Cross country skiing experts stress the importance of endurance training and other forms of exercise among xc skiers but rarely do they talk about the rather simple but very frustrating issues facing yet-to-learn skiers.
One such problem is snow sticking, yeah, that situation where you are having your best glide and suddenly you trip over because a chunk of snow got stuck to your ski’s underside. It sounds funny but the risks posed are not!
As a remedy, prevention is your best bet; shield your skis from the ‘’sticky snow” from the onset.
So, How Can You Prevent Snow From Sticking From Your Cross Country Skis?
Glide waxing is the most common and workable solution to snow sticking. Wax smoothens the ski’s base to earn you that seamless glide through varying terrain. The notion on the ground is that glide waxing is only necessary for competitive cross country skiing but we’ll tell you if you want your skiing tours smooth and most of all safe, glide wax is a must-buy.
To have your skis waxed, you don’t need to drive to a ski shop or anything, although you can if you want to but if you are the DIY type, this article is for you; we’ll tell you why snow is sticking to your crosscountry skis, how you can prevent it and a whole lot more about skiing and glide wax.
As we get down to it, you must understand that glide wax and kick wax, or what the dealers call, grip wax are two different things, that serve different purposes and you can’t use one in place of the other.
Another point is that ski wax serves all types of skis, from classic cross country skis to the modern skate skis. So, now you better that to go classic cross country skiing with dry skis.
Why Is Snow Sticking To My Crosscountry Skis?
Whether you are a recreational or professional crosscountry skier, maintaining skis in good condition is mandatory if you expect the best from them on the track. Unfortunately, even well-maintained and polished skis sometimes attract snow.
Before you give up and label all the glide wax options useless, understand the chemistry behind the snow sticking and maybe from there, you can work around the problem.
The concept revolves around the friction created as the skis slide over the snow. Friction creates heat and from basic chemistry, when ice is subjected to heat it melts into water molecules which again from chemistry are known to form a super strong bond.
It is this strong bond that causes the water molecules on the ski’s base to stick to the water molecules on the snow.
How Do Contemporary Xc Skis Work?
Cross-country skis work by sliding on a thin layer of water that forms under the ski as you move from one point to another. You see, pressure affects water’s freezing point; the more the pressure the lower the water’s freezing point.
The first step in skiing is to lay your skis on the snow, when you do this, you exert pressure on the snow and this causes the top-most layer of ice underneath to melt into a sought of water layer. This water combined with the wax on the ski lets your skis slide seamlessly over the snow.
We don’t need to mention that without the glide wax, you won’t achieve a smooth slide. You’ll instead have snow sticking to your skis as soon as you gain some momentum.
What About Wet Snow?
When skiing over wet snow, you must have noticed that the skis tend to stick to the ground. This is a result of the excess water under your skis which creates a vacuum.
The vacuum keeps air out and causes your skis to get sucked down. The hold might not be strong but trust us; with snow sticking to your ski base every now and then, this very captivating sport could easily turn into a nightmare.
A point worth noting is that fresh snow sticks more than non-fresh snow.
The said challenges can be frustrating but with proper waxing, snow sticking could easily be a thing of the past for you.
And remember, glide wax is recommended for skis of all ages; don’t get the idea that these things only happen to old skis, even the new pairs need waxing unless you want to trip over every 10 meters.
Why Should You Wax Your Crosscountry Skis?
Cross country skiing or any other form of skiing relies on two processes; weight transfer and balanced gliding, without these two, you are going nowhere.
Without proper waxing, we must say, the gliding stage is non-existent; your skis rely on the wax to glide on the thin water layer without sticking. Skiing is all about sliding on the snow at terrific speeds so, if you expect any fun on the trails, you better get waxing.
Cross-country skis are designed to glide on the snow and as we’ve seen, that is not possible unless they are adequately waxed. If you try it any other way, you’ll have to alter your skiing technique into funny moves as you try to get by in fresh snow.
We do not recommend waxless skiing as it only makes an already challenging sport even more difficult. Instead of gliding around with snow sticking to your skis all the time because you just won’t appreciate the laws of chemistry, why not just shelve the pair and grab a pair of snowshoes instead?
Here are the two reasons why you should wax your crosscountry skis
Waxing Keeps Them Looking New
You already know this; wax helps keep items rust-free and shiny- that’s just what your pair of skis needs. Glide wax acts as a covering layer to prevent oxidation in the skis’ bases. Oxidation erodes the skis’ original color to a more ashen look, which we don’t want.
The layer of wax if applied right will surely keep dirt and other corrosive material off the ski bases. Well, the skis will get dusty at some point but with the wax on, the foreign particles will reside on the wax layer rather than on the ski base fibers.
Wax is also a superb lubricant; it enables you to glide over snow crystals and other debris without scratching your skis.
Waxed Skis Are Easier To Work With And Turn More Easily
Waxing is all about a smoother glide. Even on groomed trails, you are likely to encounter propulsion problems if your skis are not waxed. Why skiers choose to ski without waxing their skis despite the increased challenge and risk is still a mystery to us.
We’ve heard cases of skiers who got left behind in the wild because their skis were too sticky to get them home, if this happens on a controlled cross country skiing resort, well and good but if you’re skiing out in the wild, you better have some jungle survival skill up your sleeve because it could be a long cold night.
Don’t be this person, wax your cross country skis.
