How to Wax Crosscountry Skis? – Waxing Guide With Temperature Chart

How to wax crosscountry skis waxing guide with temperature chart

To maintain the smooth glide you enjoy so much, your Classic cross country skis of skate skis need regular waxing. In fact, the more times you lay the wax on your skis, the better they’ll perform.

Waxing cross country skis can be complex and expensive if you ski on a professional level but for recreational skiers, a quick and easy wax every now and then should do just fine.

Well, it’s easy but you’ll need some basic knowledge of the waxing procedure, the wax itself, and how different types of skis respond to waxing.

To wax cross country skis, you’ll need to first clean them to remove any old wax and dirt. Next, drip the wax along the base diagonally or however you want. From there, simply spread it evenly using an applicator or waxing iron.

The final step involves rubbing off excess wax from the edges and other areas you don’t want wax.

The article below is a summary of everything there is to know about waxing cross country skis. We’ve also included a temperature chart so you’ll get everything right.

Waxing Cross Country Skis

Waxing Cross Country Skis

As a cross country skier, you must be familiar with the two main types of cross country skis; waxable classic skis and waxless skis. As a starter, we must mention that both types of skis, regardless of what their names suggest, need regular waxing.

The difference lies in the type of wax used on each; on waxable classic skis, we lay glide and kick wax while when working with waxless skis, glide wax is enough.

To understand the process better, we’ll start by addressing a few questions pertaining to cross country ski wax and the waxing process.

Kick Wax And Glide Wax

We apply both glide wax and kick wax on cross country skis but for different reasons. Glide wax earns you a smoother glide when applied to a ski’s gliding zones. Kick wax on the other serves by enabling the skis to grip better; it is applied on the grip zone (the area around the midsection of each ski).

Kick wax might sometimes come labeled as grip or climbing wax. As stated above, waxless skis are not grip waxed as they already have scales or pattern marks underneath for steady gripping.

Klister Wax

Klister wax is the warmer-conditions version of kick wax; it is used on waxable skis that glide on relatively warmer terrain (around 0 degrees Celsius). Cross country skiers prefer klister wax for warmer temperatures because it is stickier and easier to apply compared to normal kick wax, especially under these conditions.

Do You Need To Wax Brand New Xc Skis?

Do You Need To Wax Brand New Xc Skis

Well, there’s no rule dictating that you wax new classic cross country skis but we highly recommend it. You see, before they hit the shelves, new cross country skis have up to 5 layers of wax so, technically speaking, they are ready to hit the trails.

The only problem with this is that the classic cross country skis could have been in storage for too long before they got to you and so some wax to resurrect the dead one might be necessary. Besides, there’s nothing like too much wax on skis.

Why Do We Wax Waxless Xc Skis?

Why Do We Wax Waxless Xc Skis

When you glide in unwaxed waxless skis, you’ll notice some resistance when you try to go faster, this happens mostly in environments with extreme cold. Things are not any better when it shines as they stack up ice clumps as you attempt to glide.

For anyone looking for a proper skiing experience, this can be frustrating.

A thick layer of glide wax along the glide zones will get the pair gliding like it’s new; the wax will fix the sticking ice clumps problem as well.

Waxless Cross Country Skis- How Do They Grip?

Waxless Cross Country Skis- How Do They Grip

With waxless skis, we don’t rely on waxing for grip. Instead, the skis come with a friction pattern (like fish scales) around the middle area of the ski’s underside. The fish scale pattern creates friction with snow which in turn translates into traction as you propel.

This feature saves you the trouble of glide waxing your cross country skis and the hustle of selecting a temperature-specific wax type but there’s more- the areas of the ski that are not patterned still need glide waxing to effect a smooth glide.

How Do You Wax Skate Skis?

How Do You Wax Skate Skis

Waxless cross country skis rely on the kick zone for traction but skate skis do not have this feature- the entire underside is a glide zone.

When waxing skate skis, you’ll need to wax the entire ski– from the tip to the tail end.

The Wax Temperature Chart For Cross Country Skis

The Wax Temperature Chart For Cross Country Skis

The waxing process might be easy and quick but there are several considerations that you must look into when selecting the wax to use on the various parts of the base (glide zone and grip zone).

These considerations include the type of wax, the accepted temperature and snow conditions.

