Complete Guide to XC Ski Glide Waxing
About Glide Waxing
Both skate and classic skis need glide wax, so you’d think most cross-country skiers would know how to apply it. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Most skiers are comfortable with kick wax, but either they don’t know about glide wax or they don’t know how to apply it.
The trouble is glide waxing requires an investment of time and money. You need a wax bench and ski form, which are costly. Plus, you have to use a hot iron, which is a bit scary.
Here’s a pep talk about glide waxing, if you need it.
Check out any of the major ski wax companies’ websites and you’ll discover a bewildering array of products for glide waxing. There are sprays, liquids, gels, powders, pucks and blocks.
Blocks of plain old glide wax are the standard and what you should use.
There are 2 factors to consider when choosing glide wax:
- Temperature range
- Percent fluorocarbons
Glide waxes are optimized for different temperatures (and humidities). Wax for warmer temperatures is softer and easier to apply than hard, cold temperature waxes.
How many glide waxes you stock is really a matter of personal preference. We have 1 favourite wax we use about 80% of the time and a couple of other waxes we use less often.
Usually a company will sell 3 “grades” of glide wax. Increasing price means increasing percentages of “fluoros”, which generally means faster skis.
For basic glide waxing and every day skiing use either a “no fluoro” or “low fluoro” (LF) glide wax. The LF wax will be more expensive, but will almost always be faster. High fluoro (HF) waxes are expensive and would only be used for races.
Beyond HF waxes are powders, which are pure Fluorocarbons. They’re applied over a base wax (usually a LF or HF wax). You need special equipment to work with powders and they come with increased health risks.
Choosing Glide Wax
Buy 1-3 glide waxes.
If you can afford to use LF wax for your day to day skiing, buy both CH (no fluoro) and LF wax and test them for a few months. If you notice the LF wax is generally faster, make that your standard wax. If you don’t notice a difference, save yourself some money and buy the cheaper wax.
There’s no best brand of wax. Different waxes will be best in different locations and conditions. Ask around.
You can get really technical about ski wax. It’s fun to experiment with different products, and it’s always fun to have fast skis, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. If you just regularly wax your skis, they’ll be great.
Glide Waxing Tools and Supplies
Must Have Items
- Wax iron
- Metal Brush
- Plexiglass scraper
- Groove pen
- Wax apron
- Basic Glide Wax
Nice to Have Items
- Scraper sharpener (to sharpen your plexiglass scraper)
- Extra scrapers
- Polishing brushes
- Selection of glide waxes
As for how to apply glide wax, we like this video from Start wax company. You don’t need to brush your skis with 3 different brushes like they do in the video. The most important brush is the metal one.
For example, if my budget allowed me to buy either a large metal brush or a small metal brush plus a small polishing brush, I would buy the large metal brush because it’s so much nicer to work with.
The large metal brush is shown in the photo above. When we first started cross-country skiing we bought a small metal brush, but after a few years we bought the bigger version, which is much nicer to work with.
Steps by Step: Glide Waxing Your Skis
Most of these steps were shown in the video, but we’ve added a few extra tips and comments.
- Set iron to correct temperature as noted on wax package
- Clean the ski by brushing a few strokes with a metal brush and wiping off the dust with a cloth (this step is not shown in the video)
- Melt wax onto the ski (watch video). Hard and soft waxes behave differently when you melt them on to your ski. In the video, the wax tech applies the wax in a long bead. Cold waxes tend to break up into drops and seem to sit on the base more than they melt in. They’re brittle and can be really frustrating to work with.
- Iron in melted wax (watch video) If you’re working with a cold wax, you have to lift the iron up and place it down onto the beads. If you push the iron along the base the hard beads of wax will just get pushed off.
- Let the ski cool. When using cold wax don’t let the ski cool off too much. It’ll be easier to work if the wax is less brittle.
- Scrape the groove with groove tool
- Lightly scrape each edge of the ski
- Scrape wax off the base. Direction: tip to tail
- Once most of the wax has been scraped, brush 10-20 times with metal brush (tip to tail). There is no magic number of brush strokes. When the base is shiny smooth and you can’t see any patches, you’re done.
- Polish with nylon brush and softer brush, if you have them