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.

Glide Waxes

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:

  1. Temperature range
  2. Percent fluorocarbons

Temperature

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.

Fluorocarbons

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

Basic Glide Wax Supplies
Basic Glide Wax 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.

  1. Set iron to correct temperature as noted on wax package
  2. 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)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Scrape the groove with groove tool
  7. Lightly scrape each edge of the ski
  8. Scrape wax off the base. Direction: tip to tail
  9. 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.
  10. Polish with nylon brush and softer brush, if you have them

42 thoughts on “Complete Guide to XC Ski Glide Waxing”

  1. Thanks for great Info! I bought florinated Nordic spray wax. I can’t remember if I was told it was for my skater skis only.
    Also, how much detailed scraping needs to be done when I want to apply a hard wax over a soft wax on days when the weather is colder.
    Thank you for this information

    • Whatever you put on your skate skis can go on the tips and tails of your classic skis. That’s always where glide wax products go. Kick or grip wax only goes on the kick zones of classic skis.

      You’ll want to get as much of the softer wax as you can – it will slow you down unnecessarily.

      Good luck!

  2. How important is to use a base cleaner? Is there a home-made alternative? Will only brushing with the metal brush be good enough? thanks!

    • Hi Felipe – If I use a metal brush, then wipe the ski with a cloth, and THEN use the base cleaner, ever more dirt comes off. I don’t understand it at a technical level, but this experience makes me think that the base cleaner is important. I don’t know of a home-made alternative.

  3. HI Kim,
    I had my skate skis hot waxed at my local ski shop and was told I would not need to wax for about 60 km. what do you think? then I was advised to use a sponge on type of wax after that? are you recommending hot waxing each time you go up?
    julie

    • Hi Julie – How long the wax job lasts depends on how abrasive and dirty the snow is, but 60 km seems like a good ballpark. Wax geeks will spend hours on their skis and likely wax them after every outing. Other lazy folks (like me) will go a long time without waxing.

  4. Hi Kim,

    I had my skis waxed at a shop and it looks like there is a wax layer I should scrape off. So my question really is, are the skis supposed to be completely flush or should there be indents in the grooves? This is my first year skiing and this would really help.

    Thanks

    • Hey Grant, the base should be glossy black with no visible wax remaining. Our coach used to say, “if you can see the wax, you’re not done yet”, which means we had more brushing to do.

  5. Hi Kim, in the video the technician applies glide wax on the entire ski surface, even in the grip wax zone. This surprises me. I am just about to do my first wax job on my new skis and I was told to only apply the glide wax outside the ‘grip zone’. Thanks in advance for your expert advice.

  6. I’ve been looking for some advice on ski prep after long storage. We left Alaska for Texas in 2013, and now are readying both the skate and classic skis for Winter in Washington State. I cleaned them and put a coat of soft wax on them before leaving Alaska, but the skis have been untouched for the last four years in San Antonio. How best to bring them back to life? Clean them again with a soft wax treatment?

    • Liquids and gels are improving all the time, but they don’t have great durability. They are much easier to apply, that’s for sure.

  7. I started cross country skiing 10 years ago.

    My waxing tool set is simple: ski wax iron and universal wax. I use both on my Nordic classic skis, downhill skis, and backcountry (Randonnée) skis.

    For the past 5 years — based purely on laziness — after applying wax, I neither brush nor scrape excess wax from the ski base and edges.

    My simplistic system apparently works well in our Pacific Northwest snowpack, as I nearly always my group’s fastest cross country skier on both the ascent and descent.

  8. Does one have to buy a special waxing iron, or is it acceptable to use any old iron that you no longer need for pressing your work shirts?

    • You can use a regular iron, just don’t use it for anything else after that. The most important thing is to get the temperature right. I bought an iron 20 years ago for my snowboard and xc skis and it’s still going strong. Once I found the right temperature, I put a mark on the dial with a permanent marker. It is pretty low on the dial, too hot and you’ll smoke the wax and melt your base, so I would recommend starting at the coolest temp and working your way up the dial.

    • I am by no means an expert, but here is my less than expert advice……I used an old second hand laundry iron….My advice is…..DON’T! Your ski base is heat sensitive. If you overheat your base you will significantly damage your ski and it will not accept the wax as it should. It may also cause layer separation. Bite the bullet and buy a waxing iron like I did from MEC or your favourite ski supply outlet. You don’t have to buy a $200 iron unless you are fanatically frivolous…in which case go ahead! I think mine was about $50 and has a decent temperature setting for the waxes. Go to http://www.vitora.jp model: VR-F1 is what I own…. or just google x-country ski wax irons. Also you may be able to find one second hand on kijiji, MEC gear swap or FB marketplace or another source. Good luck & Happy X-C skiing!

    • I’ve been using an old clothin iron to wax my skis since the early, early 70’s. It fell off the ironing board and the “heat scale indicator” broke off. I’ve measured the temps on the iron’s surface and I marked the desired setting with a premanent marker. I can fudge it hotter or cooler as needed for warm or cold weather waxing. Is it perfect? No, but it’s pretty durn good. I’ll bet most thrift stores have a plethora of used irons. The “newer” Travel irons are lighter and smaller.
      The best part is that it has that pointed leading edge, so I can use that to move the wax out of the center groove. That saves me some scraping and it really useful with klister! I wipe it down while it’s still warm after each use to avoid wax contamination.

  9. Hi Kim!
    I’ve been x-country skiing since the pine-tar days and I’m still learning. I have a pair of Rossignol zymax 196cm skis. What causes the white-ish marks on my glide zone, mostly near tip and near heel far end. This happened on my Fischer Sportglas too. I’m thinking It may be excessive glide wax? I’m old school so I always thought more glide wax must be better than less.

