Glide Wax

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General

Glide wax is designed to help your skis move, or glide, easily over the snow. The better the glide the faster you will go with less effort. The glide wax used by Nordic and Alpine skiers is essentially the same. Matching the glide wax to the conditions is the inital goal. From there it's applying the wax to the skis, finishing the ski and then going out onto the trails for some fun.

Glide wax is primarily for P-tex skis, not wooden skis. Glide wax ranges being composed of hard to soft waxes, usually of the synthetic variety. Harder waxes are are typically for cold or dry or abrasive conditions while softer waxes are for warm or wet conditions. There are several different additives such as graphite, teflon, silicon, fluorocarbons, and molybdenum to improve glide and/or reduce dirt accumulation. The softer waxes are typically composed of short and ring molecules. The harder waxes typically are composed of longer molecules. Thus the small spaces in the ski bases (usually called "pores", though this isn't technically correct everyone understands what is meant) can be more easily filled with the warmer waxes than the harder waxes. Therefore, harder waxes tend to wear off the base faster than softer waxes. There are techniques described below that will help the glide waxes last longer.

In choosing your "wax of the day" you are attempting to reach a balance of the conditions that your ski bases face. The snow can be old or new, fluffy or densely packed, humid or dry, warm or cold, dirty or clean. The combinations can appear to be overwhelming. Fortunately the ski wax companies have done most of the research into these combinations and display this information on the packages or in their technical manuals.

For information on choosing the "wax of the day" see the wax selection page.

Preparing to apply Glide Wax

Glide wax is only applied to the glide zone of a ski. An alpine or downhill ski (including snowboards) are 100% glide zone. Cross country (nordic) skating skis are also 100% glide zone. Nordic classical skis have both glide and grip zones. Do not apply glide wax to a grip zone because this is counter-productive.

Unlike applying grip wax a few more preparations are required before begining. First and foremost you should ensure that the room you are glide waxing in has good ventilation. Second you should seriously consider using a respirator not only for fumes from ironing but for small wax particles that will be airborne during the finish (scraping & brushing). You should allow your skis to warm to room temperature if possible.

Glide wax is typically applied "hot" by using an iron. Some waxes may be applied using a cork or a roto-cork while a couple which are liquid/gel based are painted onto the based and left to dry. For these waxes application techniques are described below. But first we'll deal with hot waxing.

Hot Waxing Glide Wax

After ensuring good ventilation and a respirator in the wax room, the next thing to start is your iron. An iron that was had a chance to thoroughly warm up before being used will apply wax better and more consistently, and you will be less likely to overheat your ski bases when the iron goes into a reheat cycle. Typically the iron should be turned on in the 110°C to 140C° range and left to warm for 10 minutes at least. Refer to the suggested temperature on the box the wax comes in.

Once the iron has warmed, wax remaining from previous waxing sessions will be liquid. This is a good time to wipe the iron base with a cloth (!careful it is hot!) so that it does not mix with the wax(es) you are about to use and does not smoke if you need to set the iron to a higher temperature. Now set the iron to the recommended application temperature. For the precise temperature consult the documentation with the wax. Having the iron set to the recommended temperature for the wax ensures that it penetrates into the base and/or bonds with a wax underlayer. Often, particularly with colder/harder waxes, the wrong temperature setting ensures that it will just be scraped off the base completely.

While the iron is warming you can select the glide wax that you are going to apply and prepare the ski bases. Preparing the bases is a matter of how serious you are. The typical recreational skier will be looking to minimize time and effort. A skier or coach preparing for a race will be looking to achieve the best lasting glide. Fitness skiers and racers training will aim for somehere in-between. We will start with the minimal effort since this forms a base (no pun intended) of information that can be used for the more complex wax jobs.

The Basic Preparation & Application

Remove any dirt or sticky wax from the glide zones first with a scraper. We want to avoid using wax remover on the bases as this can remove wax that will help the new glide wax adhere and in some instances cause changes to the base. If you must use wax remover then use it sparingly and remove any excess quickly; don't pour wax remover on the wax, use a dampened piece of fiberlene instead.

