How to Care for and Wax your Skis

It is important to take care of your skis.  You have spent money to buy the skis and you have spent effort to get yourself in shape to ski. Now you want to make each ski outing as enjoyable as possible. Here are some suggestions.

First here are some background and definitions.

Generally, classic skis are referred to as either “waxless” or “waxable”.  Waxless skis are not NO WAX skis but are skis that need not be waxed as frequently nor in the same manner as traditional waxable skis.

All classic skis have a grip zone which is roughly under the foot and extending a bit in front and behind the foot. The two sections of the ski in front of and behind the grip zone are called the glide zone.

Now let’s talk about what you do to care for the grip zone on YOUR skis.

In the photo to the right are 3 types of cross country skis.

From the left:
- a waxed traditional classic ski
- a traditional classic ski Wax has been applied to half of the grip zone to show the zone and the wax has been corked smooth on the other half to show what a waxed grip zone should look like
- skin skis
- older fish scale skis

Skin Skis

If you have bought waxless skis in the past few years likely you have skin skis. The grip zone is one or more strips of fabric affixed to the ski. When you ski on trails over time, the skins will pick up dirt such as tree sap, other skiers’ wax, animal deposits. Also, occasionally, skis will “ice-up”. There are specific products available for both these situations. They are used sparingly. Products vary from brand to brand.  It is best to seek guidance from a specialty ski shop. There are several excellent ski shops in the area.

Here is a good short video on care of skin skis.


Older Waxless Skis

Older waxless skis have a textured grip zone. Sometimes this is referred to as “fish scales”. Again this grip zone will pick up dirt over time and also may ice-up in certain conditions. Ask your ski shop for the appropriate products.

Traditional Waxable Skis

Likely if you have traditional waxable skis you are familiar with waxing. But perhaps you have recently acquired a pair and want to learn the basics of waxing. The ski shops often offer waxing clinics but here is some information that may be useful.


Toko is recommended because of its roll up feature which makes the waxes easy to use and also it has wide temperature ranges. There are other brands of ski wax – all good.

  • Base Wax:  sometimes referred to as binder wax.  Use this on the grip zone before applying kick or grip wax.  It helps grip wax to stay on the ski. (grip zone – the central part of the ski below the foot)
  • blue:    In a good year we ski with blue wax most days
  • red:       for slightly warmer days
  • yellow:  for warm days.

(You can also get a green wax for cold days and klisters for icy days.)
Each brand has slightly different colour designations and temperature ranges. The above are for Toko.

(You can also get a green wax for cold days and klisters for icy days.

Additional equipment

In addition to the waxes you will need:

  • Cork: for smoothing grip wax
  • Scraper:  for removing grip wax
  • Ski specific solvent: for cleaning skis especially in the grip zone. Do not use other solvents. They may leave a residue.
  • Small piece of fine sand paper and small sanding block for preparing the grip zone.

Basic Instructions for renewing, refreshing your grip wax

  1. use a scraper to remove most of the grip wax
  2. use ski specific solvent to remove the old wax and dirt from the grip zone
  3. lightly sand the grip zone
  4. apply a layer of base wax, cork to smoothness
  5. apply a thin layer of the wax of the day (according to temperature) cork to smooth.  Repeat 3 to 4 times. Each layer should be thin and smoothed.

If you slip too much, apply more layers.  If you are still slipping apply a warmer wax.

If you are sticking, wipe the ski with your jacket sleeve to dry the ski and apply a colder wax. 

If you get icing, scrape off the ice and snow.  (You can use your park pass if you don't have a scraper handy)  Then dry and apply a colder wax. 

If nothing works, smile, enjoy the scenery, then go for a coffee.

When adjusting wax on the trails be patient.  Remember, at the beginning of a ski, both your skis and wax will be at the temperature of your car or house.  Give them time to cool down.  (A good reason to be ready to ski before the group is to set out).  Also, the conditions in and out of tracks may vary.  Try skiing both in and out of tracks.

Glide Zone - Common to all Classic Skis

Now, what do you do with the glide zone?  The glide zone is the part of the ski forward from the grip zone to the "tip of the ski" and from behind the grip zone to the "tail of the ski".

First recommendation is that you have the glide zones waxed by the ski shop when you purchase the skis and then periodically (several times per year).  The ski shop will apply a hot wax, scrape, and brush the glide zones.

In between these professional waxes you can brush the glide zones to refresh the wax.  You can purchase a basic brush from your ski shop.  Also, you can purchase a liquid glide wax to use from time to time.  Ask the ski shop how to apply the specific product you purchase.

What else?

Clean your skis at the end of the season.  Ask your ski shop about storage waxing at the end of the season or having the glide zones hot waxed at the beginning of the season.  Keep in mind that the shops may be very busy at the beginning and end of the ski season.  They have a narrow window between sking and cycling!

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2023 Women on Skis -