Ski Care

Hot Waxing Skis and Snowboards: Why and How

Hot waxing will always be the bedrock of ski and snowboard preparation as long as we have sintered bases. There are two main types of ski and snowboard bases: sintered and extruded. Extruded bases are what inexpensive skis and snowboards come with. They are basically plastic and do not absorb wax. There is no point in hot waxing them but treating them with superficial treatments such as pastes, rub ons, and liquids is effective. The more expensive (non entry level) skis and snowboards come with sintered bases. The idea behind sintered bases is that if you make a base material that absorbs wax, you can change the properties of the base. If you hot wax with a hard wax, you can make the base more dry friction or abrasion resistant which makes the skis faster in cold dry or abrasive conditions. If you hot wax with a soft hydrophobic wax such as yellow, the bases will become faster in wet snow where combatting suction is a great factor.

Another reason to hot wax is to restore the bases. When a base is skied on especially in cold or abrasive snow, the base becomes abraded and looks dried out. This is due to all of the wear on the base from friction against the abrasive snow. Hot waxing is very effective in hydrating and restoring the base to an optimal condition much like how moisturizer is effective in treating dry chapped skin. When you use moisturizer on your skin, you don’t leave a bunch of it on your skin after rubbing it in, right? It is the same with hot wax. The key is to get the wax into the base and then remove it from the surface of the base. The base will adopt the properties of the wax that went into the base and become harder, softer, slipperier, etc. This not only makes the base faster for the short term, but also maintains base health for the long term.

There have been many studies about heat and the absorption of hot wax. The studies have all concluded that the hotter the iron and the longer the time of exposure the more wax penetration there will be both in terms of depth into the base and in the amount of wax absorbed. However we also know that exposure to excess heat is harmful to base material and to the construction of skis and snowboards. For this reason, we need to be careful to try to expose the bases to enough heat to accomplish effective absorption of wax while not damaging the base. We do this by controlling the temperature of the wax iron and the time of exposure of the base to the heat.

Hot waxes come in different hardnesses. Generally cold waxes are far harder than waxes for warmer temperatures. Toko waxes have recommended iron temperature which is hotter for the harder waxes and less hot for the softer waxes. These recommendations are listed on every package of Toko wax.

Heat is only one of the two important factors to consider though when hot waxing. The other critical factor is the amount of time that the base is exposed to the heat. It’s no problem to run your finger through the flame of a candle so long as the finger passes through the flame quickly, however if you slow the finger down and it passes through the flame very slowly, you will burn your finger. It is the same with a base and a waxing iron. The more the time of exposure the more heat is “felt” by the base.

I recommend taking three passes with the iron on the base from tip to tail. With a snowboard this becomes three sets of passes each set covering the entire base. The first pass should be slow as the base is cool and hasn’t started absorbing heat yet. The second pass should be about twice as fast (medium speed). The third pass should be again about twice as fast as the second one. The third pass is when you are in danger of overheating your base and your base should have absorbed quite a bit of heat by now.

If you are unsure of how hot your base is, simply touch it holding the back of your hand against it for at least one full second. If the base is too hot to touch for a second, you need to stop exposing it to heat as it is already too hot. If it is only warm and not at all hot, you can do another pass.

Some people recommend to look at the length of the molten or liquid hot wax behind the iron and say that this wax should be about 2 inches long. I think this is a mistake as the harder waxes have far higher melting points than the softer waxes and thus the temperature and heat exposure required to make a hard wax molten for 2 inches behind the iron can mean the base is being burned while if you accomplish the same with a soft wax it can still not be enough heat because in order for the base to accept wax it needs to be heated enough for it to expand..

Another problem with only considering the length of the molten wax behind the iron is the temperature of the room that you are waxing in. Many people wax in very cold garages and others wax in very warm wax rooms. The colder the room the more heat will be required to achieve 2 inches of molten wax behind the iron. Again you might be overheating your base to achieve this whereas in a warm wax room waxing with a soft wax 2 inches of molten wax behind the iron is surely not enough to achieve wax penetration as the base needs to be heated enough to have it expand and the optimal heat should not just be enough to make the wax molten.

The concept of setting the iron to the recommended iron temperature which generally speaking would be either 140c or 150c and then taking 3 passes from tip to tail slow, medium, and then fast is to try to keep the temperature and speed as stable as possible such that you have a feel for how much heat your bases are being exposed to and such that you can apply the optimal amount of heat for maximum wax penetration with the least amount of risk to your equipment.

Oval Brushes with the strap are designed to be used when brushing out metal edged skis. The strap on the back makes it possible to brush the skis out without exposing the fingers to sharp metal edges. The large surface area of the oval brushes makes them perfect for brushing out non Nordic track skis.