A couple of passes across the ski base with a fibretex pad will help remove any small loose bits of base. If you have a fine copper, fine brass or fine steel hand-brush (or roto-brush) we suggest that you brush the glide zones as this will help remove old wax and open the base to the new wax about to be applied.

For placing the wax on the skis there are two methods: crayon and drip. If you have chosen a warm wax, typically a yellow or orange, you may be able to crayon a thick enough layer onto the base. With the cold waxes, such as blue and green, they are too hard to crayon and leave enough wax on the base. For the hard waxes you need to drip the wax. Dripping involves holding the iron with one hand over the ski base while the second hand presses the wax against the iron to melt the wax. The iron is held perpendicular to the ski base with one of the corners left lower so that it provides a location for the wax being melted on the iron's base to collect so that it will drip in a controlled fashion. As drips fall from the iron to the ski base you move along the length of the ski. Typically you will have small dots of wax on the ski base of 3mm to 8mm in diameter spaced about 1cm to 1.5cm apart. The smaller the dots the closer the spacing. If you notice any areas of the base missing wax dots you can go back and add some more. Until you have some experience, more wax dots on the base is the safer way. The more wax the thicker the layer of wax between the iron and the ski base. It is not desirable to have the hot iron base touch the ski base. Ski bases have a low melting point (130°-135°C) and the bases can become sealed easily without appearing sealed. Starting at the ski tip move the iron above the ski and long the length of the ski dripping the wax. The iron should not touch the ski. Your pace should be steady along the entire length. Watch that your hand holding the wax does not touch the hot iron. Do not press the iron down; let the iron "float" on the wax layer as it becomes molten.

The iron should be set at the lowest temperature recommended for the wax. The low temperature allows you to achieve many desirable goals: not damaging the ski base or the wax with excess heat, less fume for someone in the room to breathe, a longer wax exposure time. The hotter the iron the greater the chance of damaging the base or changing the properties of the glide wax. The less fume the less chance of inhaling things you shouldn't. Even if you are wearing a recommended respirator a tenent of safety is to reduce the exposure as much as possible. The lower the temperature on the iron the longer the iron can keep the wax molten or liquid because you can move more slowly along the base. Studies both old and current have shown that more wax gets into the base the longer the molten exposure. The more wax in the base the longer and better the glide. As you move along the base a "trail" of molten wax behind the iron should be about 4cm to 6cm in length. If the trail is longer then either you are moving the iron too slow or the iron is too hot. Different skis will produce different results for how long the molten trail is. This is due to different construction materials and different design. When unsure about how long the iron is over a section of ski base always error on the safe side of less exposure. You can always go back to warm the wax again later. You cannot "unburn" your skis!

Let the skis cool to room temperature for 10 minutes before scraping. The purpose of scraping is to remove the excess wax. The excess was required to keep the base safe from the heat of the iron and to help evenly distribute the wax across the base.

With harder glide waxes such as Ski*go Violet or Green you may wish to do a light scrape while the wax is still slightly warm (not molten). A thin layer of the harder wax should remain on the base and be allowed to cool. Then let the wax cool before a regular scrape followed by brushing. The reason for this is that the colder glide waxes have a tendancy to "pop" off the base when the wax layer is thick and scraped cold leaving no wax in the base. A thin layer being brushed will remain in the base. We have a specific Cold Glide Tech Page dealing with cold glide wax issues that you can read.

Using a plastic or acrylic scraper held in both hands move from tip to tail to remove the excess wax. Hold the scraper even to the ski base. Use light pressure as you scrape so you do not gouge the bases. The excess wax should come off in even thin peels. This reduces the chance that you will "pop" the wax out of the base. Don't forget to remove the excess wax on the sidewalls and in the base groove. Some scrapers such as the super scraper are edged to clean the groove while others such as the groove scraper is specificly designed to clean the groove. You should always use a sharp scraper because this will make your job go faster and easier (less effort) but you will also need less downward pressure.

