Snow is falling, mountains are open, and the ski season is officially in full effect. If you’re a skier or snowboarder now’s the perfect time to piece together your gear from whatever place you stashed everything at the end of the season and make sure you’ll be ready to catch that first chair in the morning. This year instead of taking your equipment to a shop to have it waxed, do it yourself. Like changing the oil in your car, waxing your own skis or snowboards is an easy way to save money, and just about anyone can do it with only a few tools.
What You’ll Need:
-Ski Wax (Temperature may vary. Since it’s early in the season you may want to use an all-temperature wax for changing conditions.)
-Waxing Iron (You can substitute this for an old clothing iron if you can’t get your hands on a waxing iron, but be warned, never use it for clothes again, they will be ruined.)
-Scotch Brite Pad
Wax is an essential part of maximizing your fun on the mountain as a skier, or snowboarder. As your skis, or board, slide down the mountain the base creates friction melting the snow beneath your feet. Wax helps ensure that the water beads off instead of acting as a brake. A properly waxed board will give you more control, more speed, and maximize your fun on the slopes. Wax is temperature dependent, so make sure the wax you choose to apply is right for the conditions you’ll be skiing or riding in. If you’re unsure of where you’ll be riding an all-temperature wax is not a bad idea. It’s a jack-of-all trades, but not necessarily the best for warmer spring snow, or days where the cold will have you wrapped up like Shackleton in Antarctica. Most ski shops will have ski wax for sale, as well as some other useful tuning supplies that are good to have on hand if you’re thinking about tuning your own skis. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, chances are someone at the shop can get you pointed in the right direction. You may also want to look for a waxing iron while you’re there.
Waxing irons are different from clothing irons in a few key ways. Most notably the iron’s surface is flat with no holes. The edges are rounded making it easier to spread wax around, and they’ll have a more precise temperature gauge. A rule of thumb if you do decide to use a clothing iron is to heat the iron up to where the wax barely starts to smoke when it comes into contact with the heated surface, and drop the temperature just enough to get the wax to stop smoking. This will usually be around 120C. It should probably go without saying that a well-ventilated area is going to be the best setting for waxing. I’d also recommend against waxing over any carpeted surfaces, the wax will drip and if it gets in that carpet it’s going to be quite the task to get it out.
Ideally now you’ll have found a place to start waxing. Your garage, the shed, your living room with all the windows open? Sure why not. You may notice that it’s quite difficult to do this while holding onto your board, or skis, at the same time so find somewhere flat to set it down. A little higher than waist-level is going to be best, so perched on two chairs, some sawhorses, or a work bench with some blocks to keep your bindings elevated off of the surface and you’ll be ready to begin. Start by laying your board base up (That’s the bottom part.) on whatever surface you’ll be using. For now we’re just focusing on wax, but it’s not a bad idea to give it a visual inspection for any dents in your edges, delaminations, or deep gashes in the material that may need attention at some point. When you’re doing your own tuning it’s better to be proactive rather than let all of those minor issues build up. Trust me dripping p-tex into a base for 45 minutes is not fun.
Now that you’ve inspected the base for any damage and found it satisfactory it’s a good time to pull out that bottle of base cleaner you bought at the ski shop earlier. You don’t necessarily need to apply base cleaner, but if you don’t the wax you put on won’t last as long as it would if you had done it properly. The base cleaner will pull out any dirt, or other contaminants that have been absorbed into your base while riding, or resting on top of your car picking up road-grime. To apply it, simply use a clean rag, or paper towels and put it over top of the base cleaner bottle, flip the bottle over so the rag gets wet and wipe down the base thoroughly. After letting it sit for a minute or two go back over the base with a clean rag to dry it off and wipe off any of the dirt that the base cleaner pulled out from your base. Finally it’s time start getting some wax onto that base.
Grab out that wax you bought earlier, and plug in your iron to let it heat up. If you have an actual waxing iron the sweet spot is going to be around 120C, if you’re using an old clothing iron, make sure you never use it for clothing again. Clothing iron’s by design are going to be a little more smokey as the holes on the heating surface will hang onto wax rather than letting it slide. Holding the iron at a 45 degree angle you’re going to want to take the wax and rub it on the iron letting it drip onto the base. Remember that a little bit of wax goes a long way, so don’t use the whole bar. If you’re waxing skis a thin line down the center of the bases should be fine, and on boards make an “S” pattern down the base of the board. An alternate way to this is to rub the wax on on the iron for a few seconds followed by rubbing the wax bar itself onto the base. Both methods will work so go with whatever one you feel comfortable.
Wax applied, now it’s time to let it lie.
Once you’ve dripped the wax onto the base you can set your bar of wax down, and apply the iron to the base it self. Start by holding the iron flat on the board and making slow circular motions to spread out the wax. As the wax comes into contact with the iron you’ll notice that it spreads a good bit, this is a good thing. Spread that wax out to cover the whole base of the board, and don’t be afraid to get it on the edges, we’ll take care of that in the next step.
Now that you’ve run the iron over the base, and the wax is sufficiently covering the surface area it’s time to wait and let it cool down, and absorb into the base. This is a great time to drink a beer, read a magazine, pack a bowl, or a variety of other things that will take up 20 minutes or so of your time. You could also just stare at the board the whole time, but that’s your choice. Now that you’ve done that and the wax is cool to touch it’s time to scrape all of it back off. This may seem like a bit of a retrogression, but all the wax your board, or skis, need is absorbed into the base itself. To do this you’re going to grab your plastic scraper, and place a flat edge onto to the now cooled wax. Use your thumbs and put them towards the bottom of the scraper to get some pressure down. A plastic scraper is going to be your best bet if you’re just now popping your wax cherry as you may run the risk of gashing the base with a metal scraper. Make as many passes as you need to ‘til there’s no wax build-up on the base and it’s smooth.
Once you’ve taken off all the excess the base should have a slight rubbery texture to it if you run your hand over it. You’re basically done now, but if you want to do it right, and you do want to do it right, you’re going to buff out the wax as well. Buffing it is also a good way to make sure you don’t have any excess wax patches that you missed in your initial scraping. Take out a stiff brush and apply pressure onto the base and start making linear motions down the board while keeping pressure. It should take you less than a minute to do this, but it’s a good way of ensuring you’ll get most you can out of your newly waxed base. Once you’re done with the stiff brush grab your Scotch Brite and put the final polishing touches onto your board. You’ll largely be replicating the motions you were just doing with the stiff brush, but the grain of the Scotch Brite pad helps polish out any excess wax even more and gives the base a nice shine.
The finished product.
This next part is the best part, cleaning! Well actually that’s not the best part, scraping off all that wax tends to create a bit of mess so make sure you have a shop-vac or trash can nearby to get rid of all those wax trimmings. Now comes the best part, get out there and ride! And with all the money you’ll save from not having to go to a shop every time you need a wax you can buy more beer, lift passes, and other fun things.