See our basic equipment guide to learn about getting set up for both glide and kick waxing.
Swix Videos (click “English” in the upper right hand corner when you get to the the Swix web page)
I once heard classic skiing described as ” poetry in motion”. If you’ve ever seen someone with excellent technique ski by, you know what I mean. That perfect combination of kick and glide doesn’t happen by accident. Many skiers are a little intimidated by waxing for grip and opt for waxless skis. These skis generally provide plenty of grip, but can cause some significant drag on the downhills. Probably the most important aspect of classic skiing is to get skis that fit properly. Too stiff and it will be difficult to compress the camber, too soft and they will tend to be slow and drag. A properly fit ski will allow the skier to compress the wax pocket and grip the snow when the weight is transferred to one ski. When the weight is evenly distributed, the wax pockets of the skis are not in contact with the snow allowing the skis to ride on the glide wax which is applied to the tips and tails. Most quality ski shops have methods to properly fit skis. A quick method to determine the wax pocket of your skis is to use the paper test. Stand on both skis evenly and have a partner slide an index card under your foot both forward and backwards. Mark the points where the card stops sliding. When your weight is shifted entirely to one ski, compressing the wax pocket, it should be difficult to slide the card indicating the skis are not too stiff.
Before applying kick wax, I like to rough up the wax pocket a little with 100 grit sandpaper. I believe a slightly rough surface helps wax adhere better. This only needs to be done once or twice a season. Next I iron in a layer of wax for a binder. This is where that old flat iron comes in handy. My favorite binder is Toko green hard wax. Swix extra blue also works well if conditions aren’t too cold. Smooth the wax out with a cork. Over the binder I apply 2-3 thin layers of the wax of the day. Each layer is corked smooth, don’t apply too much pressure, you want to maintain the integrity of each layer as much as possible. The temperatures listed on the wax tins are usually snow temperatures, not air temperatures. It is better to err a little on the cold side as it’s generally easier to apply warmer wax over cold wax. I then apply another 2-3 thin layers focusing on the area below the toe and binding creating somewhat of a pyramid effect. If snow is soft and snow temperatures are below 32 degrees F, kick waxing is fairly straightforward. It is around the freezing mark that it can get kind of tricky, especially with wet falling snow. That is when it’s a good idea to have a pair of those waxless skis or go skating! One suggestion I have is to generally stick to one or two manufacturers. I like Rode kick wax for temperatures under 32. The Swix line is also excellent and seems to have a better range for plus freezing temperatures.
There’s nothing more satisfying (well, almost nothing) than zooming down the cat track on your Nordic skis and flying by all the snowboarders in sight. This doesn’t happen by accident. It takes skill, daring, and most of all fast skis! The first thing you need to do is GET A GOOD IRON. The old hand-me–down flat iron you inherited from your great aunt simply doesn’t cut it. Those irons don’t regulate or maintain even temperatures very well. It’s easy to seal your bases if you’re not careful. Once the base is sealed you might as well ship them to a stone grinder or toss them. Swix and Toko both sell excellent wax irons, some even have digital displays that allow you to precisely set the temperatures. The cheaper ones work just as well and I believe all are double plated to maintain even temperatures.
Temperature, humidity and snow granulation affect the type of wax you select. I like to stick with one or two manufacturers. This allows you to keep things somewhat simple and really get to know how a certain wax works in various snow conditions. If skis haven’t been waxed for a while or you’ve been skiing in dirty snow, it’s a good idea to do a cleaning with a soft wax such as Swix CH-10 or Toko yellow. Start by brushing the ski from tip to tail using a fine steel or bronze brush. This helps clean the structure and remove oxidized material. When applying the glide wax, set the iron to the recommended temperature for that specific wax. Wax temperature charts are available from the wax manufacturers and are often displayed on the wax container. I like to touch the wax to the iron and then rub a layer on the ski. After I have gone the length of the ski, I drip a little more wax onto the base and then make 4-5 passes from tip to tail keeping the iron moving. If the iron starts to smoke, it may be too hot and you should set to a cooler temperature before proceeding. During this cleaning phase, it’s a good idea to scrape the wax while it’s still a little warm using a plexiglass scraper and not applying a whole lot of pressure. Brush with a brass or stiff nylon brush and you’re ready to apply the glide wax for the day. If you are kind of guessing what wax to use, it’s better to err on the cold side. In many cases it seems snow temperatures tend to remain colder than air temperatures especially after cold nights. Follow the same steps listed above, but let the wax cool before scraping. You don’t need to set the skis outside, in fact a warm place can aid in wax absorption. After scraping, brush the skis thoroughly with a bronze brush 15-20 times tip to tail. Brushing helps get rid of excess wax that can slow you down and cleans the wax out of the skis’ base structure. A final polishing can be done with a fine nylon (blue) brush using 10-12 strokes and your skis should be good to go.Waxes come in many different types depending on their fluorine content. Hydrocarbon ($), LF ($$), HF ($$$) and pure fluoro ($$$$$$$$$$$$$). Fluorine is an excellent water repellent and works well in high humidity conditions and warmer temperatures. Unless you have deep pockets, I would recommend skiing on hydrocarbon or LF wax for most conditions and use the more expensive stuff when racing or when you want to show up your friends. Applying pure fluoros is a discussion for another time.