Also available in: French
Cross-country ski waxing is not as complicated as it sounds. Eli Plante, former elite athlete and cross-country ski coach for the past 10 years, reveals her tips for this step that will allow you to optimize your outings and maximize your performance.
Article written by Eli Plante, former elite athlete and cross-country ski coach for 10 years.
Cross-country skier and coach Eli Plante shares her tips for waxing skis:
- What does waxing classic cross-country skis entail?
- Step no 1 of ski waxing: analyze the snow conditions to choose the right waxes
- Step no 2 of ski waxing: prepare the waxing area with a base coat
- Ski waxing step no 3: wax your skis with the right waxes and cork
- Step no 4 of ski waxing: go out and test your skis
- Step no 5 of ski waxing : maintain your skis after your outing
Don’t be afraid to learn how to wax cross-country skis, it’s quite simple: just read the products carefully and ask questions if you don’t understand. Familiarize yourself with cross-country skis and the different types of waxes by shopping online at SAIL.ca or visit our store to share your questions with our on-site advisors who will be happy to help you.
Please note: only the waxing of classic cross-country skis will be discussed in this article. The waxing of skate skis, which are distinguished by shorter and curved skis requiring side strides (which can be similar to ice skating) will not be covered.
What does waxing consist of?
Are you wondering how to properly wax your cross-country skis? This seemingly laborious and complicated process is easy to do once it is explained and clarified.
Basically, waxing is the application of different waxes on your cross-country skis. A good waxing will allow you to glide better and stick to the snow, therefore to advance more efficiently in your alternate step.
The alternating step is the most known and practiced movement in the world of cross-country skiing. It is the alternation between pushing and propelling in the snow, and sliding on it. It is also the alternation between the advancement of the leg and the arm that allows the skier to push and slide properly.
Waxing is a compromise between glide and grip. Some skiers prefer to apply a lot of grip wax (also called holding wax or hook wax) to better grip the snow during climbs and to perfect their alternate step, while others prefer to rely on glide wax.
Types of classic cross-country skis
The movement of classic cross-country skiing resembles a gliding step. It is the most practiced and natural style and the one we think of when we think of cross-country skiing, hence the name “classic”.
In the classic style, it is possible to use three types of skis. Note that not all types of classic cross-country skis require waxing.
- Skis with skins have mohair or synthetic skins (removable or glued to the skis) and do not require waxing. Skins require maintenance but this maintenance is not essential for the proper functioning of the ski. It is possible to add glide wax to the glide zones.
- Scale skis are easily distinguished by their textured, fish-scale-like base and do not require waxing. Glide wax can be added to the glide zones.
- Waxing skis are easy to recognize: they have a smooth sole all along their length. It is also possible to add glide wax on the glide zones.
Step no 1 of ski waxing: analyze the snow conditions to choose the right waxes
Before you start waxing your skis, it is essential to understand the relationship between the snow and everything that characterizes it, as well as the waxes associated with and adapted to it.
Waxes have different compositions adapted to different weather conditions.
Choose the appropriate wax according to the snow and the outside temperature. The colder the temperature, the harder the wax. Conversely, the warmer the temperature, the softer the wax. Follow the snow temperature recommendations on each wax product.
Types of waxes
- Base wax is the first layer of wax to be applied. Cool it down for easy application to your skis.
- Grip waxes are the most commonly used and have a hard appearance. Choose this wax on cold days with dry snow.
- Klister waxes often come in tubes and have a very sticky texture. They are optimal for warm days with wet or transformed snow. There is also a universal klister, which is easier to apply.
- Glide waxes are hard and are applied hot. They should not be used on the waxing zone. They should be applied to the glide zones at the ends of the ski.
Guide to the waxes to choose according to the conditions*.
Polar grip wax
- New snow and temperatures ranging from -12°C to -25°C
- Older, granular snow and temperatures ranging from -15°C to -30°C
Green grip wax
- New snow and temperatures ranging from -8°C to -15°C
- Older, granular snow and temperatures ranging from -10°C to -18°C
Blue grip wax
- New snow and temperatures ranging from -2°C to -10°C
- Older, granular snow and temperatures ranging from -5°C to -15°C
Purple grip wax
- New snow and temperature around 0°C
- Older, granular snow and temperatures ranging from -1°C to -3°C
Red grip wax
- New snow and temperature from 0°C to +1°C
- New wet snow and temperature up to +1;°C
- Older, granular snow and temperatures ranging from -2°C to 0°C
- Old, transformed granular snow and temperatures down to -2°C
Blue Klister wax
- Temperature from -12°C to 0°C
- Designed for cold, coarse, packed snow, hard slopes and icy conditions
Klister Silver Wax
- Temperature range -4°C to +2°C
- Designed for humid and fine-grain snow
Purple Klister Wax
- Temperature range: -2°C to +4°C
- Designed for coarse, wet snow and spring snow
Red Klister Wax
- Temperature range +1°C to +5°C
- Designed for wet, spring snow
Step no 2 of ski waxing: prepare the waxing area with a base coat
The underside of a cross-country ski, called the base, is distinguished by three zones: two glide zones at the front and back of the ski and the wax zone, also known as the grip zone, wax pocket, holding zone or wax chamber, located under the binding.
This grip zone generally extends from the front of the boot to the back of the heel and measures 20 to 30 centimeters. Its length varies depending on the ski’s camber and the skier’s weight. It is this area and the wax on it that allows forward propulsion and gliding on the snow.
Beginner skiers should choose skis that grip the snow. Their skis will therefore receive more layers of wax and will often have a longer waxing zone.
To properly prepare the waxing zone
- Clean the wax zone with a scraper or wax remover.
- If you used a wax remover to clean your base, apply a very thin layer of base wax.
- Run the cork over the wax until it penetrates the base.
Step no 3 of ski waxing: wax your skis with the right waxes and cork
Apply a first layer of the hardest wax
It is possible to mix the waxes when applying them, but always put on the hardest wax first.
Apply a thin first coat of your hardest wax to the wax area.
Scrub the cork to get the wax in.
Between each layer of wax, rub the cork so that the wax can penetrate the sole of the cross-country ski. Repeat the wax and cork process at least three times.
You can choose between a natural or synthetic (more commonly used) cork block.
Apply subsequent layers of wax
You can apply other waxes depending on snow conditions and temperature.
Apply a number of coats proportional to the number of kilometers you plan to ski. The longer you plan to ski, the more layers you need. For example, apply one layer per 5 km, so 3 layers for a 15 km ride.
If you have used a klister wax, leave your skis outside for about 10 minutes to allow the klister to harden.
Finish with a glide wax on the front and back glide zones, if needed.
This step is more complex and is very different from waxing; a scraper and brushes are required.
Step no 4 of ski waxing: go out and test your skis
After applying your layers of wax and running the cork between each layer, it’s time to go test your skis.
Test your skis on a climb or without the use of your poles. This will allow you to see how well you grip the snow. You may need to add one or more layers of wax. You may also need to remove some wax if you are sticking to the snow too much.
Remember to take wax with you on your outings for reapplication along the way to optimize your ride.
Ski waxing step no 5: maintain your skis after your outing
After an outing, it is important to clean the base of your skis. It is especially important to clean the base if you are going from soft to hard wax.
This will prevent you from sticking to the carpets in your car, your gloves or your clothes.
- To clean your sole properly, you can scrape off the excess wax with a scraper.
- Use a wax remover and apply it to the waxed area until it is clean.
- It is important to clean only the grip area and not the glide area.
- Use a Fiberlene wipe, if needed.
Also available in: French