How Ski Wax Affects Skiing

How Ski Wax Affects Skiing
Skiing is an exciting way to enjoy the forces of gravity, but the friction between the snow and the bottom surface of the skis can impede a skier's speed and lesson the overall thrill of the sport. Friction varies with the temperature and wetness of the snow, but a wide variety of ski waxes have been formulated to solve this problem. A properly-waxed ski will glide and turn more easily and give the skier a much higher level of satisfaction.

Common Wax Types

Modern waxes are graded for snow temperature and are color-coded. Green is for extreme cold, below 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Common blue wax is good for most cold winter conditions, but is best for snow temperatures between 10 degrees and 21 degrees. Purple is designed for temperatures between 18 degrees and 28 degrees, and red is for spring conditions from 25 degrees to 34 degrees. Finally, yellow is for extremely warm conditions above 34 degrees. The desired wax also varies with the age of the snow, and the colors can be mixed, so finding the precise wax is a skill that requires a bit of practice.

Deep Powder Snow

Deep powder is often accompanied by cold weather, and cold snow has a very high level of friction. Blue wax is usually the best for these conditions, but check the weather before you prepare your skis. A slow wax on a good powder day can be very frustrating, and the skier could be stuck struggling in the deep snow while other, properly-waxed skiers go zooming by.


Having the proper wax is an essential part of the sport of ski racing, and can be the difference between winning and not even placing. Waxing is most essential for the high-speed sports such as downhill and super-G, and World Cup racers usually have a support team that carefully analyzes the conditions and prepares their skis.

Spring Conditions

Warm and wet snow can also be very sticky, so the proper wax is very important for these conditions. Red is usually adequate, but special waxes are available that have been designed to deal with extreme spring conditions such as dust and pollen.

Waxing Techniques

Ski wax can easily be applied with an old clothing iron and a plastic scraper. After you have checked the weather forecast and guessed what the conditions will be, you have the knowledge to choose the correct wax. The wax is then applied by heating it with the iron and dripping a sparse amount on the bottom of the skis. The medium-heated iron is then used to smooth the droplets across the surface. After a short cooling period, the excess wax is scraped off with the plastic scraper. This process can be very messy, so try to do it in a garage, and using a sufficient drop cloth is crucial. The wax can also be applied by simply rubbing the stick of wax on the skis, but the hot-wax system provides a much better coating. Many ski shops provide this service for a fee.


Article Written By John Mattson

John Mattson is an architectural engineer, adventure writer, and photographer who has traveled to many remote corners of the earth. He has recently self-published a colorfully photographed book of 26 diverse and extreme adventure stories titled "Dancing on the Edge of an Endangered Planet."

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