Cleaning the base
When you want to wax your skis to maintain them or to prepare them for a race, you need to clean the base first. The reason is simple, on top of the wear and tear of the wax when you ski, there is also a clogging effect of the base, that rubs against all the impurities in the snow (pine needles, sap, classic wax…).
There are several techniques to clean the base:
You brush the ski from tip to tail with a soft brass brush or a wild boar brush. Brush 10 times the entire length of the ski. Then you use a Fiberlene kind of cloth to remove the last dirt. This technique is the simplest to have a clean base before using wax.
It is possible to do the same operation but you can add an extra step, after cleaning with the Fiberlene cloth, you soak it in a Base Cleaner product that you apply on the entire ski. It is also possible to put some Fibertex in order to revive the structure.
The operation is really simple, you put the brush on the fibertex and you apply from tip to tail (and not the other way around). This technique allows a complete base cleaning and lets the structure free which allows a better flow of the thin layer of water created between the base and the snow.
The oldest way starts with brushing the base first and then wax the ski as explained below, but without letting the wax cool down. Scraping the wax while hot prevents from letting the dirt settle on the base. This way, you scrape it off and then brush like the traditional waxing process.
The waxing process
There are different methods for waxing your skis, each being more or less expensive. It is important to know that a nordic ski requires a lot of love if you want to maintain the gliding performance at its best. Beginners might not know that there are various categories of waxes matching different temperature ranges but also several hydrophobic treatments.
There are 5 categories of glide waxes:
CH or Hydrocarbon, is a great maintenance wax, used by every skier no matter his level because it penetrates the base correctly without overloading it with fluorine that damages the base.
The LF or Low-Fluor is a multitasking wax, you can use it to prepare the skis for long training sessions or use it as a low-fluor race waxing. Its low level of fluorine provides a good waterflow under the base. Its main benefit is it lasts longer than a CH wax against clogging. of the base.
The HF or High-Fluor is the most common wax used for racing, it fixes the other layers of wax (if any) to the ski. As said in the name, its high level of fluorine provides a stunning efficiency on wet snow. The HF is one of the most used waxes for long distance races because it prevents the base from clogging and allows the use of powder or booster to increase significantly the glide.
The Cera is a powder wax and its application requires both skills and a gas mask to protect you from the fluorine vapors. The Cera is the most powerful glide wax you can find out there but also the most expensive, it is only used for racing and it delivers astounding performance.
The boosters or Speed come up in liquid state or in solid blocks and have to be applied after the Cera. Their mission is to provide a bit of extra glide on the first few miles of the race. It can be really useful when you want to take the lead at the start of the race without too many efforts.
The waxing process
For solid waxes like the CH, LF or HF, there are two ways of applying them
1st method :
The most common technique is to put the wax in contact with the base of the iron and let it drip on the base. The best is to put an edge of the iron in contact with the base of the ski without applying any pressure. Make sure the wax drips on straight lines, one on each side of the groove.
Once it is done, spread it out like you would iron your shirt. Do two passages with the iron, slowly, from the tip to the tail to spread the wax consistently on the entire base.
The second technique starts differently, instead of melting the wax on the iron to let it drip on the ski, you briefly heat it up on the base of the iron to make softer, then you rub it onto the ski.
This technique is more economical and it won’t affect the glide performance because the amount of wax used is no different. The end of the process is the same as the technique #1.
Once the application is done you need to let the skis to cool down at room temperature for at least ten minutes.
The scraping process:
When the wax has cooled down, it is time to scrape:
Before taking care of the flat part of the base you need to clear the groove(s). In order to do so, use the special stylus, put your forefinger close to the end of the stylus and clear the groove going from the tip to the tail.
Once the groove is clear, you can scrape the base using a scraper. Put your hands on each side of the scraper with your thumbs joint in the middle and scrape the ski section by section, 15 to 20cm at the time, always from tip to tail, until there is no more wax to be removed. A good scrape takes about two minutes.
Once the ski is scraped and clean, let’s brush.
You need to brush the ski with a brass or bronze brush in order to remove as much wax dust as possible. The technique is to put one hand on top of the other on the brush and to brush the ski in from tip to tail through short sections and taking care of doing between 10 to 15 passages per section. If you have done it right, the base should lose its matte finish and become shiny.
After the brass brushing, the next step is to brush the ski with a soft nylon brush. This brushing makes the ski base shiny and removes the last layer of wax and clean the base to the maximum.
For an optimum finish or if you want to make things perfect, you can use fiberlene and apply it from tip to tail. This step is not mandatory, it gives a gorgeous finish but it is more for perfection-seekers.
The application of Cera requires specific caution and a gas mask has to be worn to avoid breathing fluorine vapors. Cera comes in powder.
To spread it, gently tap the bottom of the jar to get some on the base of the ski. Once you have powder all over, start from the tip with an iron and press it briefly on the ski, section by section (each section being approx. the length of the iron) to melt the Cera and fix it to the ski. Then, iron more consistently from the tip to the tail.
Once the Cera is applied, do not scrape, the Cera is not solid, you just have to brush it with a horsehair brush until is becomes as clean as possible. For the finish, use Fiberlene to remove the last powder dust.
Boosters or Speed
Solids: a block of Speed is to be rubbed directly onto the ski base without warming it up. Then you have to slightly heat it up with a natural cork by rubbing it on the entire length of the ski until its natural aspect returns.
Liquids: the best way to use them if they don't have an application stamp is to let them drip on the base and spread them with a brush.
To structure a base means using a special tool with ridged rolls to mark the base with a pattern for a quicker water wicking under the skis. In competition, the structure is as important as the waxing because it also allows to get the layer of water flowing under the skis.
To compare, the grooved tires of a car evacuate the rain way better than the slick tires, it also increases the control you have on the car. With the ski it is the same thing, the acceleration linked to the structure is extremely important, when you try two skis with different structures under each foot, you will quickly notice that one of the two feels like it sticks more to the snow which is not good.
Of course, this kind of tests is for experts or professionals, but to hand-structure a ski is not complicated and it can change the race. Especially on the long distance, the difference between the two structures can represent several minutes in the end.