    • The usual answer is that it’s caused by “oxidation” of the base material. I have heard that a good grind can take care of the problem. There are some guys in Canmore who have an excellent reputation for grinding. I think they might be called the Grinder Guys.

  10. Hello Again Kim!
    Skiing for years and still asking questions!I have Kuu Fluoro glide wax. I have three temperature glide base choices: Yellow: (moist) +2C to-8C Red (universal) -5C to -13C & Green (cold) -11 to lower.
    I live in central Alberta, Canada where the temperatures can swing immensely during the week, from mild -4C to -27C. How critical is the glide wax and is there a “blend” to cover such temperature swings? Can I just go with a colder wax (Green) even if it’s warmer?

    • We often found that green wax was fastest in the broadest range of conditions, which is kind of sad, since it is so hard to apply. I used to use it most of the time. Rilling the bases is extremely effective for improving glide, especially on wetter snow. I recently switched to the YES wax system and and so happy to say goodbye to glide wax, scraping skis etc. I haven’t actually used the new wax system. In my heart, I’m a pretty lazy waxer.

  11. I am a beginner learning how to wax my skate skis. When you change to a different temperature wax, do you remove the previous wax? If so, how?

    Thank you

    • You don’t need to remove the previous glide wax. Brush it out with a few passes with your glide wax brush, then wipe the base with a soft cloth to remove the dust. You can buy a product to clean glide wax zones. It comes on a spray bottle and you wipe it into the base of the ski. It can help remove dirt after skiing in dirtier snow but it’s not necessary for everyday use.

  12. hi Kim,

    so you ‘clean’ the ski with a metal brush.
    AND
    you finalize the waxing process with 10-20 strokes of a metal brush.

    (unless you have softer brushes to continue).

    So the metal brush does not really remove the wax, else with the 10-20 strokes
    to finalize.

    so the initial ‘clean’ thing .. is really only a surface cleaning .. does not really remove old wax?

    Here I’m confused :)

    thanks
    marco

    • Correct. You don’t need to strip off old wax before applying new wax. The pre-brushing loosens dirt “opens” the surface to help it accept the new wax (that’s the theory, anyway). There’s a new-ish waxing system that doesn’t require an iron and all this work.

      It called Yes Wax – there’s another, similar brand but the name escapes me. I just bought a YES wax system this year and haven’t used it yet. It’s WAY less work, less mess and easier to apply. The investment is substantial, especially if you’ve already invested in the more traditional waxing equipment and supplies. http://yesskiwax.com/home.aspx

  13. Hi Kim,

    Thanks for your insight. We are two English folk who have graduated from ( 35 + years ) Alpine to do Nordic as well…We were taught in Norway how to wax skis without an iron…a good warm up for a day out!!.

    Do you ever NOT use an iron? – we , sadly, only get to go once a year although if we get snow at home like last year we might get out very locally – and we intend to get our brand new Salomon Aero skins prepared when we get to the Black Forest in Feb ’19, but of that does not happen it will be gide wax ahoy!.

  14. Hi Kim,
    I am a novice, I have tried hot waxing just couple times so far. I do xc skiing only on weekends and I am trying to work out my routine. Does it make sense to:
    – clean skis and apply hot wax after skiing
    – leave unscrapped excess wax for the week
    -scrape and brush just before skiing.
    I have heard the this method helps to protect skis from antyoxidation. But scraping the wax after few days is hard and messy.
    Am I caring too much?

  15. This can actually be done on the cheap! You don’t need a wax bench or ski form (although I admit it would be nice). I use a wheelbarrow for my bench and an old cast iron clothes iron which I heat on the wood stove. The cast iron is heavy and holds the heat for a long time. Works great! Also instead of the groove tool, you can use the edge of your scraper to clean out the groove.

  16. Thanks so much for your time in this post. My question: temperature changes. I ski in an area that can go from -25 c to 0 or warmer in a day or two. If I want to change the wax due to temperature do I need to remove the base wax first, or can I just wax over with the desired temperature wax? Thanks in advance!

    • A general rule: it’s easier to apply a softer wax over top of a harder wax than visa versa. Have you thought about ski skis? They work over a wide range of temps and conditions.

  17. What is the best way to remove a bit of fluorinated liquid wax called Swix F4 GlideWax that

    I have now on my ski pants and coat? Thnx in advance?

    Mike

  18. Hi Kim, when skate skiing in rising temperatures, is it better to go with the colder or warmer wax? For example, if temp is 22F at start and will rise to mid 30sF for second half of the tour, which is better, CH7 or CH8? Thanks, Roger

    • Here in Western Canada I would say the colder temp wax. The colder temp waxes often run faster here. Our snow is very dry and I don’t know if that would be true where you live. Might be a good idea to check with some local wax gurus in your area. The Nordic ski shop is a good place to ask.

  19. Kim,
    If, on my skate skis, I use a cold glide wax when it is warm what effect will it have on the glide? Conversely, if I use a warm glide wax when it is cold what effect will it have on the glide?
    Thank you

    • You can really only know that by testing. Sometimes a cold wax is faster in warmer conditions. I often chose to wax colder, but the snow in my area is very dry.

  20. Thanks for the video instruction. I noticed that the brushes were used backwards and forwards instead of tip to tail. The waxing iron was also used in a back and forth motion. Is this okay? I thought the point was to make sure the microstructure in the base is oriented opposite of the direction of travel.

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