The chart below illustrates better;

Glide Waxes

Snow ConditionsTemperature in Degree
Temperature in Degrees FahrenheitSwix Glide Waxes
NormalFrom +1 to -4From 34 to 25LF8/CH8
WetFrom -10 to 0From 50 to 32LF10/CH10
ColdFrom -4From 25LF7/CH7

Kick waxes- Fresh Snow

Temperature In degrees CelsiusTemperature in Degrees FahrenheitSwix Glide Waxes
From +3 to 0From 37 to 32Silver/ V60 Red
From +1 to 0From 34 to 32V55 Red Special
From 0 to -1From 32 to 30V50 violet
From 0 to -3From 32 to 27V45 Violet Special
From –1 to -7From 30 to 19From 30 to 19
From -2 to -10From 28 to 14V30 Blue
From -18 to -15From 18 to 5V20 Green

Kick Waxes- Old Dry Snow

Temperature In degrees CelsiusTemperature in Degrees FahrenheitSwix Glide Waxes
From +1 to -1From 34 to 30Silver/ V60 Red
From 0 to -2From 32 to 28V55 Red Special
From -1 to -3From 30 to 27V50 Violet
From -2 to -6From 28 to 21V45 Violet Special
From -3 to -10From 27 to 14V40 Blue Extra
From -5 to -15From 23 to 5V30 Blue
From -10 to -18From 14 -4V20 Green

Klister Waxes

Snow ConditionsTemperature In Degrees Celsius
Temperature In Degrees Fahrenheit
Swix Glide Waxes
Old and Frozen SnowFrom +3 to -5From 37 to 40K21N Silver
From +10 to -3From 50 to 27K22N VM
Grained and Moist SnowFrom +3 to -5From 37 to 23K21N Silver
K21N SilverFrom +3 to -5From 37 to 23K21N Silver
From +10 to -3From 50 to 27K22N VM

How To Select A Wax For Your Cross Country Skis?

How To Select A Wax For Your Cross Country Skis

For first-timers, settling on the perfect wax for cross country skis can be quite a hustle given that you don’t know what to look for in a wax.

There are two main factors you’ll need to consider; the wax style you’re looking for and the environment you’ll be gliding in. Other considerations like the chemicals contained and mode of  application are important too but they can come later.

We’ll break these factors down starting with the simplest to the most complex.

Xc Ski Wax Styles

kick wax and glide wax are the two main style of applying wax to xc skis.

Kick Wax/ Grip Wax

Kick wax is used on cross country skis for one reason, to create friction between the base and the snow. The added friction helps your skis grip the ground better so you’ll have a surface to push against as you propel yourself forward.

The wax sits on the grip zone or the mid-section of the skis.

We don’t normally apply it on skate skis as they do not have a kick zone.

Glide Wax

Glide wax can be defined as the opposite of kick wax because as the latter increases friction, the former reduces it. We apply glide wax on the ski’s base to reduce friction between it and the ground so it glides more easily. It is used on every cross country ski as without it, the ski moves you see on screen would be impossible.

Selecting A Cross Country Ski Wax To Match The Ground Conditions

Selecting A Cross Country Ski Wax To Match The Ground Conditions

The conditions you’ll be skiing in play a key role in determining the type of ski wax you’ll apply. Well, you might not know this but due to varying temperature and moisture levels in the environment, atmosphere and snow types are never alike. 

To steer clear of nature’s wrath, you are safer waxing your ski to match the weather.

Choose Based On Color

This must be the simplest method; warm waxes come in warm-colored packaging and serve best in warm conditions while cold-snow  waxes come wrapped in cold-colored packaging and used in cooler temperatures.

For warm wax types they mostly use yellow and sometimes red while cold colors are blue and maybe green.

Choose Based On Snow Conditions

If you’re selecting your wax based on the snow type, you’ll need to assess the snow’s temperature, humidity, air, and age.

We need the age because that’s what’ll tell us the snow crystal shapes to expect; new snow has sharp crystals while old snow crystals will mostly be eroded and less spikey.

Another thing to check is how dirty the snow will be- dirty snow could harbor potential hazards.

This should not scare you though- you won’t need to conduct complex tests to get answers. The temperature question for example; snow is normally warmer around dusk and gets cooler as we approach sunset.

For moisture, simply press a snowball between your fingers  and watch its behavior; if it does not fall apart then that snow is full of moisture, if it turns into a powder then that’s dry snow.

If you observe the snow on your hands, you can easily tell its age by looking at the shape of its crystals.

It sounds complex but it’s actually not.

With the facts in your hands, you can now head to your wax kit and check whether the wax in hand is suited for the job or not. We insist that you check because with the many temperature ranges available, it is quite hard to memorize them and we don’t want you to make a mistake.

But, if you do make a mistake, don’t worry too much about it as most of these ranges overlap.

Waxing Skis For Extremely Cold Snow Conditions

Cold snow is nothing like normal skiing snow. You see, in normal conditions, you have a thin layer of moisture above the snow table on which your skis glide but with cold snow, it’s usually a hard surface with some very sharp crystals that tend to grab your ski base.

