How Do I Prep My Skis for Opening Day?

For top speeds at minimum price: clean, file, then wax

Nov 19, 2014
Outside Magazine
skis prepping opening day wax

Any iron will work when you're waxing your skis, so long as it's not a new oneā€”the wax doesn't come off easily.    Photo: SkiStar/Flickr


So long as you didn't savagely core-shot your skis last spring, all you need to get them ready for the season is a file, an edge guide, wax, and an old iron. Waxing your skis and filing your edges isn’t rocket science, but you’ll want to be meticulous when it comes to keeping the base of your planks uniform. Trust us: It’ll make you much faster on opening day. Here are three DIY ways to get your skis ready to go.

Clean Them

Start by cleaning your skis with a pre-coat of wax. Drip a thick layer of warm, inexpensive paraffin wax (essentially candle wax) over the bottom of your skis. Let it dry for five minutes, or until the wax is solid but still warm to the touch. Then take a scraper and peel the wax off.

Sharpen the Edges

You want your skis' metal edges to be sharp, smooth, and clean before you hit the slopes. Feel for burrs and pockmarks by running a hand down the metal edge. You can tune the sticks at home but, especially if you're new to the process, you'll want to file with a light hand so as not to ruin the edges. Use a steel or diamond file and a file guide to smooth out the imperfections on your edges. Don’t run the file from the tip to tail of the ski: instead focus on the rough spots and don’t press too hard. If you have a nasty hang-nail-like ding, take the ski to a professional.

We like the Swix Standard Waxing Kit ($50), which comes with a scraper, edge tuner, and wax. 

Wax Them

You'll want a floor and a table that you don’t mind getting covered in wax. Next, loop a strong rubber band (a cut bike tube works, too), around the brake arms and over the heel piece—this will retract the brakes so they don't get in the way while you're waxing. Clean the base of your skis with either a microfiber rag or brush that won't shed fibers. 

You can technically use any iron to apply an alpine hard wax, but you should consider buying a wax iron if you plan to wax your boards regularly. They don't get as hot as clothing irons, which can ruin a pair of skis by overheating the bases.

Buy an inexpensive all-temperature wax—designed to work in a broad range of conditions—to get started. Hold the wax to the bottom of the hot iron and let it drip on to the base. Work your way from the tip to the tail so you have wax droplets on the entire surface. You'll want to make two passes if you have super wide skis. Next, run the hot iron along the base of the ski so that you spread the wax evenly across the surface. Keep it moving at all times so as not to damage the skis. Then let it cool completely—about 30 minutes should do it. 

Finally, scrape both bases with a wax scraper. Always scrape from tip to tail, pulling down to get rid of all uneven surfaces. Once there's no more wax on the metal edges, you're good to hit the slopes. 

Filed To: Downhill Skiing

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