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How do you tell when cross country skis need waxing?

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Cross country skis need a glide wax job in the following situations:

  1. when you first buy them
  2. at the beginning of each season
  3. when the bases look dry
  4. about every 50km of skiing
  5. before a special event or race
  6. at the end of each season

This applies to all types of cross country skis: waxable, waxless (fishscale), skin, classic, skate, backcountry - because all cross country skis have glide zones. The glide zones are the smooth sections of your ski (except for the middle third of the ski if you have a waxable ski).

Glide wax, whether applied with a hot iron or in liquid form, protects and hydrates your ski bases. Think of it like lotion on dry skin. You can do this at home or take your skis in to a shop to get it done professionally. 

professional waxing skis

1. When you first buy them new skis don't have wax in the bases so the more applications of glide wax the better. They should be waxed and or hot boxed right off the bat before you use them. Higher end skis have bases that can absorb more wax so should be glide waxed as often as you can the first year.

2. At the beginning of each season you should do a wax job. It's best to do this just before the snow season so the wax is fresh when you start skiing. If you do them too far in advance the wax gets "old". Your bases may start to turn greyish which shows the wax is not fresh.

3. When the bases look dry it's definitely time to wax. This is what dry bases look like:

dry ski bases

And below shows an image of a dry ski base next to a freshly waxed base:

dry and waxed ski bases

4. Every 50km of skiing is a good rough measure for how often you should glide wax during the season. This is snow dependent: dry, abrasive snow (as we have in Saskatchewan) and man-made snow strips wax off more quickly than humid, soft snow. For this type of maintenance wax job, use a glide wax that covers the temperatures and conditions you're likely to be doing most of your skiing in.

5. Right before a race or special event you'll want to put a fresh glide wax into the bases. This one can be more temperature and conditions specific as you should have a pretty good idea of what that's going to look like. Racers often wax their skis on site, leaving it as late as they can so they can nail the right wax.

6. At the end of each season it's a good idea to melt a soft storage wax into your skis and leave them unscraped. This seals the bases against contaminants. Next season scrape off the storage wax and apply your fresh glide wax, and you're ready to go.

Happy skiing!

Kevin Robinson skiing at Ebs Trails  

cross country skiing

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