How Do You Wax Crosscountry Skis?
There are two types of cross country skis; wax less and waxable skis. We’ve already talked about the former, so we’ll just mention a thing about the wax less version to eliminate confusion.
Unlike their waxable counterparts that require all-round waxing, waxless cross country skis only need waxing every once in a while.
Waxing waxless skis is a simple quick process as the objective is to lay just a thin layer of wax to allow for easy gliding. The case, however, is different for waxable skis as the process is more complex and calls for some waxing knowledge.
So, now you know; waxable or waxless, you need to wax them. Now, let’s get down to waxing.
Select A Wax
There is no complex buying guide for ski wax but make sure you get one that can handle outdoor temperatures. You are most likely to come across the hard waxes that come in crayon forms, these serve best when it’s really cold and the snow is icy. They are mostly labeled based on a color code so you, might need help with that.
Another option is the klister waxes- these serve in relatively warm temperatures or when the snow has repeatedly melted. They are easily recognizable as they come in tubes and have a glue-like consistency. If you encounter problems, just ask for liquid glide wax.
Finally, we have spray waxes, these are compact and easy to work with. They are used as temporary waxes for when the friction kicks in and you can’t get to shelter for proper waxing.
Prepare The Base For Waxing
You can’t wax a dirty ski base, you have to rub off any dust and wax from the previous polish. We recommend using sand paper to remove dirt but if the dirt or wax is too thick, a steel brush or plastic scraper will do.
Run the brush from one tip to the other gently, this helps to lay the micro hairs on the underside in one direction.
When done, you can use a copper brush to fine-tune things.
Remember to take the rubbing easy, if you have heavy hands, ditch the rough brushes for finer ones.
Apply The Wax
When working with hard wax, place a stick of wax on the kick zone and buff it repeatedly until you have a balanced consistency. You can buff it using a cork but if you have an electric waxing iron, even better. Remember to apply the wax coats in the recommended order.
If you are working with klister wax, apply the wax in diagonal strips on the undersides after sanding and run a 110 degrees hot wax iron over it.
For experienced skiers, you can select your waxes based on past experiences but for novices, we recommend a quick look at the wax temperature guide- the wax shop should have one.
A Quick Recap
- When scrubbing, brushing, and waxing, work from tip to tail
- Always clean the base before applying hot wax, you can use a steel brush or a basic base cleaner
- Ensure the electric iron is set to the correct temperature as a too-hot iron could permanently damage the ski base
- Do not lay a hot waxing iron on a ski base before you apply the wax, you risk burning the base
- Always run the iron from one end to the other without stopping anywhere on the ski base
- If you use an iron to remove old wax, make sure to remove it before you use to apply new wax
How Do Wax Less Cross Country Skis Glide?
A waxless ski is one that does not require all-around waxing to glide efficiently. They are in fact built for use without waxing but we grip wax them from time to time to get them to glide better.
So, how is it possible that these skis can slide on snow so easily without glide waxing? The answer lies in the theory of controlled friction. When the ski first glides on the snow, it creates friction which generates heat, this heat then melts the topmost layer of the snow into water molecules.
When the water molecules come into contact with the grip wax, they form tiny bead-like molecules- this happens thanks to the wax’s hydrophobic properties. Your skis will then slide over these beads of water as you propel yourself from point A to point B.
From the above theory, we understand that for efficient gliding, the wax must be properly applied but this is not always the case, so what will happen if the waxing is not done right or we have excess wax?
If you apply too-hard wax, the skis will generate inadequate friction and you will need softer wax. If it’s too soft, there’ll be too much friction- you’ll need harder wax . To get the best out of your skis, the waxing must be done right.
Luckily, glide waxes are made to serve a wide array of snow conditions so, you’ll rarely have to deal with the hard and soft wax difficulties.
Do I Need to Wax My Waxless Skis?
Off the bat, yes, but of course, we must tell you why.
When waxless xc skis were introduced a few decades ago, recreational skiers could not be happier; they could now ski without the snow constantly sticking to the ski bases.
The waxless ski came with a uniquely curved kick zone that was smooth and did not require waxing.
These new skis were perfect for beginners and other skiers with no long-term interest in the sport.
As time went by, however, professional cross country skiers tested the waxless skis and their conclusion was not what the novices wanted to hear.
They termed the waxless label as a marketing trick and went ahead to claim that for the waxless skis to serve as efficiently as they were advertised, they needed to be waxed on the tips and tails- the glide zones.
Yeah, so, now, the waxless skis became kick wax skis. And that is why we apply kick wax to the tails and tips of waxless skis despite the name.
The unfortunate thing however is that not everyone is aware of this development, some old-time cross country skiers still use waxless skis without wax. This lot has to contend with the maladies that come with using dry and dirty unwaxed skis.
Don’t be like them.
Snow sticking is a simple neither here nor there problem but it has cost even the greatest crosscountry skiers their wins on the track. No matter who you are or how skillful you are, if you can’t get around the snow-sticking issue, you’d better brace for a hard time on the trails.
The irony around all this is how easy it is to prevent snow sticking, with a proper waxing, you can achieve the ski glide of the year but, to get there, you must understand how the snow sticks in the first place and how waxing can solve the problem.
The article above lays down the details surrounding ski waxing from the basics to the actual waxing and a few more aspects of the waxing process.