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Ski Wax

If you are reading this page, and you actually wax your skis, then congratulations, you are among the 3-4% of skiers that care enough about their skis performance to actually do something about it.

Wax is a hydrocarbon material that is put on the bottom of a pair of skis to lubricate the interface between the ski and the snow.

The main reason to keep wax on p-tex (polyethylene) bases is to keep it porous to wax. Without it, it starts to oxidize and its amorphous (wax absorbing) regions crystallize. With a modern sintered base about half of the surface area can accept wax, so, by adding more wax, you keep it that way.

Wax gives you the ability to glide faster, turn easier all while protecting the base of your skis.

Even if you don't wish to travel very quickly, wax can still help you. First of all, a good wax makes it easier to turn, and thus control your speed. Second, by reducing the friction your skis have against the snow, it makes it much easier to pole around the lifts, or to get going anytime you come to a flat spot.
Popular Ski Wax (View all Ski Wax)
Swix F4 Glide Wax
$10.99 - 31.45
Swix Liquid Glide
$9.99 - 25.00

Types of Wax
There are many different wax products available, but for the most performance, riders use a wax system that uses a solid base wax, usually a hardening powder near the edges by the binding, and a liquid wax overlay on top.
There are two different kinds of solid waxes that are available: rub on and melt on (most rub on waxes can also be melted on, but not all melt on waxes can be rubbed on).

Most powdered wax is sold in the form of hardening powder. It's a very special hard wax that is used to decrease abrasion and is great for very cold conditions. I personally use it primarily on the edges of my ski under the bindings because that is where most abrasions occurs.

Most low fluoro paste/liquid waxes are cheap and are used as a substitute for solid waxes (but they don't perform as well). They are easy to apply and still offer protection for your skis.

High fluoro liquid overlays are available for people looking for a really high performance glide. Because the price is so high (usually about 100 dollars for 50ml) it's only used during races.

Medium fluoro waxes also exist and are probably a good compromise between expense and performance for those looking for a liquid overlay on top of a wax job.

What kind of wax should I use?
That depends on the temperature, humidity, and type of snow. Generally, a harder wax is used in colder conditions, and a softer wax is used in warmer conditions.
Temperature is the most important factor. If you are going to match a wax to skiing conditions based on any one factor, temperature is it. Waxes are dyed, so it is easily discerned which temperature a given wax is good for. As a general guide, this scale works pretty well for matching temperature conditions to the wax:

Fluorination is added to waxes to help increase water and dirt repellency. Although this is increasingly important in humid conditions, a highly fluorinated wax isn't as necessary in dry conditions.

Some waxes include a solid lubrication, like powdered graphite, which helps further increase the wax's speed.

How do the different temperature waxes work?

A wax is a hydrocarbon, so that means in its molecular structure you'll find many carbon molecules bound together in a long chain. Usually each of these carbons will be attached to two other carbons, and a pair of hydrogen atoms that won't be connected to anything else. A straight chain of carbons with 2 hydrogens bound to each carbon is called "unsaturated." The more unsaturated a hydrocarbon is (or in this case wax), the lower the melting temperature of that molecule is.

Now, we can substitute different side groups on to the hydrocarbon chain, like methyl groups and raise the temperature. This process is known as "saturation."

Waxes that melt at a higher temperature are more saturated than ones that melt at a lower temperature.


When should I wax my skis?
I like to wax my skis at least once a day, and even by the end of the day I can feel the wax wearing off. So it's my recommendation to use a paste or liquid wax (the quick and easy ones) at least once a day.

If you can't wax your skis once a day, then do it as much as possible when you can. It's easy, takes only a few minutes, and the amount of performance you gain from it is huge.

Should I Wax Rental Skis?
This is a complicated question, it depends on the kind of performance you're wanting out of the skis, and the amount of time you want to invest making someone else's skis run well. Chances are, that the skis have ran for long periods of time without wax, and will not hold it very well anyway because the p-tex has oxidized and crystallized (this is one thing to consider when buying a used pair of skis).

How Do I Apply Wax To My Skis?
For a complete guide on how to wax a set of skis (or snowboard) see the Waxing How To.
Melt On
To melt on a coat of wax, set an iron to about 140-150°F (see wax for ironing specifications), then hold the wax gently against the iron and let it drip off onto the ski's base. Spread it with the iron, then scrap it off using a plexi scraper. Lastly, texturize the base. One application usually takes about 12 grams of wax.

This process is the best since it gets the wax deeper into the base than any other method. However, it's the most tedious, and if you set your iron too high, you could start to smoke the wax (if it has fluorination in it, then those fumes are toxic) and it's possible for an iron set too high to oxidize the ski's base which retards its ability to soak up wax.

Hair Dryer
The hair dryer method is good especially if you don't want to carry an iron with you. Simply heat up the base of your skis, then spread on either a paste wax or rub on wax (not a melt on wax), then go back over the bases and make sure the wax melts. Then, scrape off the wax using a plexi scraper and, lastly, texturize it.

Rub on
Some waxes are capable of being rubbed directly onto a ski's base, much like a crayon. Once you've covered the base of the ski, use a piece of cork (or the palm of your hand if it's clean) to build up friction and heat so that it melts into the core. Let it dry, then scrape it off with a plexi scraper and texturize it.

This is by far the easiest method to apply wax with. Just smear the wax over the base of the skis, then let it dry for about 10 minutes to an hour (longer drying periods work better), then rub it in with a piece of cork. Lastly, scrape off the excess with a plexi scraper.

This method is by far the quickest and easiest method, but it offers the least performance and the wax rubs off quicker. Many paste waxes don't even require to be corked in, and can just be applied during lunch and ridden after you eat.

Another alternative use for liquid waxes is to put a high-fluoro overlay on top of a melt on wax to ensure that your base is 100% covered.
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