To wax or not to wax, that is the question.
Most people who come in to the store looking to buy new skis aren't exactly sure which way to go: waxable skis, or waxless? Here's what we tell them.
Both types of skis have their pros and cons. Waxless skis are very convenient, but they are slower and make some noise going down the track (a buzzing noise). Waxable skis are faster and allow you ultimate control over how much grip and glide you want, but you need to get into the down-and-dirty of waxing.
Here's the scoop on waxing: it can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.
At its simplest, you can use a two wax system. One wax for cold temperatures, and one wax for melting temperatures. Swix makes a great little travel pack of three waxes (we've hand picked them for Saskatchewan conditions): one wax for cold (green), one wax for warm-but-not-melting (blue extra), and one wax for over zero degrees (red/silver).
There's also a little scraper and a cork. The scraper is for getting gunk off the bottom of your skis, such as pine needles and coyote poop or a big build-up of wax. The cork is for rubbing the wax into your ski bases. Pick your wax of the day, crayon a thin layer onto your kick zone (the area of ski base under your foot), and rub it in with the cork.
Repeat twice. Go skiing.
If reading that last paragraph scared you, you are probably a good candidate for waxless skis.
Waxless skis have a pattern cut into the base of the ski. This texture is what gives you grip on the snow. Here's a picture of Jeff holding an old waxless ski (light base) and a new waxless ski (black base). When ski manufacturers first experimented with making waxless skis, some of the patterns were awful. (Take a look at the light base ski. The pattern is a basic criss-cross of slices that extends well into the glide zones of the ski. Trust us, it's bad. Just look at Jeff's expression.)
Nowadays you can find waxless ski bases made of much higher quality P-tex which holds the sharp edges of the pattern far longer. They've played around with pattern types too, so there's a lot more science and experimentation behind the designs which give you the best grip without sacrificing glide.
Regardless of which type you choose, both waxable and waxless skis need a good hot waxing once a year (or every 100km of skiing). This is a glide wax melted into the gliding portions of the ski (tip and tail). It protects your bases and gives you good glide.
In summary, if you are a recreational skier who doesn't plan on getting out more than once a week at the most, or if the idea of waxing makes you not want to go skiing, buy waxless.
If you want better performance out of your skis, plan on skiing regularly, and you're not freaked out by the idea of waxing, buy waxable.