Greetings from Gunnison, CO.  I write this as the winter apocalypse continues outside—even forcing CBMR to close early yesterday for TOO MUCH SNOW.  Well, all of this craziness has me thinking—it might be time to dial in skis for all of these changing conditions and get a good waxing over the remnants of early season struggles.

A few things are necessary for waxing your own skis:

  • A workspace. This isn’t exactly something you do in your living room—or even your kitchen.  A garage or driveway would probably work better.
  • Ski support. I used a worktable with elevated vices, but two sawhorses would work just fine, as well.  Or you can get creative!
  • A brush. I recommend a nylon brush for all-purpose use, but if you decide you want to go all in, use a metal (like brass) brush for early use and a horsehair brush for final touches.
  • An iron. There are many irons produced for ski waxing (like the one pictured in this article).  We always recommend using an iron built for waxing to help prevent accidental damage.
  • A scraper. I use the handy dandy Swix scraper my assistant (friend Robert) is using here, but any number of scraping edges can be used.  This one runs sub-$10, so it’s not unreasonable.
  • Wax (duh). Swix wax to the rescue here. They run from ‘base prep’ through a range of temperature specific specialty waxes.

Get your skis set up bottom-up on whatever support system you have available and…

Step 1: Brush

  • Take the nylon (or brass) brush and brush from tip to tail.
  • Brush firmly and from tip to tail. This removes older wax residue and other particles hitching a ride in the old wax.
  • After a while (30ish times should do) of brushing from tip to tail, you should be all set to move onto waxing.
  • Brush from tip to tail.

Step 2: Wax

  • Every Swix wax has an optimal melting temp. The Base Prep wax being used here should be ironed at 130 C (265 F), but check the wax you are using for the proper temp.  Irons with temp gauges (i.e. the ones specifically meant for skis) are easy to set accurately, but other irons can be generally assessed fairly well—use your gut.

  • Once the iron is good and hot, gently press the wax to it and drip melted wax on the ski. Be liberal, but don’t over do it—excess gets scraped off.  Better to have too much than too little, though!

  • Once the wax is liberally dribbled (more like the above photo vs. the below photo—confusing, I know), it’s time to distribute it. Smoothly iron the wax drips across the whole surface of the ski-bottom.  Just like ironing clothes, be sure not to leave the hot iron stationary for any extended period of time—I’ll let you imagine why.

Step 3: Scrape

  • Now it’s time to scrape the excess.
  • Hold the scraper at a 45-degree angle and press hard to run as cleanly as possible—tip to tail.
  • Do this until you have a smooth, skiable surface.

I would repeat this process a few times to really get a good, smooth, consistent base. The more your base is waxed initially, the deeper each consecutive coat absorbs which produces a longer lasting, higher performing tune.

Step 4: Re-Brush

  • Be sure to brush between each round and after the final layer. Again, nylon is fine here, but if you do have a horsehair brush, this is the time to call it to duty.

Time for après wax.

3 Comments on Ski Wax 101

  1. james sears
    February 3, 2017 at 2:52 pm (4 months ago)

    I have been lucky to have had many mentors on how to wax skis. Your tutorial is sound but noticed one thing seemed to be missing . I try to- mostly after the removal brushing try to wipe the base down with a rag and a very mild cleaner to get the fine particles the brush doesn’t get. Then dry the base completely and continue with the adding wax process. I know either method will get the job done and the wax doesn’t last for ever 🙂

    Reply
  2. Mike Ralls
    February 3, 2017 at 11:48 pm (4 months ago)

    Mitch,
    Awesome article! I really appreciate the tips and advice and the pictures were great. I have been tuning my own gear since I started skiing in the 70’s and your directions and suggestions are spot on and easy to follow….. I use an old electric flat iron I bought at a thrift store and a cork block instead of a horsehair brush to finish off the base. It does takes some elbow grease but leaves a great finish…
    Thanks for keeping us “tuned up”,
    Mike

    Reply
  3. Mark Barnard
    February 5, 2017 at 12:53 am (4 months ago)

    Mitchell, Thanks for the 1o1! The pics really helped with the details too. Love to see a class on edge sharpening and the detuning afterwards. Keep up the great work!

    Reply

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