Which Type of Ski Wax Is Best for You?Published on 03/24/2023 · 10 min readWaxing your skis is an essential part of keeping them in tip-top condition! Ski Expert Will Koons explains the different types of ski waxes!
Photo by Will Koons
TL;DR: Choosing the right ski wax can greatly improve your skiing experience. When selecting a wax, consider factors such as snow conditions, temperature, and the type of skiing you'll be doing. While there are various types of waxes available, each with their own benefits and drawbacks, ultimately the decision depends on your individual needs and preferences.
As a lifelong skier and snowboarder, I’ve discovered—the hard way—how crucial the proper equipment is to making the most of your time on the slopes. And ski wax is no exception: it can greatly enhance your skiing experience by providing better glide, traction, and durability on the snow. And with a daunting abundance of ski waxes available, I'm here to help narrow down the best options for you.
What Is Ski Wax and Why Do You Need It?
Ski wax is a special substance applied to the base of a ski to improve its performance on snow. By reducing friction, ski wax allows your skis to glide more smoothly and quickly, making it easier to turn and control speed. Ski wax also helps to protect skis from damage caused by ice, dirt, or debris on the slopes.
Without wax, skiing can be a frustrating experience. Your skis may feel sluggish and unresponsive, making it difficult to maneuver and maintain your balance. Plus, they may sustain damage from the rough surfaces of the snow—leading to costly repairs or replacements.
Once, when alpine skiing with some friends, I realized that I had forgotten to wax my skis recently. As a result, they felt slow and sluggish, making it hard for me to keep up. At one point, while skiing down a steep slope, I just couldn't gather any speed. My friends were far ahead of me, whooping and hollering as they raced down the mountain. Meanwhile, I was simply struggling to keep up. It felt like I was skiing through quicksand!
This is why ski wax is an essential tool for any skier who wants to maximize their performance and enjoyment on the slopes. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced pro, using the right ski wax can make a huge difference in your skiing experience.
How to Apply Ski Wax
Applying a basic hot wax to your skis is a straightforward process that requires a few tools and a bit of patience. Here are the steps to follow when applying ski wax:
- Prepare your skis: Start by cleaning the base of your skis using a wax scraper or brush to remove any dirt or debris. This will ensure that the wax adheres properly to the base of your skis.
- Choose the right wax: Different waxes are designed for different snow conditions and temperatures, so it's important to choose the right wax for the current conditions. For example, colder temperatures require a harder wax, while warmer temperatures require a softer wax.
- Melt the wax: Using a waxing iron, melt the wax onto the base of your skis. Start at the tip and work your way towards the tail of the ski, applying a thin and even layer of wax.
- Spread the wax: Once the wax has been melted onto the ski, use the waxing iron to spread the wax evenly across the base of the ski. This will ensure that the wax is distributed evenly, providing maximum coverage and protection.
- Let the wax cool: After spreading the wax, allow it to cool for several minutes before scraping off any excess wax. Using a wax scraper, remove the excess wax from the base of the ski, being careful not to scrape too deeply into the base.
- Brush the ski: Finally, use a ski brush to remove any remaining wax particles from the base of the ski. This will help to ensure a smooth glide on the snow.
What to Consider When Buying Ski Wax
What Kind of Snow Will You Be Skiing on?
The most important question to ask yourself when selecting ski wax; that’s because different waxes are designed for different snow temperatures and conditions. If you're skiing on cold, dry snow, you'll need a harder, colder wax.On warmer, higher-moisture snow, a softer, warmer wax is necessary. Choosing the proper wax for the conditions will result in the difference between gliding smoothly down the mountain or struggling to move at all.
How Much Experience Do You Have?
Beginner skiers don't require the same type of wax as advanced skiers. If you're new to skiing, you may not need to worry too much about waxing—as you're not yet moving at high speeds or making sharp turns. However, if you're an experienced skier, selecting an appropriate wax for the conditions can prove to be crucial to improving your performance.
How Often Do You Ski?
If you ski frequently, you'll want to invest in a higher-quality wax that will last longer and provide better performance. If you only ski once or twice a year, you can “get away” with using a lower-priced wax.
How Much Are You Willing to Spend?
Depending on the brand and quality, the price of ski wax can range from only a few dollars to over $100. Keep in mind that higher-priced waxes often provide better performance and longevity—so it may be worth it to spend a little more if you're a frequent skier or simply looking to improve your performance.
Have You Had Any Bad Waxing Experiences in the Past?
If you've had a bad waxing experience in the past, it's important to take note of what went wrong and avoid making the same mistake again. Maybe you used the wrong type of wax for the snow conditions, or maybe you didn't apply the wax correctly. Whatever the case may be, learning from past mistakes will help you make a better decision when selecting ski wax in the future.
What Are the Different Types of Ski Wax?
