Gear talk: Wait, what? I need to wax waxless skis?

Congrats, you just bought waxless classic skis! But wait. Yes, we need to talk about waxing.

Traditionally, classic skis needed to have two types of wax applied – grip/kick wax and glide wax. Grip wax comes in an array of confusing colours and temperature ranges and is applied to a pocket underneath the foot (the size of which is dependent on the skier). When the skier puts their weight on their foot, the wax grips the snow and the skier can kick off that ski and glide on the other foot. The other part of the equation – glide wax – is applied above and below the grip wax zone (the “tips and tails” of the ski). This wax helps you to glide faster.

Then along came waxless skis. Rather than grip/kick wax, waxless skis achieve grip on the snow with a scale pattern etched in the base of the skis or, a more recent innovation, skins (a strip of mohair/nylon that is applied to the grip zone). This is where the term ‘waxless’ comes from – because there is no grip wax used.

BUT, you still should use glide wax to achieve a good glide.

There are different types of glide waxes you can use. The easiest option is the all-purpose liquids or pastes that you can apply before you head out for a ski. You might get 10k out of these kinds of waxes, so apply them at the start of every ski day, and maybe again after lunch depending on your mileage. They are easy – slap them on, buff them up a bit, and off you go.

The other option is to apply hot wax. You know those images of skiers ironing their skis? That’s hot waxing. This lasts a lot longer, is more effective, and, for a recreational skier, could be done just a few times a season (or less, depending on how much you ski). You can do it yourself if you are keen to get in the waxing game and have the proper set up at home (i.e. a garage, waxes, brushes, an iron etc., and YouTube) OR you can simply ask one of the friendly techs at the ski resorts we visit to wax them for you for pretty cheap. Highlands Nordic, Hardwood Hills, and Horseshoe Valley all offer waxing services. I suggest getting it done at the start of the season, and then again mid-way through. Do it more often if you put on serious mileage. If your bases start looking grey, you might want to think about getting them waxed.

Waxless skis have taken much of the waxing mystery out of skiing. Is it a blue day? Violet? Red? I don’t know! If you don’t want to deal with grip wax in the highly changeable conditions we find ourselves in Southern Ontario (and really, who does?), waxless skis are a great option. But use glide wax on the tips and tails and you might find yourself gliding along a bit faster.