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Simple Waxing

Simple Waxing

by Mike Dye

“But I don’t want to go fast!” the customer replied to the salesman’s question.

Waxing your skis isn’t always about going fast. Think of it as having more to do with smoooooothness of glide than increasing your speed.

We’ve all been there, the 6” of griptonite growing on the bottom of our skis; the herky jerky forced slide, stop, stick, stumble; working hard to just try sliding, even a little bit, down this darn downhill. Frustrating! Mostly just not fun. The flipside of frustration: kicking and gliding “almost” effortlessly in tune with the rhythm of nature; getting that nice, long controlled runout at the bottom of a hill; or pushing a sustained double pole cadence on the flats. What do the fun ski days have in common? Wax.

Waxing your skis can help squash the frustration bug and enhance the “moment”.  Things just click when it comes to skiing for the sheer joy of being outside on a beautiful winter day. Waxing doesn’t have to be complicated. Although, at every level of the waxing spectrum, the “peg-the-needle-on-the-fun-meter” factor is present or companies wouldn’t be investing millions of dollars to enhance our skiing enjoyment.

Waxing can be as complicated as multi-tier wax box(es), irons, waxes, brushes, flouros, scrapers, thermometers, topcoats, weather forecasts, portable wax benches, predicted snow conditions. Or as simple as the back pocket of your ski pants. The committed citizen racer can have $800-$1000 invested in just the “basics” of “go-fast” waxing. And has committed at least that much in their equipment selection.

“WHOA, Slow Down, I DON”T WANT TO GO FAST, or spend half a mortgage payment! That’s not what I’m after.” said the customer again.

Oh, right, the back pocket, Fun Hog, on a budget, simple approach to ski waxing. Notice I didn’t say “dirtbag”, as budget-minded skiers were once called. (Now that term is reserved for what you purchase at your local garden center to fill the flower boxes on your porch).

Simple “back pocket” or “cold” waxing as it is sometimes called is comprised of a few basic ingredients: the combi brush, the polishing cloth, and the “all important” rub-on wax. Obviously the most important of the ingredients is the wax. Most every wax company worth their “salt” has a wide (universal) temperature range quick, liquid, or paste type wax option in their product line that is applied by “rubbing” it onto/into the ski base and letting it dry. The polishing cloth and brush help with durability.

These products will usually* take care of the less than fun conditions mentioned above; will usually* add to the enjoyment of “the best ski day ever”; and can be purchased for roughly one $50 bill. You can spend more if you want, but hey, we are on a budget and are trying to keep it simple. Did I mention that these products are as easy to use as applying under-arm deodorant!? Dare I say that if you can grate cheese, carrots, or potatoes you can wax your skis? Can you wax your skis at your car, on the trail, or in the warm comfort of your home, she-shed, or man-cave? Absolutely!  It really is just about that simple.

First, take a look at the bases of your skis to see if there are any flagrant dirt violations (note to self: skis are for snow not muddy parking lots, roads, bogs, grass, dirt patches………). If there are, a wet paper towel should suffice to wipe away the grime; let dry completely or take a fresh clean paper towel and dry the bases.  Next, apply your product of choice by rubbing it onto/into the ski bases and give it about ten minutes to dry. On “waxless” ski bases rub in a tip to tail motion on the grip (fish scale) pattern. On the tip and tail (smooth) sections, skate ski bases, and alpine bases you can rub however you want, circles, crisscross, up and down……… GO SKI!

Oh wait, you have a brush and polishing cloth (aka clean, old wash cloth) that you are waiting to use. After letting the wax dry about ten minutes take the felt side of the combi brush and rub/scrub the smooth area of the base rather vigorously. Brush the entire length of the ski base, fish scales too, with the nylon bristles of the combi brush. Polish vigorously the entire ski length with the clean old wash cloth, errr, polishing cloth. Now, GO SKI! The extra five minutes you spend on brushing and polishing is equivalent to what the first 150-200 yards of skiing will do, but gives your wax job durability during the course of your ski day.

You are probably asking yourself, “How often do I have to perform these ski waxing antics?” The correct answer is, “Every time you ski”. In reality though the practice is carried out “Whenever I remember to, or when my skis aren’t sliding very well”. If you make a commitment to waxing your ski bases most every time you go skiing, not “only when desperately needed”, and getting them “hot waxed” a few times during the season at your local shop, you will be on your way to many more enjoyable ski days and extending the life of your ski bases. Not just going fast.

*DISCLAIMER: Approximately 10%-15% of the time it may be easier to just concede and go for a walk/run/hike, bike ride, snowshoe, golfing (OH Gawd!), fishing, road trip, curl up by the fire with a good book and a mug of hot chocolate, or,                         (insert favorite alternate activity here).

[Mike Dye is co-owner and XC ski shop manager at Sylvan Peak Mtn. Shoppe, Red Lodge].