Up until a few years ago, most alpine ski/snowboard waxes were paraffin wax based. Plastic polymers and other compounds were added to modify the performance characteristics. Usually, the harder the wax blend, the more suited it is for colder snow, which has sharper ice crystals. Softer blends of paraffin content are better for warmer and wetter conditions. Basic wax is still fine for most recreational applications because paraffin is quite hydrophobic (slippery and repels water). There are a wide range blends but for most applications you can get a cold wax and a wet wax that will provide all you needs.
The last several years has brought new, high-tech polymer science to the waxing choices. New compounds, often based on flourocarbons, teflon-like compounds, or hydro-chlorocarbons. Many of these magic powders gave much better glide characteristics in certain snow conditions. However some of these compounds are very expensive compared to the traditional waxes with little noticeable added performance for the day-to-day skier or snowboarder. Some paraffin-based waxes have now been augmented with some of these new additives and priced within somewhat reasonable range for the recreational experimenter. However, if you want to just stick to the simple bars of cheap wax from your local ski shop you really cannot go wrong.
WAX…this has got to be the most neglected simple improvement that anyone can do in a few minutes. Whether you ski or snowboard, waxing your bottoms not only helps your glide, but also improves control. Waxed bottoms keep you from catching on sticky snow variations. Nothing is worse than experiencing that sudden drag or worse… sudden full stop as the snow conditions change. Even if you have stable conditions, a waxed bottom will reduce leg fatigue and extend your time on the slopes.
All this is so simple to add to your preparations for a day of play. Regardless of what the shops will tell you, waxing can be low tech, cheap and easy to do in a few minutes. The key to waxing is simple…DO IT BEFORE EVERY TRIP to the slopes and over time the bottoms will become “seasoned”.
SIMPLE, EASY, and QUICK waxing…
1.) Start with a clean and sooth bottom. Repair any gouges and nicks with petex. Check your edges to make sure they are free of burrs. You can sharpen the edges using a simple file but if you really want to get the right angle with consistency you can purchase a specialty edge file that will give you the exact overall angle for maximum edging.
2.) Next take the wax stick and rub firmly over the surface of the petex bottom. Give the entire area a good rub making sure to get a good amount of wax to stick to the surface. Don’t worry about it being even or consistent. This is just to get a supply of wax on the surface for the next step.
3.) Get an old clothes iron or even a cheap new iron just for this purpose (once used for wax you really cannot go back to ironing clothes with the same iron). There is no need to spend a lot of cash for a “waxing” iron when all you need is a hot smooth surface that any steam iron can give you. Set the iron to medium heat and run the iron swiftly over the surface. You do not want to leave the iron on one spot too long. Again don’t be too concerned about perfect consistency. The more you wax the more consistent the overall surface will become.
4.) The final step is to cork and or brush the bottom smooth. Corks come in two materials: natural and synthetic and come in small and large blocks. You want to quickly rub the bottom to smooth out as much as possible any excess wax. You can also use a stiff brush to smooth the surface but a cork provides a more consistent smooth surface. Contrary to what the pros will tell you there is little need to scrap the bottoms.
This simple process will take just a few minutes before each trip to the slopes but will make a big difference in how your skies or snowboard will perform. Keeping it simple and easy is the key for most recreational users. Unless you are racing or are a fanatic about squeezing every bit of speed from your equipment, a regular waxing such as described will give you more enjoyment, performance and even safety as you enjoy the miracle of snow.
WAXING does NOT have to be a chore, difficult or take a lot of time!
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*GLOVE TIP: Use empty toilet paper roll tubes to put inside the gloves after a day of skiing/riding to help dry them faster and more completely.