Why Do You Need to Wax Skis?

Why Do You Need to Wax Skis?
With the exception of no-wax cross country skis, skiers can find themselves juggling wax and knowledge. Having the right wax for the right temperature and conditions becomes as much art as technique. Understanding why we have to wax our skis helps make the task a little more fun.

Kick Wax Advantages

A combination of paraffin and resin--kick wax--applied to the base of the ski allows the skier to have purchase when the ski is weighted so he may "kick" and glide through the snow. Without the kick wax, the skier will slide and slip with no purchase to give forward momentum.

Varying Resin to Paraffin

Wax makers, by altering the ratio of paraffin to resin, can make dozens of different waxes for different snow and temperature conditions. Most backcountry skiers only need utilize two or three waxes. Those for warm, wet snow, and those for cold, dry snow.


Backcountry skiers with long approaches to mountain runs will appreciate using wax instead of climbing skins. By utilizing the wax and forgoing heavier skins, skis are lighter and the skier can retain energy for the slog up the mountain.


Another benefit to waxing our backcountry skis is when we traverse the mountain. Having an extra bit of wax on the skis allows the skier to traverse uphill if needed. Especially useful is carrying a container of kick wax in case of skin loss while climbing and skinning uphill. By adding the wax to replace the lost skin, the skier can continue the uphill traverse.

Glide Wax

Glide wax allows skiers to move farther and faster over snow. Glide wax is applied as a base coat to skis, with kick wax added on top, and only in the mid-ski. Using glide wax maximizes the energy from the skiers' kick, which is gained through use of kick wax.

Article Written By Eric Cedric

A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.

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