It’s happened again. Nick and I made a date to go cross country skiing with friends. When I mentioned we were waxing our skis, they scoffed, claimed they never did such a thing, and cracked jokes about waxing their legs. This is such a common occurrence that we wanted to explain why waxing your cross country skis is important.
It doesn’t matter if you are skating or classic skiing, here are three reasons to give your skis some waxy love.
1. Wax maintains the bases and prolongs the life of your skis.
Every piece of technical outdoor equipment requires some maintenance to maximize its life and work properly. Bike chains need to be lubed; jackets need to have their DWR coating replenished; crampons need to be sharpened occasionally; and skis need to be waxed. Just like your skin, ski bases have pores. When skis are waxed, the heat of the iron opens these pores and allows the wax to soak in. This wax keeps the bases from drying out and cracking.
2. Skis are designed to work with wax on them.
The p-tex on the bottom of your skis is not slippery by itself. It does not slide on snow very well. When your skis are waxed and the base gets cold from being on the snow, the pores contract and extrude a tiny amount of wax. This wax lubricates the ski bases so they can slide on the snow. Even if your skis are “waxless,” they still must be waxed. More on this later.
3. Proper waxing enables proper technique.
To have good technique your skis need to be able to glide. When you transfer your weight onto a ski that doesn’t glide the effect is like hitting a pine cone on your skateboard: the ski stops and you fall on your face. If you have a sticky, unwaxed ski, you have to compensate by keeping your weight too far back and not committing your weight 100 percent to your gliding ski. And vice versa a waxed ski encourages proper body position. Unless you keep your weight forward the ski will shoot forward out from underneath you.
“My skis say waxless, do I still have to wax them?”
Yes! “Waxless” skis have a texture in the base (frequently referred to as fish scales) allowing them to grip the snow when the skier kicks. Skis without this texture require special sticky wax to help them grip the snow. Both types of skis must still be waxed for glide. There is no such thing as a ski that doesn’t need to be waxed.
“Can I just rub some paste on the skis when I get to the trail?”
No. Wax should be ironed in. The heat of the iron opens the pores and allows the wax to penetrate the base. If you forgot why this is important, see number 1, above. If you simply rub a waxy paste on the bottom of your ski, the snow will quickly scrape it off. And then you are back to skiing with an unwaxed ski again.
“What do I do if I don’t have wax on my skis?”
Go snowshoeing. Skiing on waxed skis is a sign of respect for your equipment, the sport, and your friends.