Advice for Skiers Who Don’t Want to Wax Skis

Summary: Classic and skate skis perform better when regularly glide waxed, but it’s not absolutely essential. You can avoid waxing your skis by using waxless classic skis and by occasionally paying the pros to hot wax your skis for you.

Not looking for more work
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I don’t know your exact reasons for starting cross-country skiing, but I’m pretty sure it’s not because you wanted to spend hundreds of dollars on waxing equipment and supplies. There’s also a good chance you feel a bit overwhelmed by cross-country ski waxing.

You’re not alone. Do you know Clara Hughes?

Clara Hughes is a Canadian cyclist and speed skater. Here’s some of her accomplishments:

  • She was the first female Canadian to win an Olympic medal in cycling.
  • She’s 1 of only 5 people in the world who have won medals at both the Summer and Winter Olympics. She’s the only Canadian with this distinction.
  • She has a total of 6 Olympic medals.
  • She’s an Officer of the Order of Canada.

What’s one thing Clara doesn’t like?

Cross-country ski waxing.

She was a TV commentator during the 2014 Sochi Olympics when she said,

If I could trade my 2 sports, summer and winter, for 1 sport in another life as an athlete, it would be cross-country skiing. I love the effort. I love the intensity, the endurance. But I wouldn’t trade the technical side and that’s the waxing.”

Ouch.

If someone with her guts and determination is intimidated by the challenge of waxing cross-country skis, what are the rest of us to do?

Become master wax techs, obviously. It’s not like we have a chance of beating her at cycling or speed skating.

But if that doesn’t appeal to you, there are other options that will keep you on skis and out of the wax room. Before we get to those, let’s just review…

There are 2 kinds of cross-country ski wax:

  1. Kick wax
  2. Glide wax

Kick wax and glide wax have different functions, which means you need different strategies for each.

Kick Wax

Kick wax is for waxable classic skis. It’s also known as grip wax. It’s applied to the kick zone (a.k.a. wax pocket). The kick zone is the section of the ski’s base approximately 50 cm long, from the heel of the boot forward. Here’s instructions for finding your kick zone.

You don’t need kick wax if you have waxless skis. If you can, buy “skin” waxless skis, not fishscales. Here’s a full discussion of How to Choose Waxless Skis.

If you already own waxable classic skis, you have to use kick wax. The only way to avoid it is to buy new skis. Refer to the Kick Wax Guide.

Glide Wax

The cheapest cross-country skis don’t need glide wax, but that’s a bad thing. It means they won’t glide nicely and will be less fun to ski on. You want fun skis that help you ski better.

Both classic and skate skis should be glide waxed. It makes them faster and prevents the bases from drying out.

The problem is glide waxing requires expensive equipment and expertise. Just the fact that you have to apply it with a hot iron is enough to scare most people.

It would be a shame if you missed out on the joy of cross-country skiing just because you didn’t want to wax skis, so here’s 2 options. The first option is for casual skiers, the second is a good option for people who ski regularly and want better performance.

Option #1: Don’t Wax Your Skis

Seriously. Just don’t do it. The world won’t end.

(For classic skiing, you’ll need waxless skis.)

Option #2: Pay the Pros to Wax Your Skis

You want performance without the hassle of waxing?

To skate ski, buy good quality skate skis.

To classic ski, buy good quality “skin” skis (read Waxable vs Waxless for more info).

You’ll never need kick wax. For glide waxing, bring them to your local Nordic store and pay the pros to do it for you.

How often you’ll need to get them glide waxed will depend on

  • how frequently you ski
  • how much you care about having fast glide
  • how abrasive the snow is (man made or icy snow is highly abrasive and will quickly wear off your wax)

To give you an idea, I usually wax my skis after 1-3 ski days, but have gone longer (4-6 ski days) without waxing and it’s been OK. Like I said in Option #1, you could go even longer than that, but your skis will get slower and slower.

The bottom line is, don’t let waxing stop you from enjoying cross-country skiing.

7 thoughts on “Advice for Skiers Who Don’t Want to Wax Skis”

  1. “The cheapest cross-country skis don’t need glide wax, but that’s a bad thing.”

    I do not know of any cross-country skis with polyethylene bases that really need glide waxing since the base material itself has very low friction on snow. The glide wax industry is not built on very strong scientific principles. If you ask Leonid Kuzmin of Kuzmin Ski Technology it is to a great extent a con trick or a scam.

    “Both classic and skate skis should be glide waxed. It makes them faster and prevents the bases from drying out.”

    That bases dry out without wax is more of a ski wax industry myth than real science. If skis are stored in a dark and cool place with normal air humidity, that is enough.

  2. ” I usually wax my skis after 1-3 ski days, but have gone longer (4-6 ski days) without waxing and it’s been OK”

    This comment would be more meaningful if distance in kms were given rather than the number of ski days.

  3. Did you know that many Nordic skiers in Norway do not use wax on their wooden skis. Instead of wax for gripping and gliding, they use pine tar. All you need is a brush and a propane torch. Brush on globs of cold pine tar the entire length of the ski with a brush. Then use a torch to heat the tar. When it becomes a liquid, brush it smoothly on the ski bottoms. Use the torch finally to make the tar bubble. This shows that the tar is being ingrained into the wooden skis. Wipe off any excess tar. Leave overnight and they are ready for skiing the next day. I have used pine tar on my wooden (hickory) Bonna Model 2400 skis made in Norway for over 40 years in Alaska. The skis grip and glide sufficiently well in all types of snow. The skis will hold the wax for many ski trips. When the wax wears off you will be able to see it . Waxing takes only 10 minutes.

  4. Let’s face it. Most people who ski do so recreationally on non-wood skis. Snow cover is not what it used to be with lower pack and shorter seasons. For many of us, “Finger Lakes white” works just fine: plain old paraffin. My ancestors from Finland were never observed debating over the best waxes. They just carried a candle and cork.

    For those of us who get out a few times a year, it is probably advisable to be wary of experts who offer a level of expertise that would drive those less obsessed away from the sport. Any activity attracts people who invest their egos in being experts. While they are showing off, the rest of us can apply a layer of wax, cork it on and head out. Hey, during winter, days and weekend outings are short. You have lots of other stuff to do too. Go have fun.

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