       

Now brush the ski bases to expose the structure of the bases. The scraping will have removed the excess wax but not exposed the structure. The selection of brush will depend on the selection of wax applied (see: brush selection or roto-brushes for more). If you're just starting, the best brush to start with is a nylon brush. If using a roto-brush remember only lightly touch the base and observe RPM maximums. The base should appear polished when you are done. Spraying a light amount of water on the base during the final brushing pass can help reduce static buildup on the base and any dust.

        

Now go enjoy those skis on the trail!

Advanced Glide Wax Application

The explanation above outlines what needs to be done for a basic wax application. This works well for non-fluoronated and low-fluoronated glide waxes. With high-fluoronated and pure-fluoronated ski waxes an extension of the above techniques will help the wax perform and last longer.

Pure and high fluorocarbon waxes have large amounts of fluorine atoms attached to their molecules. This makes it more difficult for this wax to enter the ski base (the "pores"). Having basewaxed your skis will help keep all waxes on the skis longer -- fluoronated and non-fluoronated waxes alike. By layering glide wax into and onto the ski base the high and pure fluorocarbon wax will last longer.

The wax of the day should be determined for non, low, high and pure fluoronated waxes. The skis should first be waxed, scraped and very thoroughly brushed with the non-fluronated wax. Then the low or high fluoronated wax can be applied, scraped and brushed very thoroughly. If you are not applying pure fluorocarbon wax then your skis are now ready. Otherwise the pure fluorocarbon wax can now be applied as per the instructions for that wax.

Good brushing using different brush types at the different parts of the waxing job is essential for advanced waxing. The brushing will help the new wax imbed the base and help expose the base structure. A base with wax that is poorly imbeded will not last long. A ski base that does not have it's base exposed because it is covered with excess glide wax will be much slower. For racers we recommend roto-brushing being used for brushing because it is faster, much more effective and will not tire you out as hand brushing can (save your energy/strength for the race!).

One of the best and easiest ways to determine which wax should be used as the under layer of the top wax is to use the SkiWax.ca Glide Wax Selector. This can help you quickly narrow down which waxes to use. The selector will show the non, low, high and pure fluoronated waxes from top to bottom.

Example 1: Applying Ski*go C44/7 Solid (block) form

If we have a temperature of -3°..-4°C, slightly aged snow, with normal humidity we can do the following recipe.

  1. Brass brush the bases well & follow by fibertex'ing
  2. Apply Ski*go Yellow, then scrape and nylon brush
  3. Apply Ski*go Yellow HF, then scrape and horsehair brush
  4. Crayon Ski*go C44/7 Solid across the base lightly and evenly
  5. Now use a hand cork or roto-cork dedicated to fluorocarbons to spread and warm the C44/7.
  6. Finish by brushing with a horsehair brush dedicated to the pure-fluorocarbons.
  7. Apply a second layer of C44/7 Solid for high humidity and when the race is longer than 5km. For races over 15km you should use the powder form of C44/7 and iron it.

For all of the examples above you may wish to do the final brushing after misting the base lightly with water. This will help reduce any static charge buildup on the base caused by brushing. It will also help orient the fluorocarbons on the base improving glide. Further it will keep the dust down so you don't breath it (though we still recommend a mask).

When the skis are exposed to the cold the bases will contract slightly. The greater the temperature difference between the wax room and the ski trail the greater the base contraction. This can squeeze some additional wax out of the base. Many coaches and races let the skis get cold outside and then do a final hand or roto-brushing outside. This helps make the skis faster right off the start line. This technique is most important when waxing with colder/harder waxes.

Fluid/Liquid and Gel Wax Application

The number of available fluid/liquid/gels waxes for both recreational and racing skiers is increasing every year. These waxes are the easiest to apply and provide incredible glide results. They are available in spray-on and spreadable forms from non-fluoro to low-fluoro to high-fluoro to pure-fluoro. While most are glide waxes a couple are kick waxes making it extrememly fast and easy for the busy family get prepared for a wonderful day skiing.

