Hot waxing is usually the first ski maintenance project people undertake. It is easy to learn, doesn’t take much time, and the results are evident the first time out.
We talk to a lot of folks about the importance of hot waxing skis. The response many new comers have when talking ski wax is, “I don’t need wax, I don’t go that fast.” Ski wax does help the ski slide across the snow with less drag, which naturally increases speed a bit (or a lot, depending on your bank account), but with that increase in speed comes an increase in control. Skis that are waxed tend to turn easier and travel at more predictable speeds (less of that start-stop sensation). Waxing also protects the base, adding durability and preventing it from oxidizing and drying out.
If you’re thinking of waxing your own skis or snowboard we highly recommend you not skimp on the proper tools, the right tools will make the task much easier with a minimum of frustration.
- Ski or Snowboard Vise– Retaining the skis or snowboard while waxing is crucial, it can be the difference between a pleasant waxing (or tuning) experience and one that ends in wailing and frustration as you chase a loose ski or board across the garage. Sawhorses work in a pinch, but lack the support and retention of a proper ski vise.
- Ski Waxing Iron– You don’t have to buy top of the line, though if you plan to wax a lot you will appreciate spending a bit more. There are two types of waxing irons, analog which utilize a thermostat to regulate temperature and digital which use a micro-processor, digital irons are easily identified by the incorporation of an LED screen that displays the temperature. An analog iron is fine for most folks, those applying race waxes can benefit from the increased accuracy (and often increased wattage) of a digital iron. Avoid household clothes irons at all costs, the temperature fluctuations are much higher and the steam holes gather wax and debris which get too hot and smoke terribly.
- Plexiglass Scraper– Sold in ski and snowboard widths. Can be sharpened for many seasons. Don’t use a metal scraper to remove wax, it will remove base material too!
- Brush(es)– If you’re just starting out, one or two brushes will suffice. Here’s a list of three common brushes and their uses. Brass- Use to clean out base structure prior to waxing, also helps refresh existing structure in the base. Nylon- If you were to choose one brush, this would be it. Use it right after you scrape to remove excess wax from the surface of the base (wax remains in the pores of the ski base where it belongs). Horsehair- Used as a polishing brush after the Nylon brush, also removes static in the base.
- Wax– Lots of choices out there, do not be discouraged. If you’re just starting out pick a universal wax (pick a brand, any brand) and roll with it. Lot’s of folks never use anything other than universal and that’s just fine. Keep it simple while you develop your waxing technique.
Here are some basic guidelines to keep in mind:
- Wax in a well ventilated area or wear a respirator.
- Make sure iron is adjusted to the recommended melt temperature for your wax (see wax packaging). Remember this is a starting temp. not set in stone.
- If the iron is smoking it is too hot, back it off until there is no smoke.
- Keep wax between the iron and base, don’t touch a hot iron to a dry base. When your starting out apply more wax than you think you need and adjust the amount as you gain experience.
- Keep the iron moving.
- Keep your scraper sharp.
- Have fun!
Here is a clip on basic hot waxing (techniques apply to both snowboards and skis)