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Our simple guide tells you which ski and snowboard wax to use for any conditions

There's a simple trick for knowing which ski or snowboard wax to use, and we have it

All indications are pointing to the ski season continuing into summer. Instead of the usual springtime storage wax, this year, you will need to keep your snowboard gliding into July. Waxing your skis or snowboard is one of the fundamental skills that every rider should learn as part of tuning their setup. Sure, you can drop your gear at the store to have it tuned — it’s good to support local businesses, and getting a pro tune once a season is no bad thing — but if you’re riding regularly, the price starts to ramp up.

By the time you’ve paid for a few waxes, you could have got yourself a tuning kit and gone for the DIY approach to ski care. That means ironing on the ski wax, letting it cool, and scraping off the excess. While your iron and scraper will do the job for every waxing session, your wax won’t. Snowboard wax is temperature dependent, and getting it wrong can affect your riding, so here’s our guide on how to pick the right wax for your ride.

Snowboard ready to wax

Why you need to wax skis and snowboards

In short, waxing your snowboard keeps you riding smoothly, fast, and in control. An unwaxed snowboard will grip the snow rather than glide. This might sound like it will just slow you down, but dry patches on your skis or snowboard affect more than just your top speed. Whether initiating your turn and changing your edge or just trying to cruise along, you’ll find that these grip points can grab and make your ride feel twitchy or out of control.

The base of your skis or snowboard is made up of tiny pores that need to be filled with wax. If you imagine this a little like a cheese grater — it’s not that gnarly, but humor me — running along the snow, there’s a lot of grip there. But fill these pores with wax, and you’ll be gliding over the snow effortlessly and keeping your gear in condition for longer.

Skis with bindings on snow..

Ski and snowboard wax: why temperatures matter

There is such a thing as all-temperature snowboard wax. When this exists, why would you use anything else? Well, I’m not knocking it, and it has its place, but think of the universal ski wax as your all-mountain snowboard. If you were only going to own one type of wax and take it on holiday, it might do the job. It’s going to be okay in most conditions. But, like powder boards, park boards, and splitboards, there’s a reason that more specialist wax has been made.

Primarily, this is because snow is different in colder and warmer temperatures. Cold snow — keep humoring me; I know that all snow is cold — forms into sharper, harder crystals that can scratch away at softer waxes, so cold weather wax is fitted with a hardener. In warmer weather, though, this hard wax generates more friction against the rounded flakes and can slow you down. Warm waxes are fitted with a hydrophobic element to combat the wetter friction caused by warm snow.

How often to wax a snowboard or skis

How often you should wax your skis or snowboard depends on how often you ride, the conditions you ride in, and how fast you want to go. Some ski racers will wax their gear every time they hit the mountain, but this is overkill for the recreational rider. As a rough guide, you want to aim to wax your base after every 3 -4 days of riding. If you live in a ski resort, this might be as frequently as once per week.

You can tell if your snowboard needs waxing as you ride it and by looking at the base. If you find yourself slowing down more than usual — especially struggling to carry speed over flat spots — or gripping and twitching oddly, chances are you need to slap on some wax. To check, leave your snowboard to dry out at the end of the day and look at your base. If patches look white and dry, then it’s time to get the snowboard wax and iron out.

rei rentals gear snow

The ski and snowboard wax you should be using

Before we get into temperature ratings for different waxes, there’s one vital factor to consider when picking snowboard wax. Your board needs to be re-waxed periodically because your wax gets scraped out as you ride. Basically, you’re leaving tiny particles of wax all over the mountain, and so is everyone else. To keep your mountains pristine, we strongly urge you to choose an eco-friendly, biodegradable ski wax like Purl Wax or mountainFLOW.

Now that our all-important PSA is dealt with let’s look at temperatures. We could get super technical here and go into air temperatures vs. snow temperatures but let’s keep things simple instead. There are three main periods of the season, and here’s how to wax your gear accordingly:

  • Early season; October to December — Warm wax rated to around 32º
  • Mid season; January to February/early March — Cold wax rated to around 25º
  • Late season; March to May/June — Warm wax rated to around 32º

It’s that easy. Your best bet is to stock up on a few blocks of warm and cold wax to be ready to wax whatever the season throws at you. Remember to practice waxing your gear so you get faster and more efficient. Oh, and don’t forget the storage wax when you finally pack your gear away; otherwise, you’ll have some dry equipment next winter.

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Tom Kilpatrick
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