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Shorts: How to Wax Skins
This Saturday as we were skiing up on Mt Hood, I noticed that my skins weren’t getting amazing glide. The snow was a bit wet, and the skins are new, so it was no surprise. My solution to this problem is to wax the skins, a tactic stolen from the Euro race scene that is largely unheard of in the US. (Most US skiers will think of glop-stopper when talking about skin wax, but we’re talking about hot-waxing).
The technique of skin waxing is simple and easy to do at home. It improves glide as well as water/glop resistance of the skins. It causes no damage to skins when done properly, and it takes just a few minutes to complete. I’ve waxed both nylon and mohair skins, though waxing nylon skins is pissing into the wind as far as glide goes.
A common concern for those who haven’t used hot skin waxing is whether this technique reduces the grip of the skins. In my personal experience, it may very slightly decrease the grip of the skin, but it so increases the glide that the trade off is clearly beneficial.
Prepare the skins:
Apply the skins to the ski bases and ensure that they are dry and free of debris. Ideally, put the skins on a work bench, though you could certainly do this in your kitchen if need be.
Apply wax to the skins:
Using a standard ski wax (here I’m using a non-fluoro Toko yellow, which is about as generic as it gets) selected for the conditions that you most often ski, push wax into the skins from tip to tail. This takes a bit of force and feels like coloring with a big rectangular crayon. You’ll see the wax go onto the skin as a pale, white, opaque coating. Apply just enough to cover the entire skin, but don’t go crazy.
Heat your iron:
Turn your waxing iron to it’s lowest setting. Since the only risk of this procedure is burning skin fibers with the iron, go as low as possible and you can always go hotter later.
Iron in the wax:
With a smooth, unhesitating pass, move the iron down the skin from tip to tail at a pace that just barely dissolves the wax but doesn’t linger long on any one spot. Always go from tip to tail and never against the grain. You’ll see the wax turn clear as your iron passes. If not, slow down slightly, or cautiously increase your temperature.
The skins are ready for use immediately. You’ll see the wax integrated into the fibers, and you’ll notice an immediate increase in glide in most conditions.