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How to Wax Your Skis

The first measurable snow of the season made its way through Summit County this past week, dropping more than a foot of snow in some areas and prompting Arapahoe Basin to announce it will open for the first day of the season this Friday, Oct. 13! Get your pass for the first ski day of the season! And now that old man winter is knocking at the door, it’s time to tune up your skis and snowboards in preparation for the fast approaching opening day of Summit County’s ski resorts.

How to Tune Your Own Skis

Sure you could take your skis or snowboard to the local wax shop and have them put a fresh coat of wax on your sticks or plank for you. But why do that when you can do the same thing in the comfort of your own home? Like a fly fisherman who ties his own flies knows, there is a sense of pride that comes with utilizing your own skills to enhance the sports you pursue.

What You’ll Need

A few tools are needed to wax your own skis. These include base cleaner or rubbing alcohol, wax, an iron, and a plastic scraper. When choosing a wax, you can choose from temperature-specific waxes or a universal wax. If you are looking for top performance, pick a temperature-specific wax that will suite the outdoor temperature during the time you plan to ride. I usually use a universal wax as it performs just fine for my needs in nearly all conditions. When choosing an iron, you can buy a waxing iron designed specifically for waxing skis from most ski shops or you can use an old clothes iron. Just be sure to label the old clothes iron so you don’t inadvertently try to use it to iron your favorite shirt! The plastic scraper can again be purchased from most ski shops and they come in all shapes, sizes, and prices.

Getting Started

The first thing you will want to do secure your skis to your workbench. If you are using a ski vise, tighten the vise around the center of the ski or snowboard. If you don’t have a vise, a couple of stacks of books placed under your skis or snowboard at either end of the binding works just fine. When waxing downhill skis, retract the ski brake by depressing the pedal, causing the brake arms to pop up, parallel with the ski. Use a strong rubber band and hook one brake arm and then take the rubber band over the top of the heelpiece of the binding and hook the other arm. This will keep the brakes out of the way while you work. 

Clean the Base

Now you’ll want to clean all the old wax as well as any dirt or debris from the base of the ski using a clean rag moistened with rubbing alcohol or base cleaner. Wipe off any visible debris and old wax and allow to dry for around 20 minutes before applying wax.

Apply the Wax

Allow your iron to heat up. The iron should be hot enough to easily melt wax but not so hot that it is smoking. Once the temperature of your iron has stabilized, you can begin to drip wax on your skis or snowboard. Hold the chunk of wax to the iron and allow the melted wax droplets to drip onto the base while holding the iron around 2 to 4 inches above the base. You want to drip enough wax to cover the base of the ski or board almost completely.

Once you have the wax dripped onto the base place the iron on the base of the ski or snowboard and spread the wax over the entire base until a layer of wax coats the entire surface. Just like ironing a shirt, don’t hold the iron in one place for too long as this could case the base to blister. Make sure the wax melts and covers the entire base from edge to edge and tip to tail. If an area is still dry, apply more wax and smooth again.

Once the base is covered in a thin layer of wax allow it to completely cool for about 30 minutes to an hour. Don’t set your skis or snowboard outside to cool as the cold temperatures will push the wax back out of the pores in the base.

Scraping and Buffing

Once the wax has cooled, it’s time to move onto the scraping. Using a plastic scraper, scrape the base from tip to tail, removing excess wax in overlapping and continuous strokes. Continue scrapping until the base is nearly free of visible wax. Wax will remain in the pores of the base of your skis or snowboard.

Make sure to remove all wax from the metal edges of the ski or snowboard completely. Some scrapers have a notch cut into them to help with this process.

Next, buff the bottom of your base by using either a nylon brush or a scouring pad like a Scotch Brite pad.

That’s it! Now you are ready to hit the slopes with your freshly waxed skis or snowboard! Make sure to wear a helmet as you’ll be going much faster now that you can wax your setup anytime you want.