Sierra Nordic Cross Country Ski Shop and Mail Order Sales
WAXING NEW SKIS
by Noel Charonnat

NEW SKIS NEED TO BE WAXED A LOT. By waxing, we mean with a block of wax that is melted in with an iron. When heated to a liquid, the wax drops into the pores of the base. The wax is allowed to cool, then the excess is scraped off (with a plastic scraper) and the bases brushed with a soft brass or nylon brush. This removes all the surface wax. Remember, it is not wax on the base but in the base that is important. In fact, surface wax causes the skis to be very slow because the snow crystals stick to the wax. Scrape and brush the skis very well. Then polish with a white (only!!!) scotchbrite polishing pad or a roto brush.

This waxing of the glide surfaces applies to ALL skis. Skate skis are glide waxed along their entire surface. The tips and tails of classic (striding) skis are waxed identically to skating skis (the same waxes work). For waxable classic skis, never apply glide wax to the kick zone because kick wax does not stick to glide wax. For "waxless" or "no-wax" touring skis, the tips and tails are again glide waxed just like skating skis. Since the fish scale pattern in the kick zone does not get a kick wax, it can be glide waxed. A paste wax is the simple choice, although the pattern area can be glide waxed IF the wax is wiped off with Swix Fiberlene paper when still molten.

For the glide surfaces, we suggest starting with a soft paraffin wax for the first 3-6 times the skis are waxed. We have had excellent results with the STAR yellow Uniblock. It was designed specifically for waxing new skis. (It does not contain any silicone like most soft waxes.) Even the expensive soft highly fluorinated waxes do not penetrate as well as Unibloc yellow. Wax in a layer of the Unibloc yellow, scrape and hand brush, then apply a layer of the wax of the day. Repeat this process at least after every 50 km of skiing, and preferably every time the skis are used for the first 10-15 days of use. The more the skis are waxed, the better they will glide and the longer each successive wax job will last.

All ski manufacturers are now stone grinding the bases of cross country skis at the factory, and therefore, are going with harder materials with higher molecular weights. These bases are more porous and will absorb more wax, but seem to need more waxing to become fully saturated. Soft paraffin (candle like) waxes work well because they melt into the pores of the ski bases and mix with the residual non-crystalline (amorphous) polyethylene and the carbon (graphite) particles. The harder plastic waxes do not penetrate or mix as well. However, after the skis have been waxed many times with a soft wax, the harder plastic waxes penetrate much easier and then really stay put and do not wear off. By starting with the soft paraffin wax with each of the first several waxes, the bases will become increasingly penetrated with wax.

If the ski wax seems to wear off quickly, try waxing several (more) times in a row with a soft paraffin wax. Also, just waxing skis a whole bunch of times without skiing on them does not appear to work as well as waxing and skiing. There is something about actually using the ski that helps to make the wax penetrate better. Finally, do not wax for too long or make the ski too hot. Do not wax any coat for more than 4 minutes; the wax should definitely not become gummy. The iron is too hot if the wax smokes.

Once a soft paraffin wax stays molten on the ski base, there is no need to continue to iron. Let the wax cool then reheat, or scrape and apply another layer. As wax is absorbed into the base, add more. Always keep a good layer of melted wax between the ski base and the iron. Start with the ski at room temperature. If the skis are stored in a cool place, like an unheated garage, bring them into the house for at least an hour before starting to wax. This ensures that the entire core of the ski is at room temperature and helps prevent delaminations caused when a cold ski core has differential expansion from that of a hot base. Remember when waxing that the ski should never get really hot to the touch!

Once the bases are saturated, we really like the MAP BLACK base wax from STAR. This is absolutely the best base wax available for mid-winter snow conditions. It is a very hard synthetic wax with additives of metal oxides (for wear and abrasive snow), graphite (to prevent static charge build-up), plus it has a very high fluorocarbon content. Since the wax is so hard, always start with two coats of Unibloc yellow to warm and saturate the base with paraffin; scrape and brush. Next, apply a coat of MAP BLACK. The iron will have to be turned up a bit to help melt the wax, but remember that because it is so hard it will never remain in a liquid state after the iron is removed. Keep the iron moving and do not let the base or ski get too hot. The soft Unibloc wax will draw the MAP BLACK into the base. Scrape while still warm and hand brush with a soft brass or copper brush. Apply a second layer of MAP BLACK; scrape and hand brush well. Do one ski at a time. Roto brush the bases when cool.

The skis are now ready to apply the wax of the day. Here is where a layer of MAP BLACK in the base pays big dividends. Apply the day's wax using the crayon method: touch the wax onto the bottom of the iron, then rub a layer of the softened wax onto the base. The bar of wax is just a big crayon and the iron makes it's edge soft and easy to spread. Use the iron to smooth out this thin layer. Work quickly down the ski base. Once a thin layer is smoothed out, move on - do not keep going back and forth. The idea is to just melt a thin layer into the top pores of the base. The day's wax will bond with the underlayer of MAP BLACK, which will act like a binder while fortifying the day's wax with it's additives. Scrape and hand brush the wax while still warm, then roto brush or polish with a white (only!) polishing pad when cool. The ski base should have all it's structure (texture) exposed without any surface wax, yet it will feel waxy if rubbed with a finger and should be very shiny, even glossy. This is a fast ski!

MAP BLACK only needs to be applied about once every 6-12 wax jobs. It works well in most mid-winter snow conditions, new or old, moist to dry, and especially when the snow is cold and abrasive. In Spring, switch to MAP 200. This is a base wax from STAR which is specially formulated for wet conditions. We have had excellent results with MAP BLACK and MAP 200 used under a variety of waxes from various brands.


All recommended waxes, tools, and supplies may be ordered from our On-Line Shop.

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