The current array of liquid/fluid waxes that we carry at SkiWax.ca are:

Recreational     Racing
Ski*go Liquid Recreational Glides     Ski*go Pure Fluro Fluids

Of course you may always choose to use a recreational liquid wax for racing and/or training. We have used all of these waxes to test them and have had good to excellent results. We have used some of these waxes on demo-days on other people's skis even.

Recreational Application

Liquid waxes are very easy to apply. Check that the ski base is clean of dirt and excess wax in the glide zones. Using a fine brass brush for a few passes will help expose more of the micro-structure of the bases. Then apply the wax over the glide zones and wait until it dries.

The Ski*go liquid waxes drip out into their sponge applicator when pressed against the ski base. Simply spread the liquid wax in a thin layer across the glide zone(s). If you have waxless skis you can use the liquid glide wax on the "fish-scale" grip area too. Then let the wax dry for 10 or 15 minutes in a warm room (20°C). You can polish the bases once the liquid glide wax is dry with a clean cloth or a a nylon brush (recommended). The liquid kick wax should not be polished. With kick wax be sure to leave the skis in the outside cold for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the ski & wax to cool properly. If you do not let kick wax cool it may ice or not grip because it is still too warm from the indoor heat.

You can accelerate the drying process using a hair dryer (though it is pretty instant). Do not use a torch! Once the base appears mostly dried you may optionally add a second layer.

Having the ski bases warm before applying a liquid wax will aid the adhesion for durability.

Racing Application

For training purposes you can use the recreational methods described above. For racing you should apply as described below.

Fluid and gel waxes are applied as the final layer of wax to fine tune the glide and/or bring it up to the next level in acceleration and speed. A high fluoro glide wax is normally the underlayer to a high or pure fluoro fluid/gel wax. Prepare the underlayers of wax as you would normally. Remember to brush very thoroughly to ensure the liquid wax will not be sitting on excess wax. Letting the skis cool before doing the final brushing can be very helpful in achieving this goal. Letting the skis cool to cold outside is even better.

Ski*go's Fluid Pure Fluoro waxes are designed as the final layer of wax. Any structuring (rilling) should be done before this for faster skis. The fluids are easy to apply and advance the glide to another level. It is recommended that the underlayer to Ski*go's Fluid Pure Fluoro wax be the Ski*go HF waxes. Apply once the ski is cool and the base have been very brushed. Polish the base after it has dried (10-15 minutes) with a cork (or roto-cork). One thin layer of Ski*go fluid, roto-corked, is enough. Let the skis rest and then brush well.

Fluid/liquid and gels waxes can be applied overtop grip wax to improve the glide component of the grip and to reduce the chances of the grip wax icing up. Use just a thin layer. Dry well before using or testing. From our testing the Ski*go C44/7 fluid is best choice.

Post Note

If you will be skiing a long trail, recreational liquid and gel waxes are ideal for touching up the glide of your skis. The perfect time is when you are at a rest station for water or a snack. Apply before you start your break and expose the bases to the sun or bring them into the hut if possible. Give a quick brush before putting your skis back on. The dry time will take longer the colder the temperature is so use as thin a layer as possible.

Corking or Roto-corking Glide Wax

Corking or roto-corking ski wax into the bases is one of the best ways to wax. The bases and wax are not exposed to high temperatures so that neither will be modified or damaged. It can also potentially mean less fume exposure. There are more situations for using a roto-cork than a hand cork. You should also have one cork or roto-cork for each type of wax you will use it with. For example: one for warm fluoros, one for cold fluoro powders, etc. You want to avoid crossing or mixing the different waxes because this may slow the ski down. It's not worth the effort trying to cork or roto-cork a hard green glider or hardening powder; you should use an iron. An exception to this last statement is Ski*go C380 which is in a very powder form and it has a low melting temperature (110°C) even though it is a very cold weather wax.

If you will be using a roto-cork remember that you and those around you should be wearing eye protection. Safety first. Always start roto-corking at low RPM's until the wax has "stuck" to the base before going to higher RPM's.



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