Cross Country Waxing Basics

TIPS FROM THE PROS

This Issue: A discussion with Joel Jaques, wax technician for Canada’s National Cross Country Team 

skiwaxing_shutterstock_24690370_smallJoel Jaques is a wax technician with Canada’s national cross country ski team, supporting all the skiers as well as acting as personal wax tech for Perianne Jones and Ivan Babikov.  Currently with the team for World Cup races in Europe and preparing to head off to Sochi for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Jaques took a few minutes to pass on his waxing tips for recreational cross country skiers. 

What’s your most important piece of advice for people new to waxing their own skis?

JJ: Keep it simple.  On the World Cup circuit we’ll do pretty complicated things to make sure our skiers’ skis are the best and fastest, but at a recreational level this isn’t necessary.  Don’t try to over complicate the waxing – just make sure you have good skis, and then follow the guidelines on the wax that you buy.

What are the basic waxing supplies someone should own if they’re just getting started?

JJ: You need the following basics:

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  • Iron – to melt your wax
  • Cork – for spreading the wax
  • Scraper – to remove excess wax from the base before brushing it
  • Brush – a general purpose brush to remove the final bits of wax from your base without damaging the skis
  • Waxes:  I’d suggest a base binder, a red,violet and blue hard wax, a universal klister, a warm and a cold glide wax.
Why is it important to wax your skis?

JJ: In classic skiing, waxing gives you grip for going up the hills.  No one likes to ski with no grip!  Glide wax allows you glide faster.  Both are important, because there’s no greater feeling that skiing on a well-waxed pair of skis.

How often should someone wax their skis?

JJ: For classic waxing it is best to wax every time you go out.  This allows you to have the ideal grip wax for the snow and weather conditions.  Glide waxing is something that you can do less frequently, but in an ideal world you would wax before every ski.  Don’t let this hinder you though – the most important is that you get out there and enjoy the trails.

Are there different waxing requirements for different types of skis?

JJ: There are skate skis, which are stiffer and need glide wax applied to the entire surface.   Then you have classic skis – these are a little bit longer and softer.  You can get waxless classic skis, which are convenient because you can just put them on and go. They work well in most conditions, but are generally slower than a well-waxed ski. And of course waxable classic skis require to you apply wax yourself.

What’s the proper technique for applying wax?

shutterstock_93674263JJ: For glide wax you want to apply it using an iron. The most important thing is to keep the iron moving on the ski so that it melts the wax but doesn’t burn your ski base. Then let the ski cool, scrape the excess was off with a plastic scraper, and finally, brush the remaining wax off with a brush. This will allow the structure of the ski base to be clean.

For classic waxing, it’s best to melt a base binder on with either an iron or heat gun.  You want to let this cool before you apply the kick wax. Pick one that has an appropriate temperature range.  Apply the wax and smooth it out with the cork until it’s uniform, then repeat.  Usually 4-6 layers should be enough.

How do different weather conditions affect waxing? 

JJ: Weather is the biggest factor in waxing.  We also consider humidity, snow type and sun on the track.  There are different waxes for different conditions.  For classic racing we use hard wax in colder conditions and klister in really warm and icy conditions.

What should you do to your skis at the end of the season?

JJ: At the end of the season it’s good to put a layer of wax on your skis and leave it without scraping it off.  This will protect your bases over the summer.  In the fall you can scrape the wax off and you’ll be ready to hit the trails.