The leaves are changing, the air is cooling off, and girls are switching from shorts to yoga pants, but most importantly, snow is on its way. With the snow comes the most important time of the year, ski season. A lot of people who enjoy skiing or snowboarding will bring their gear to a shop to get ready in the beginning of the season. It’s similar in the spring when people bring their bike to the shop for their annual tune-up, or every 2000 miles when they change the oil in their car. However, unlike when the gears are skipping on your bike or the odometer has added 2000 miles, there isn’t exactly a super clear indicator of when skis need to be waxed. When your skis are inside, they are usually stored base to base, and when they’re on the snow, they are base side down. A quick look at the bases after a few days of skiing on them will reveal that they have changed color a little bit. A lot of skis have almost straight black bases, and the best indicator of when it’s time to wax is when they are getting a fuzzy white to them. Usually, this will start on the edges and work inwards. This is due to simply spending more time with weight on the edges, and can be thought of as how your tires might wear out on your car. Once this fuzziness starts to appear, it’s time to put some more wax on your skis to keep them happy.
A question that may arise if you take a look at your bases and they’re starting to look fuzzy might be “They don’t feel like they need wax, why do I need to wax them? I already had them waxed this year.” Well, the answer to that is because it’s a more gradual transition than the odometer hitting another 2000 or the gears on your bike starting to suddenly skip everywhere. In this case, the snow is like sand paper and the wax in your skis is the wood. One swipe of sand paper won’t make much of a difference, but after a few days of sanding, there will be a noticeable difference. The piece of wood will be smaller and smoother, and that translates to fuzzy looking and slower for skis.
Not everybody is a speed demon. If you enjoy skiing for the shear pleasure of spending time outdoors or with friends or family and have no need to go fast, then you might need a little bit extra energy at the end of the day to toast to a great day of skiing. Waxing your skis or board will give you that extra bit. Speed on skis is usually interpreted as how fast somebody is moving forwards. However, it also applies to sideway motion. While turning or stopping, there is sideways motion, and if your skis have no wax, then there will me more energy spent trying to get your skis or board to move sideways. Gravity pulls you down the hill, your legs move you from side to side on the hill. By keeping your skis or board waxed, you spend less energy. Less time spent telling your buddies that you’re “going to the bathroom” as an excuse for a break and more time spent actually skiing.
Another reason to wax your skis or board is the simple fact that it keeps your gear happy. If you run your car with nasty oil or ride your bike with skipping gears for a while without doing a simple maintenance routine, your car will break down on the free way or your bike chain will snap in the middle of nowhere. Skis won’t fail you should you decide to not wax them, but there won’t be nearly as much joy garnered from the use of unwaxed skis. Also, they will look much cleaner. The fuzziness will go away and small scratches will be very temporarily filled. Larger scratches should be repaired properly.
Waxing your skis or snowboard more often than once a year may seem expensive if you bring them to a shop every time or a hassle if you are more inclined to do it yourself. When going to a shop, don’t ask for a “tune up”, see if they offer a “wax only” or similar option. If doing it yourself is more appealing, try and find a friend to show you the basics. Either way, regularly waxed skis and snowboards are much more fun and easier to use than annually or never maintained gear.