DIY Waxing – What Ya Need

By: John Clausen, Granite Chief staff and past Holmenkol wax tech rep.

For many skiers and snowboarders, taking care of “boards” at home, or in the locker room, is a worthy endeavor. Waxing improves ski glide, and eases turn initiation. So, whether you are looking to get across flat sections of a run with greater ease, or out run your buddies, it pays to know a bit about the art and science of ski waxing. Who knows, you may even have a Zen-like experience, it’s been known to happen.

Getting Started The simplest, quickest method to wax your skis is with a liquid or paste rub on wax. This method is an easy fix for skis and/or board that are sticking to the snow (a sensation similar to driving with your car’s parking brake on). The catch is quick application wax is not going to last beyond a few runs. With that in mind, let’s look for a more lasting solution.

Your First Waxing Kit If you are just getting into waxing your own skis, here is the what and why of your tool needs:

Waxing iron - a wax specific iron has a thick base, an accurate temperature sensor, and

frequent, narrow, heat cycles, in order to maintain a tight temperature tolerance and accurate performance. Yes, you get what you pay for in this tool.

Base Cleaner – use sparingly, mostly in spring, to help get the “gunk” off your base. An

alternative to using a base cleaner for regular cleaning is to employ a “hot scrape” with a soft wax. This method removes dirt without drying your bases (feel free to ask our staff more about this base cleaning procedure).

Wax – your options are to go with an all temperature wax, or temperature specific waxes ... All

temp wax covers a broad spectrum of temperatures, and often work well for our Sierra snowpack. Like any “all in one” product, however, there is a bit of compromise made in the “top end” of performance, and/or when the outdoor temperatures reach down into the low 20s and below. If you are looking to get a higher level of performance, then going the route of specific temperature, humidity, and snow grain zones, will take you on that path. With the thought of keeping it simple, our Tahoe – Truckee Sierra climate favors red wax (be it snow temperature of 7-25 degrees Fahrenheit, or air temperature 25-29 degrees Fahrenheit). During warmer / spring like conditions, you’ll want to have a bar of yellow (softer) wax. On the other end of the spectrum, when temps are cold for Tahoe, you’ll benefit from having violet (air temps ranging from 18 degrees to 28), or possibly blue wax (harder) to keep you gliding. In all cases, a hydrocarbon, non-fluorcarbon wax, is fine at this point in your game.

Scraper, plastic – come in 3mm & 5mm thickness. The 3mm will allow you to bend the scraper

a bit to accommodate a less than perfectly flat base; 5mm will scrape with more “authority”. Respect your scraper and only use it for scraping the wax off your skis. Keep the edges sharp & ding free! You may keep the edges sharp by using a standard file, or a more elaborate sharpening tool designed for such purpose.

Brush – designed for specifically for ski wax brushing. There are a variety of brushes, from steel to horsehair, but we are going to keep it at a foundation level here – pick up an all-purpose, medium stiff, white nylon brush. Brushing comes both before you actually start waxing (as a means of cleaning out the ski base structure*, after wiping the base down with a clean cloth), and then again after you have scraped down the applied wax. The post wax brush is performed to further remove excess wax remaining on the base, and for the final touch of polishing. Brush tip to tail. (*Note: Base structure refers to the pattern cut into a base from Granite Chief’s Crystal Glide Stone Ground finish. It is a combination of base structure and proper wax that gives you the best / maximum glide.)

Ski Vise – a means to securely hold your skis/board while proceeding through the wax steps.

When you scrape & brush, you are going to want a secure hold on your skis! Purchase a quality ski vise and it will last you a lifetime.

Diamond Stone – while we are not looking to cover edge work here, it pays to check your edges for burs before running your iron down the base. Remove any burs for the long-term care of your iron, not to mention ski performance!

Intermediate Wax Kit At this point, you have experienced the result of well gliding skis or board, and perhaps Zen-like experience of waxing. Now you’re thinking, “how can I make the glide faster ☺?” All of your core kit applies, but we are going to add to it.

Cleaning Cloth – step up from using your shop cloth or t-shirt scraps ... Fiberlene cleaning

towels will be more effective wiping off surface dirt.

Wax – Add the “rainbow” to your wax box; yellow for warm / wet snow and hot scraping*, “Tahoe red”, violet, and blue. You are going for temperature zone specific wax for greater performance over all temperature wax. You may also wish to add “LF” waxes. These low fluorinated waxes give greatest performance gains with wetter snow, so focus on yellow, red, and perhaps a bit of violet.

Brushes – Let’s broaden your selection of brushes to better match the varying hardness of your

wax rainbow. Add a soft brass/bronze brush for initial cleaning, and your first post wax brushing with yellow and red wax (as an option to using your all-purpose nylon brush, you may also use this as your one all around brush). This will also be your go to brush for “Tahoe red”. As an option for harder waxes, pick up a steel brush for the first 5-6 brushes after scraping. A fine steel is also great for harder waxes, and getting into finer structure patterns regardless of the wax hardness. For finish work, a horsehair (also used as your second brush in advance kits for flouro overlays), and/or a fine, soft nylon for polishing all waxes. Keep your existing mid stiff nylon brush handy for yellow wax.

Advance Wax Kit It is all about speed, and whatever it takes to get you there.

Wax – wax on, wax off, and getting it in deep... Plan on being consistent with your waxing

schedule, and the more frequent the better. Consider “hot boxing” your skis at Granite Chief for maximum wax absorption/penetration. Add to your wax rainbow with HF (high flouro) yellow, red, and violet wax. If it is all about beating the clock out of the starting gate, you may consider investing in flouro overlays. There are additional specialty waxes for highly saturated snow, dirty snow, and more – feel free to ask about the plethora waxes to address special needs.

Brushes – If you are going the route of high flouro waxes and overlays, then consider having

brushes dedicated to each of the high flouro waxes and overlays, so as not to cross “contaminate” your specific wax session during brushing. Consider adding one more nylon brush if you are using powder overlays. A stiff nylon is often used to “brush up” the powder in between ironing and/or corking the powder. At this point, many individuals will also have separate / dedicated steel or brass brushes for their pre-wax cleaning brushes, so as not to reuse them for post scrape brushing, and risk contaminating their new wax. Lastly, if you have reached the point where you find yourself waxing numerous pairs of skis / boards during a session (the word is out that you are a wax aficionado!), you may wish to consider roller brushes that you attach to a power drill. This helps speed up the brush process, and give time back to you for other things, be it time on the mountain, or enjoying dinner ☺.

As always, feel free to ask our crew if you have further questions about putting together your wax kit. Cheers, and happy waxing!