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Wax Your Skis

Learn the basics of waxing from a pro and avoid the lines at your local ski shop.
posted: 02/10/2006


TOOLS: Iron without holes (Mom's will work OK, but no longer on clothes), 4-mm acrylic scraper, brass or bronze brush, nylon brush, fiber pads (like pot scrubbers but beefier, one fine, one coarse), rubber bands, masking tape, and a good all-temperature wax, like Dominator Zoom, Swix, or Toko. A bench vise will make things easier, but you can also use wood blocks (covered with closed-cell foam for padding). TIME: 20 to 40 minutes

1) CLEAN YOUR BENCH
The last thing you want is metal filings from previous tunings embedded in your wax. And wash your hands so you don't wax in your own dirt and oils.

2) PREP THE SKIS (right)
Stretch rubber bands around your binding's brake levers to get them out of the way. Next, run a brass brush aggressively tip-to-tail along the base to work out any surface grit. Then do the same with a beefy fiber pad to remove any tiny spurs you may have stirred up. If it's been a while since your last wax, you might have to do a clean wax, or hot scrape, to get out the gunk (see right). Finally, run masking tape along the sides of the skis to keep wax from dripping into your bindings.
["Wax On, Wax Off"]

3) WAX ON (right)
Heat the iron to about 240 degrees Fahrenheit. The exact temperature doesn't matter, but you don't want an iron that's too hot (the wax will smoke) or too cold (it won't melt). Wax touched to the iron should flow off freely. Drizzle enough wax to fully cover the ski bottom when you smear it around with the iron. Do a couple of full-ski passes, spending about 20 seconds total.

4) WAX OFF (top photo)
Once your skis cool (about 10 to 20 minutes), take the scraper and shave off all the wax. That's right: You don't want the wax that's on the base of your ski. You want only the wax that's been absorbed into the base. Use the short end of your scraper to clean your edges.

["Brush It Out"]

5) BRUSH IT OUT (right)

Polish the wax with a nylon brush, followed by a fine, nonabrasive fiber pad.

["Quick Tips for Waxing"]

WHY WAX?
Your skis will glide smoother and initiate turns easier. Snow can actually burn and dry the base of an unwaxed (unprotected) ski.

WAX OFTEN
Snow temperatures, the type of snow, and how much you ski determine how often you should wax. Most recreational skiers should wax every three to five days.

HOW TO HOT SCRAPE
After lightly coating the base with hot wax, take your scraper, hold it at a 45-degree angle to the base, and shave off the warm dirty wax. After the ski cools down to room temperature (about 10 to 20 minutes), proceed to step 3.

BRUSH TIP TO TAIL
You want to push base material and microfibers down the ski.

WARM UP THE ROOM
Wax bonds best at room temperature, so fire up the space heater if you're working in your garage.

A QUICK FIX
If you're in the backcountry or want to do a quick touch-up in the parking lot, take the kind of hand wipes you get at a steakhouse and clean the bases. Then rub on a liquid wax and polish the ski with a rag.

THE EXPERT: Scott Holmer tunes skis for such racers as U.S. Ski Team athlete Kevin Francis and U.S. Snowboard Team rider Adam Smith. He runs The Race Place in Bend, Oregon (which is behind Patio World, an outdoor-furniture store he and his wife operate), and owns BEAST (stands for "Best Edge Accuracy Ski Tools"), a brand of ski-tuning tools he designed.

LEARN MORE: Check with your local specialty ski shop; it probably offers clinics. Holmer's instructional video ($20) covers waxing and tuning. His wax packages cost $60, not including the iron (800-814-7223; ski-racing.com).


FEBRUARY 2006

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