How to Wax Skis and Snowboards
It’s clearly time for a wax. And while you have the option of taking your gear to the tune shop, waxing it at home will save you money, and it can be a fun pre-powder day ritual. But you need to know what you’re doing.
We enlisted the help of ski expert Jon Casson, head snowboardcross coach for Lake Tahoe’s Auburn Ski Club snowboard team. In addition to being the wax technician at dozens of SBX world cups, Casson has worked as sport education director for the US Ski and Snowboard Team and head coach for the Canadian National Team.
He explained that waxing skis and snowboards is basically the same process. The only real difference is that on a snowboard you’re waxing a wider surface area. “From a technical perspective, they're essentially the same thing.”
So whether you're a skier or snowboarder, this step-by-step tutorial will help you dial in the perfect at-home wax.
*For general information on getting started, check out our Frequently Asked Questions.
How to wax your skis or snowboard
- Bench or table
- Waxing iron
- Wax scraper
- Nylon or horsehair waxing brush
- Polishing rag or scouring pad
- Base cleaner
- Edge sharpener
- Scraper sharpener
- Vises or clamps
STEP 1: SET UP YOUR BENCH
“Try to find something that's got a bit of a sticky surface to it so that when you're putting your skis or snowboard down on it, they don’t move around,” Casson explains. “If you use the back of a chair, find something like vinyl or leather instead of wood or fabric. And be careful what you choose—you obviously don't want to drip wax on your nice leather chair.”
Another thing to keep in mind is the height of your workspace, he says. Aim for something at waist level. “You don’t want to be crouching down or spending the whole time completely bent over,” Casson explains. “But at the same time, you don’t want to be reaching up so high that you can't apply any pressure to the board.”
Once the workspace is set up and your snowboard or skis are secured, plug in your iron so it can start heating up. The box from the wax will tell you what temperature to set it at, but it’s usually around 120° to 140° Celsius. “Waxes are formulated for the chemical bonds to break down at a certain temperature, so it’s important to pay attention to this,” Casson notes.
STEP 2: REMOVE YOUR BINDINGS
STEP 3: REMOVE OLD WAX
There are two ways to do this. The first option is to use a base cleaner. This is the easiest method, and the one Casson recommends for first-time waxers. All you need to do is take the nylon brush and scrub along the base with the cleaning solution in long, vertical motions. Don’t scrub in circles.
As you work, you’ll start seeing little bits of black or gray dust coming up—don’t stop brushing until wax dust stops coming up. “A lot of people think the base is like a sponge that’s absorbing the wax, but that’s not really what's happening,” Casson explains. “The wax is bonding with the chemical structure of the base to create a stronger bond. All that excess wax is stuff that hasn't bonded yet, so you want to get it out of there.”
The other option is to do something called a “hot scrape.” For this, you essentially do the first few steps of a regular wax, but don’t let it cool. (Follow Steps 4 to 7 of this tutorial, skipping Step 6.) “Instead of letting it cool, you scrape it off while it’s still wet but not fully liquid,” Casson says. “Get it at that moment when it’s kind of goopy like a gel. The stickiness pulls out all of those contaminants.”
STEP 4: DRIP THE NEW WAX
“Move the wax across the iron while you work so it’s not stuck on there in one place,” Casson advises. “As the wax drips down, you're creating a little stream coming off the iron. Be sure you move from tip to tail.”
As you drip the wax, the surface will become speckled with little dots, which Casson says should be about an inch or two apart from one another. “Every ski or snowboard is a little bit different in terms of how much surface area it has, but you don't need a big thick layer on there. It'll take some trial and error to figure out how much you need and what the spacing is, but you’ll get the hang of it.”
STEP 5: SPREAD IT AROUND EVENLY
“When you're moving around in circles, you’re all over the place,” he explains. “You can't really tell what's going on. Moving from tip to tail gives you a methodical process so you don’t pass over one area more than another. It’s really important to lay that wax on evenly—otherwise, there's no guarantee that you're creating a consistent chemical bond across the whole base. So go in nice strips. It should take about six to 10 seconds to move up the length of a snowboard, and just a bit longer for skis.”
He adds that you don't need to press down hard on the iron. “A light pressure works fine, like pushing a curling stone across the ice. Just enough to get good contact between the iron and the base. Skis only take one pass—on a snowboard you might have two or three, maybe even four. Then I always do a second pass to go back over it one more time.”
STEP 6: WAIT FOR IT TO COOL
STEP 7: SCRAPE THE BASE
“Make sure your scraper is sharp so you have a good flat edge,” Casson says, recommending a scraper sharpener if you can get one. “All the extra wax needs to come off. There is sometimes a misconception where people think, ‘Why would I want to scrape off all the wax? I just put it on.’ But none of that excess wax has bonded with the base, so you need to scrape it off.”
Don’t worry about pressing too hard—the scraper isn’t strong enough to damage your base. But make sure you are always using a plastic scraper. This is extremely important. Some ski and snowboard tuning kits come with metal scrapers too, but those are meant for base repairs. Do not ever use a metal scraper to wax skis or snowboards. This can damage your equipment.
STEP 8: REMOVE WAX FROM THE EDGES
STEP 9: BRUSH THE SURFACE
He adds that you can use a spray bottle with water to help collect the dust. “Give it a small spray just before you brush each pass. All that dust will collect in those water molecules and come off your base nice and easy rather than having to blow the dust off. You don't have to do this, but it's a helpful little pro tip.”
STEP 10: POLISH THE SURFACE
Now that your gear is freshly waxed, you’re ready to get out there and hit the mountain!
Whether you’re riding your local hill or planning the perfect ski vacation, don’t forget to bring the right gear.
For help, check out our tutorials on:
Frequently Asked Questions
How often do I need to wax my skis or snowboard?
“The way you can really tell is when the color on your base starts to fade and you can actually see it starting to get dry. If it’s black, it’ll start getting gray, for example. When you begin to see that dryness around your edges, it’s time to wax your board.” Casson notes that this metric only applies to recreational skiing. At the competitive level, athletes typically wax their equipment daily, oftentimes just minutes before their race. “The more often you wax, the better performance you're going to get.”
How do I know if my snowboard or skis need to be waxed?
Why should I wax my skis or snowboard?
Another reason is that waxing your gear regularly helps condition your base. “It protects it from dings,” Casson explains. “It doesn't make it immune—it's not armor, but it helps. You want to take proper care of your equipment. It's like lubing the chain on your bike. The more often you do it, the better performance you're going to get. Your gear will last longer and it will work better.”
Can I use a regular clothes iron to wax my skis?
“One of the most important things you can do when you're ironing is to be at the correct temperature,” Casson says. “With a regular clothes iron, you typically can’t do that. You have settings like Permanent Press or Delicates, maybe Low, Medium, and High—but who knows what exact temperature those are. If you’re going to wax your skis at home, get yourself a proper waxing iron.”
If you do decide to use a clothing iron (which Casson urges against), try to find one without steam holes and make sure to never use it on clothes after that. This could ruin your garments.
Do I need to wax new skis or snowboards?
What are the different types of ski wax?
In a perfect world, it’s best to wax your skis with different waxes as the weather changes. Some skiers start the winter with cold-weather wax, for instance, when temperatures are lower, and then switch to a warm-weather version when spring rolls around. That said, all-season wax typically works just fine for your average recreational skier.
In addition to traditional hot wax, there are also overlay types you can use in real time while you’re out on the hill. These are sometimes called additives and tend to be used more often by racers, competitive skiers, and more advanced athletes. They come in various styles, including liquid waxes, rub-on bars, and wax pastes.