New Ski Base Preparation
By Ian Harvey
Article for Cross Country Skier
June 20, 2005
Provided by TokoUS.com
New skis bring with them the prospect of having a "fastest pair ever." This excitement
motivates us to give them the best chance possible to reach this potential. Following this
advice will accomplish just that.
First analyze the skis and make sure that there is no damage or defects such as sidewall
dents or cracks, top sheet cracks, or base damage. Then inspect the base carefully.
Sometimes skis look great; the stonegrind that that they come with looks appropriate for
the average condition that will be skied in and they can be simply waxed as follows and
skied on. However, often times, the ski bases are white and hairy and/or the structure is
too aggressive. Aggressive structure means that the skis will only run in wet snow, and
probably will run best in wet corn snow. Most of us do not want to wait until spring for
our skis to start gliding fast! Another common occurrence is that the bases are wavy.
This can be spotted by looking down the ski base. In any of these cases, get the bases
stoneground more appropriately or look for another pair of skis.
From this point on, we have three goals: to get as much wax in the base as deep as
possible, replace this soft wax with a hard glide wax, and remove hair. There is no one
product that can accomplish this all despite the presence of “base prep” products out there
by Toko and Swix. The base prep products are better for working on skis in general, but
not for new skis as no one wax has the properties needed in order to accomplish the goals
listed above. For the first part, a very soft wax is needed. For the second part, a very
hard wax is needed. If you mix the two, then none of the goals will be properly
The softer a glide wax is, the better it will go into the base, both in terms of depth and in
amount. For this reason, we start with a wax for the warmest conditions. There is no
reason for this wax to be fluorinated (HF or LF) as this is just throwing money away (That said, the Norwegian National Team in the past only used HF waxes when they worked on their skis. I guess this is a byproduct of having a waxing budget in excess of
that of the entire budget of normal teams). The wax will liquify with very little heat,
but this will not accomplish our goal which is to get wax into the base. For this, we need
the base to heat up and expand such that the wax is let in, so iron in the wax using heat enough to make the
base of the ski warm, but not too hot to touch.
After letting the wax cool
completely, scrape the wax with a sharp plexiglass scraper and brush it out with a copper
brush (more aggressive brushes are not recommended due to the hair that they create on
the base). If the plexiglass scraper is properly sharp, very little pressure should be needed to scrape the wax off.
Downward pressure should not be used. Repeat this process 5 times. If the ski does not
appear to be taking in wax still, on the 5th time, the wax can be heated, let cool, reheated,
let cool, and reheated to ensure better wax penetration without throwing any more money
away. The scraping and brushing process does open the base though, and is necessary.
OK, we've accomplished the wax penetration part, but the job is far from done. We are
all familiar with the experience of having glide waxed our skis 15 times with a soft wax
only to find that after 5 kilometers of skiing on new snow our bases are white and look
like they were never waxed. This happens because we change the properties of the base
when we wax it with such soft wax. The base becomes very soft and especially
susceptible to friction from sharp new snow crystals dragging over it. The key is to take
advantage of the soft wax that is “holding the base open” and fill the base with a harder
more resistant wax such as blue. We don’t simply start with the blue wax because by
itself, it will not penetrate the base very well; we need the yellow wax to get in there and
hold things open.
The blue wax will not only make the base more friction resistant, but it will also enable
the hairs to be removed. This is because it is so hard that it will hold the hair in place and
even pull the hair out of the ski when the ski is scraped. This is not possible with a softer
wax, nor is the friction resistance.
Iron in a layer of blue (make sure to use enough heat so the blue actually gets in there),
let it cool completely, and then scrape and brush it as before. Already after one layer, the
skis should look dramatically better. Then iron in yellow and scrape and brush, then the
blue again, and then iron in a layer of Molybdenum wax, then the wax of the day. Your
skis are ready to race — they are optimally prepared.