The only way to glide on such snow without getting grabbed by the crystals is to apply a thick coat of wax so thick the crystals can’t penetrate. Wax manufacturers devised a way to harden ski wax by adding selected hydrocarbons.

When this combination is carefully applied to a ski base, it greatly reduces friction and keeps the sharp snow crystals at bay.

Selecting The Appropriate Chemical Compound

Selecting The Appropriate Chemical Compound

Just as different ski waxes serve different purposes, they are made from different materials. Which option you go for will depend mainly on what you want but we’d advise that you do your homework first- each type interacts with the snow differently.

We’ve listed a few tips you can use to make a more informed decision.

Hydrocarbon Xc Ski Waxes

This raw material is relatively cheaper compared to others and will serve just ok to protect your skis from rust and other elements that make them slow. Remember to look at the color each time though; they’ll tell you the wax’s temperature range.

Fluorocarbon Cross Country Ski Waxes

If you’ll be skiing on wet snow, fluorocarbon wax is just what you need. Fluorocarbon is known to repel moisture and dirt plus it stays smooth for way longer than other types.

When you glide your ski, the friction created generates energy which in turn melts a thin layer of water on the surface. To glide on such snow, you’ll need wax laced with fluorocarbons to keep the excess water out.

You can identify a fluorocarbon wax by checking for the letter F followed by SOLDA numbers on the packaging. Some brands label their fluorocarbon products as High Flour and Low Fluor.

We must however mention that Fluor waxed skis are banned from all FIS-controlled competitions.

Non- Fluorinated Cross Country Ski Waxes

Non- fluorinated waxes have risen in popularity in recent years due to among other things, the massive support they’ve received from environmentalists; the waxes are not laced with perfluorooctanoic acids and this makes them more environmentally friendly.

Even without the chemicals, non-fluorinated ski waxes have registered impressive results. In fact, more and more recreational and professional cross country skiers are switching to non-flours.

Selecting The Best Waxing Style For Cross Country Skis

Selecting The Best Waxing Style For Cross Country Skis

Since there are different types and forms of waxes for cross country skis, the application styles for each of these waxes are also different; some waxes come in liquid form while others reach you in bar form so some basic understanding of the waxing style will come in handy.

  • Solid wax is the most durable and recommended. You’ll have to iron it into the base but once it’s there, you can be sure it’ll last.
  • Liquid wax on the other hand is pretty easy to apply but less durable. Its performance on the track is fairly good and with many skiers using it again and again, we can say it’s worth a try. You’ll only need to wax more regularly.

Cross Country Ski Wax Explained

Cross Country Ski Wax Explained

Cross country skiing is based on a ski’s ability to glide on snow. Skis that encounter resistance when gliding will require a stronger push to get them moving, an aspect that’ll take all the fun out of the act.

Skis don’t just glide, there are laws from physics and chemistry that influence these movements- snow is not level and equal everywhere.

Snow in extremely cold areas is usually laden with hard crystals that create friction and thus slow the ski down.

The other type is warm snow which is mostly wet from the slight melting on the surface. The moisture creates a sought of suction effect which can hold onto your ski and throw you off the track.

These ground conditions are what warrant ski waxing; the wax adjusts the base so it accommodates the conditions on the ground.

How To Apply Glide Wax To Cross Country Skis

How To Apply Glide Wax To Cross Country Skis

If you’re still new to this sport, glide waxing may appear to be a useless endeavor and a waste of time. But once you hit the tracks with properly waxed cross country skis and get a feel of the real thing, you’ll never want to glide unwaxed again.

There’s another lot that believes in completely waxless skis; to them, you can simply unbox a pair of skis and hit the trails right away. Well, we recommend waxing and from the experience, you can decide what you want.

Glide wax is applied to the tips and tail portions or what trainers call glide zones (areas in continuous contact with the snow).

To get the job done, you’ll need a few waxing tools;

  • Glide wax
  • Waxing iron
  • Brushes (a metal one and a soft nylon brush)
  • Groove pin
  • Scrapper (Plexiglass)

These are the steps;

