This is the Edge & Wax guide to buying wax to wax a snowboard or for waxing skis. It is provided as a handy reference, not as a definitive answer! But we hope this helps...
Why are there different waxes, it's all a gimmick right?
We must admit when we first started doing ski and snowboard servicing, we thought that all the different waxes available would make little true difference the leisure skier. However, after spending time out on the slopes loaded with various waxes, irons and scrapers to test for ourselves, we can 100% confirm that wax choice makes a BIG difference, whether you are a 1 week skier/boarder or a pro.
Waxing is a CRITICAL part of maintaining the life of your equipment; It protects the bases from abrasions, as well as improving the glide as you move along the snow.
Factors such as temperature, humidity and the type of snow are all going to have an affect, and racing ski techs spend hours with their thermometers in the snow, and testing different formulas, but this guide should give you an overview on which wax is right for you.
Remember, you can choose the perfect wax, but if you slap it on your bases without a care in the world, even the most expensive waxes will not perform, so choosing the correct wax is just one important link in the chain!
Hot? Cold? Rub-on? Spray-on? HELP!!
There are different versions of wax that can be applied to skis and snowboards in different ways. Here is a breakdown of the common types:
Hot Wax (or Iron-On Wax)
This is a type of wax applied with heat from a waxing iron. It is by far the most effective way of getting a good application of wax on the base of the ski or snowboard. The heat allows the melting wax to penetrate the fibres of the base, to a very small depth, being drawn into the base by the heat as it passes through the core of the board/ski. Hot waxing when done correctly is pretty efficient, so you will get several waxes out of a block of hot wax.
Hot waxes come in many flavours, to suit different conditions, which we will go into below.
Selecting a Hot Wax
For those wanting minimal fuss, and skiing in favourable conditions, then a universal hot wax is a must. We apply this to the majority of skis and snowboards in our workshop. There are good and bad universal waxes, we have spent 4 years finding what we feel is the best universal wax out there. Holmenkol's World cup Universal XXL Wax is simply the best out there. Anyone using this will vouch for its longevity, and it really does apply smooth-as-butter, without wastage.
Universal waxes can be used to hot scrape too. This is where you apply the wax, but rather than waiting for it to be absorbed and to cool, you scrape straight away, pulling impurities out of the base in a way that a wax cleaner cannot match.
For those skiing in colder or warmer conditions, it is time to consider the next tier of waxes. For Holmenkol, this means there World cup wax range. Using the same hydrocarbon (techno speak for not-nasty) formula as their universal wax, we have the following types available depending on snow conditions. Remember the temperature is the snow temperature, not the temperature you are feeling with wind chill affecting it:
ALPHA MIX (yellow) For 0°C to -4°C (32-25 °F), wetter and newer snow
BETA MIX (red) For -4°C to -14°C (7-25°F), mid to dry snow, and older snow. Great as a 1st layer
ULTRA MIX (Blue) For -14°C to -20°C+ (-4 - -7°F) For the coldest Canadian conditions, and dry slopes
If you want to have all three versions handy to cover all conditions, then there is World cup MIX pack available, containing a stick of each wax.
The next step up from The Holmenkol World cup waxes is a Fluorocarbon (Teflon) based wax. These offer superior glide, especially in softer snow conditions, so the amount of fluorocarbon varies depending on the wax colour. You can also add additional Fluorocarbon 'GW25 Additive' to the wax for even more improved glide, or a Graphite additive when the snow is coarse, dry or dirty. Holmenkol produce a table to help you choose the right combination, for the ultimate performance:
Rub-On (or Cold) Waxes
These waxes do not require an iron. In our opinion, there are great ones and very bad ones. We are personally not fans of the blocks of wax that can be ironed or rubbed on; you just don't get a good application into the fibres of the base, so all the effort results in wax that doesn't last very long.
We do like the dedicated rub-on wax kits. These are generally a liquid based wax, with a sponge applicator. You apply the wax to the base in liquid form. Then pop off for a brew and wait a few minutes. The good quality kits then have a synthetic cork in the base, so that you can then rub the wax into the bases. This generates some heat, ensuring better application into the bases.
These kits are ideal to take with you on holiday, to give your board or skis a wax touch-up in the middle of your holiday or every couple of days, depending on conditions.
These come in an aerosol or pump spray applicator and are sprayed onto the bases, and then left to dry before rubbing out with a cloth or cork.
We have tried these, and have found the universal spray waxes don't seem to have the longevity of a rub in wax kit. These are very easy to apply, but found them a little wasteful if the aim was off! We are still looking for a good quality version of a spray wax. Sprays do have their place, for finishing of skis with performance additives (See below)
We are big fans of this product. As it's name implies it is not a wax, but is actually liquid Teflon, applied to the base of your skis or snowboard.
As it is Teflon based, it resists water (snow) so you get a much improved glide from your bases. It is inert, it doesn't soak into the base, but remains on the surface slowly being rubbed off. A good application will last a full day on the mountain easily enough, and it is incredibly easy to apply, just wiping on with the applicator puck. One puck of Zardoz NOTWax easily lasts a week, and once your friends see how good it is they will be begging to borrow it.
Great in any conditions, but put this on in wet, slushy snow (Such as Spring conditions) and it will amaze you.
Racing/Glide Dressings and Additives
We are into pro territory now, but us enthusiasts can still benefit from additives and dressings. Using the latest technologies to minimise friction and increase water resistance, dressings and additives are added either to the wax, or as a final dressing via a rubbing compound or spray, to give the ultimate glide performance. We tested a Holmenkol TOP SPEED paste recently in Andorra, an expensive little jar that would last for years, and the results were stunning, even just cruising blues and reds.
If you want the edge over your mates, this is it!
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