Ski wax has long been used on Alpine skis to improve skiing performance. Wax does this by reducing friction between the ski and the snow. It smooths over imperfections on the ski, such as dents and dirt, and also creates a synthetic surface much more slick than the wood, plastic or fiberglass that skis are frequently made of. Many people aren't aware that ski wax is different from any other kind of wax. It does share similarities with other forms of wax, but there are key differences that make it the only wax to put on your skis.
Microwax is a heavy, dense wax essential to ski wax's prolonged performance. It is composed of branched hydrocarbon molecules and prevents snow crystals and other microscopic substances from becoming embedded in the wax, which would slow the skis down over time. Microwax is much harder than paraffin wax and petroleum jelly. Its strength helps the ski wax minimize friction, although it isn't so strong that hitting rocks, branches and other hard surfaces won't ding it, particularly at high speeds.
This substance is popular in many forms purchased by consumers. It is a good lubricating jelly and is composed of lightly packed, branched hydrocarbon molecules. Petroleum jelly creates a softer wax, which is valuable for its oily feel--it helps create an oily surface that reduces friction. This oily surface isn't as rigid as the hard wax surface it covers, and it acts as a buffer between the harder wax and the snow, keeping away sediments, snow flakes and other microscopic elements that can wear down wax over time.
Paraffin wax is the same kind of wax frequently used to make candles. It's also one of the most widely used types of waxes, and unlike the branched hydrocarbons of microwax and petroleum jelly, paraffin wax features straight hydrocarbon molecules. Paraffin is advantageous to ski wax because it has a low melting point, making it easy to heat and apply to the ski, but it is a hard and resilient wax in cold weather. Its low melting point also helps bring down the ski wax's overall melting point, since Fischer Tropsch wax has a high melting point and would be difficult to apply to the ski without the presence of paraffin wax.
This wax is rarely used in other circumstances because it is derived from coal tar. However, it is the hardest and heaviest of all waxes and combines with paraffin wax to create a strong base of ski wax that will last throughout rigorous use. It is key to your ski wax holding to the ski rather than get worn off by use--although wear and tear still happens, and you'll have to keep a constant eye on your wax to make sure it doesn't wear down to the wood.