I have a pair of skis, let's pretend I use them as much as I want to. How often should I wax them? Once a season? Every few ski days? Before or after every ski day? Both? Does it matter what kind of snow it is? If so, how does that factor in?
Ski wax, like many subtle aspects of sports, is subject to a lot of lore. While there is strong science behind wax, the details of how it affects your daily ski trip is hard to pin down.
That said, there are several situations that cause me to re-wax my skis (and we are talking about PTEX based alpine-style skis here, with a melted-in base wax, rather than hand-applied glide waxes used on cross-country or nordic skis):
- Beginning of the season - great time to get a solid base wax down, repair dings from the previous year, lube the bindings, etc. I establish a "cold" temperature wax for the cold, dry early winter conditions in Colorado.
- After 10-20 days of skiing - this is about when I notice that my skis aren't behaving like I want them to. May vary strongly based on your habits and ski locations.
- If I scrape it all off skiing over tree branches or rocks (happens a lot).
- If the snow conditions change considerably. The main reason would be to change to a "warm" wax for better performance on warmer, wetter snow. Colorado doesn't get much of this warm, wet snow, but if I take a spring ski trip to Utah, it is a good reason to set down a new coat of a different temperature range wax.
- If I want a good excuse to get a bunch of ski-buddies together to watch ski movies, drink beer, and plan trips. This sounds frivolous, but having a ski waxing party is a great way to get your community together. Plus, you can learn tips from experienced ski tuners, share your own tips, etc.
The biggest factor for the waxing is to make sure you have the right wax on your skis for the temperature outside. That is what you should look for when choosing a wax. If you use the wrong temperature wax it will slow you down.
As a rule of thumb you should wax every time you can feel grooves in the base of your ski. It smooths out the base of your skis giving you a faster ski.
If you are a powder skier, you will quite likely manage an entire two week ski holiday on one waxing (assuming the temperature stays pretty consistent)
If you like something a bit more extreme, perhaps with some hard ice, rocks or other solid objects then you may want to wax them each morning.
@JLundberg's rule of thumb is pretty applicable for both these use cases and everything in between.
When you should wax your skis:
- If you are a racer, ideally every time you race
- If you do freestyle, once at the start of the year, end of the year, and in-between when needed (see 4-6)
- If you ski powder, once per week or when needed (see 4-6)
- Whenever there is a noticeable snow (dry or wet) or temperature change (5-10 degrees Celsius)
- If your bases get roughed up or dry. If there are large scratches, use P-Tex to fill your bases.
- Generally, if your skis aren't sliding as well when off-edge.