There are several different types of ski waxes available on the market. Here is an overview of some of the most common.
This type of wax is designed for maximum performance in specific temperature ranges, including varying levels of warm or cold conditions. Benefits
- Provides optimal performance in specific temperature ranges, making it ideal for serious skiers and racers
- Need to know the specific temperature range of your skiing location and use a thermometer to ensure you select the right wax
Sometimes referred to as all-temp, universal wax is an effective “all-around” option that provides high performance in a variety of conditions. Benefits
- A convenient and versatile option that can save time and money.
- Does not provide optimal performance in extreme temperatures or snow conditions
Fluorinated wax is made with fluorocarbon additives that improve performance in wet or humid snow conditions. Benefits
- Provides better water-repelling properties and improved glide in wet conditions
- More expensive than other types of wax and often not necessary in dry conditions
Graphite wax contains graphite particles, which help reduce friction and improve a ski’s glide on wet snow. Benefits
- Provides a faster glide than traditional waxes, making it an ideal choice for racing or high-performance skiing
- Graphite particles also help reduce static buildup that occurs on certain types of snow
- Particularly useful for wet snow
- Typically more expensive than traditional waxes
- Because it is a harder wax, it may require more heat to apply and can be more difficult to scrape off
- Not recommended for use in extremely cold conditions, as it can become brittle and reduce glide
Made from natural ingredients, all-natural wax is a more environmentally-friendly option than other synthetic waxes. Benefits
- Less harmful to the environment
- A smart option for those with sensitivity to chemical-based wax
- Does not provide the same level of performance in all conditions as synthetic waxes
- Requires more frequent reapplication
Features to Look Out for When Buying Ski Wax
A ski wax should correspond to the temperature range you'll be skiing in. Ski waxes temperature ranges include warm, cold, and universal.
Type of Snow
Ski wax should also correspond to the type of snow you'll be skiing on. Make sure to check whether the wax you’re looking for is designed for use in wet or dry snow conditions.
There are various ways to apply ski wax, including rub-on, spray-on, and drip-on. Choose a method that you find convenient and easy to use.
Brand and Quality
Look for reputable brands with high-quality ski waxes, such as Dakine, Toko, or Swix, to ensure that you're getting a product that will effectively protect and enhance your skis.
Features to Avoid When Buying Ski Wax
While it may be tempting to opt for a cheaper ski wax, such as that $10 rub on wax stick, keep in mind that these waxes may not provide the same level of protection and performance as higher-quality options.
Ski wax loses its effectiveness with time, so avoid purchasing those that have expired or have been sitting on the shelf for a long time.
Some ski waxes contain toxic chemicals that can harm the environment and your health such as PFC’s and certain hydrocarbons. So, consider using eco-friendly waxes that are made from natural ingredients instead.
How to Choose the Right Ski Wax for You
In order to better illustrate what ski wax might be best for your specific needs, here are three examples of real Curated customers I’ve helped, and how we’ve narrowed down the right option for them.
Tim: The Weekend Warrior
Tim loves to hit the slopes on the weekends but does not have much experience or knowledge when it comes to ski waxing. He wants a product that is easy to use and will improve his overall experience on the slopes. Features Tim should look for:
- A universal ski wax suitable for all snow types and temperatures
- Or, a low fluorinated wax which also provides an easy-to-use solution for weekend warriors
Wax examples: Swix CH7, Toko NF Hot Wax, Dakine All Temp Hot Wax
Katya: A Serious Skier
Katya is a more experienced skier who wants a wax that will help her achieve her best performance on the slopes. She knows she needs a high-quality wax that will work well in a variety of conditions and temperatures. Features Katya should look for:
- A high fluorinated wax designed for high performance in a variety of snow conditions
- A wax specifically formulated for the temperature and humidity conditions she will be skiing in
Wax examples: Swix HF10, Toko HF Hot Wax, Hertel Racing FC739
Francesca: The Environmentalist
Francesca is extremely environmentally conscious and would like to find a ski wax that is eco-friendly and sustainable. She wants to minimize her impact on the environment while still enjoying her favorite winter sport. Features Francesca should look for:
- A plant-based or natural wax that is biodegradable and made from sustainable materials
- A wax that is free of toxic chemicals and has minimal impact on the environment
Wax examples: Purl Wax All-Natural Ski Wax, MountainFlow Eco Wax, ZUMWax Natural Ski Wax A note on cross country skiing: If you are waxing cross-country skis, be sure to purchase glide wax specific to cross-country skiing.
Chat With a Real Expert
As we’ve seen, choosing the right ski wax is crucial for maintaining optimal performance on the slopes. But if you’d like to skip the hunt yourself, reach out to a Curated Skiing Expert. We offer free, customized advice and gear recommendations, and put in the leg work to find the perfect ski wax for your specific needs.