, creating a very slow running surface on the snow. With as much work as Nordic skiing already is, you don’t need slow, oxidized bases to make it any harder!
To learn the basics of waxing Nordic skis watch this short, easy-to-follow video, created by the White Pine Touring Nordic Center Director, Patrick Coffey.
Then, read the main points below as a guideline to further understand the process of waxing your Nordic skis for the first time.
Proper Tools for Waxing Nordic Skis
If you decide to geek out on ski waxing, there are many, many more waxing gadgets out there to own, but these are the essentials for any home wax tech.
First, you’ll need a waxing iron with the ability to maintain a consistent temperature. Toko makes two excellent options, a digital ski waxing iron and a basic version. Regular clothing irons fluctuate widely in their temperature range; plus, the holes in these irons tend to collect wax and redistribute it when the next unsuspecting victim attempts to iron their clothes. That’s a true story by the way, and my mom was quite unimpressed with me.
A sharp plastic scraper, a groove scraper and a white nylon brush are all essential to the waxing process as well. A sharp scraper as opposed to a dull, nicked or worn-out one, removes wax efficiently and safely. For cleaning wax out of your ski’s grooves, a pen-shaped groove scraper provides the best performance. The white nylon brush offers excellent all-around use, for both pre-wax cleaning and post-wax polishing.
A universal or mid-temperature range Nordic ski wax is good for starters; choose something such as a Swix CH 7, a hydrocarbon paraffin wax with a range of -2° to -8°C (28° to 18°F).
Wax Those Babies Up!
Like Patrick says in the video, pre-heating your iron is key. A good baseline temperature for waxing is 120°C (250°F), but the ideal iron temp for each wax is usually prescribed on the wax’s package. Make sure your iron heats up to the right temp before starting your wax job – this will make the wax go on a lot easier and prevent you from having to run the iron down your ski more than is absolutely necessary.
Make sure that your ski is secure on a bench or table before you start waxing, and that it’s straight and well supported at both ends. This ensures that the wax layer is applied, ironed and scraped evenly.
Once your ski is secured to the bench, clean it with the white nylon brush to make sure dirt and other particles aren’t ironed into your ski. Firmly grasp the brush with both hands and run it from tip to tail a few times.
Touch one end of the wax block to the heated iron and crayon it onto the base of the ski. The molten tip of the wax block should rub easily onto the base of the ski and form as a thin layer. After you crayon the length of the ski, starting at the tip, run the iron evenly down the length of the ski. This is the intimidating part for waxing rookies, since high heat is applied directly to the ski. However, as long as you keep the iron moving in one direction only, you won’t melt or burn the base of your ski. Gauge the speed at which you move your iron by the length of “tail” of molten wax trailing it, which should be around three inches. If it’s shorter, you’re moving too fast; if it’s longer, you’re moving too slowly. Never stall the iron or “scrub” it back and forth.
Scrape It Off!
After you’ve let the wax cool and sink in for at least 15 minutes, start the scraping process by cleaning the edges. Hold a sharp plastic scraper at a 45° angle to the ski’s base and run it from tip to tail on both sides. Then, use the groove scraper, with your thumb as a guide, to scrape out the center groove or double grooves (if you have Rossignol skate skis.) Cleaning the grooves first ensures that, if you accidently pop the groove scraper out of the groove, the base is still protected from nicks by a layer of wax.
Now, it’s time to scrape the base. Hold the scraper away from you at a 45° angle and, using both thumbs as your guide, scrape the layer of wax off from tip to tail. Repeat until no more wax comes off.
The same principle applies to the final step, brushing. Grasp the white nylon brush firmly with both hands and make even passes from tip to tail until no more wax particles come off.
Then, you’re done and ready to go shred some fresh corduroy!
Nordic Waxing Clinics
While the age of YouTube has made us a generation of do-it-yourselfers, there’s nothing like learning how to wax cross country skis in a hands-on environment from Nordic experts. Our crew at the White Pine Touring Nordic Center puts on free wax clinics all winter long to get you up to speed.
Evelyn Dong, Content Writer