  1. Prepare the skis by cleaning off any dirt or dust. Get the waxing iron ready as well- the recommended temperature is indicated on the wax’s packaging.
  2. After the cleaning process, clamp the skis to a wax bench with the base facing up.
  3. Hold the warm iron perpendicular to the ski base
  4. Press the wax block to the hot iron so it melts onto the ski’s base. As you do this, ensure the iron’s temperature is moderate, we recommend the lowest possible temperature. In short, warm it up just enough to melt the wax. If you spot signs like smoke coming from the heated surface, know it’s too hot and might burn into the ski base.
  5. As the wax drips on the ski base, spread it evenly but carefully so you don’t wax the kick zone. The best approach is to melt just enough and then spread it slowly over the base starting from one end to the other.
  6. After application, let the wax sit for around ten minutes as it cools off.
  7. Scrap the edges and grooves of your skis to remove any excess wax. A scrapper will do; simply move it softly along the ski’s length and around the middle groove.
  8. Run a scrap over the ski base as well; from the tip to the tail to take off any remaining wax particles on the surface.
  9. Brush the base with a metal brush until it turns shiny and smooth.
  10. Finish the job with a gentle brush as a final polish.
  11. The goal is to get the wax absorbed into the ski base and not accumulated. If you feel the need to apply more, go ahead and lay it over the previous layer until the base is satisfactorily waxed.

How To Apply Kick Wax To Cross Country Skis

How To Apply Kick Wax To Cross Country Skis

You’ll start by assembling the tools;

  • Grip wax
  • Iron
  • Sandpaper (fine grade)
  • Base cleaner
  • Plastic scraper
  • Waxing cork
  • Masking tape

There are three ways you can go about kick waxing cross country skis. You could use;

  • Hard waxes that come in crayon-like forms
  • Klister waxes that’ll give you a fair level of consistency
  • Spray waxes that are the easiest and fastest to work with
  • The type of wax you select should match the temperature range and type of snow; a temperature chart will come in handy here.

Kick Wax Application

The kick zone can be found right under and ahead of the binding. This is where you apply the new wax. The wax will offer you better traction and hence a better gliding experience.

Here’s a step-by-step guide;

  1. Scrap the kick zone with a thick scraper to remove the old and unwanted wax. Then use a soft cloth to apply the base cleaner to clean off any dirt or dust that might have persisted.
  2. After cleaning, rub the area with fine sand paper-wrapped cork. For the best results, rub it in both directions.

Klister Wax Application

Klister wax can be hard to apply given that it is very sticky. We recommend it for terrains where the temperature is constantly shifting or the snow is relatively warmer. These waxes are most of the time available in tubes so, don’t look for wax blocks or tins.

The steps to klister waxing cross country skis

  1. Rub the kick zone clean with a sandpaper cork
  2. Apply the ski base klister in a diagonal style
  3. Heat the iron up to around 110 degrees Celsius and use it to spread the wax evenly over the area.
  4. Leave the wax to cool off and cork the kick zone
  5. After ten minutes, apply a temperature-specific wax over the kick zone in the same style. A universal wax will work in this stage too. Now, your skis are ready and you can enjoy cross country skiing.

How To Quick Wax Cross Country Skis

How To Quick Wax Cross Country Skis

If applying wax through the methods offered above seem too complex, this last method will surely register with you- all you need is a glide wax paste.

The paste wax usually comes with an applicator although you can use another tool if you want. After application, you’ll need a rubbing cork to get the wax paste absorbed into the ski base.

Like all simple and quick ways to do things, wax pastes don’t last very long- you’ll need to repeat the process several times in a season.

If you are doing it for the first time and want to escape the complex processes, this is the best wax for you. After a few trips, you’ll begin to appreciate the role of waxing in cross country skiing and want to get a better wax job.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should cross country skis be waxed?

We wax cross country skis to promote their performance and longevity or as a cross country ski preparation stage. There is no definite waxing frequency for cross country skis- it all comes down to how hard you push them and how often they’re on the tracks.

The recommended average is anywhere between 4-6 days. You must also remember to dry your skiing gear especially your boots after each ski tour.

There’s also the outsourcing option where you walk into a ski shop and have them hot wax the pair for you but this can be expensive in the long run.

The best indicators that it’s time to wax your cross country skis are when the coating becomes irregular or the graphite turns white.

How Long Should A Xc Ski Waxing Job Take?

This is subjective; the time you’ll take to wax your skis will depend on your level of expertise, the waxing method you’re using and the time you have on your hands. For some, 5 minutes are enough and for others, it could take an hour.

Can I Use Summer Or Storage Wax On My Cross Country Skis?

Yes, this is in fact recommended to keep rust and other destructive elements at bay when the pair is in storage.

Does Old Glide Wax Work If Applied Again?

Yes, there is no expiry date for glide wax unless it’s been infested by a foreign element.

Bottom Line

Bottom Line

Waxing is one of the best forms of maintenance for cross country skis; the wax not only earns you a smooth glide, but it also protects the base from rust and deterioration.

There are several types of cross country ski waxes you can choose from depending on the outcome you’re looking for.

The application process might seem hard the first time but after a few attempts, you’ll be doing it in less than 30 minutes.

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.

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