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You must have noticed that your cross country skis feel different when they are clean and properly waxed, as compared to when they are dirty or have been used for a long duration.
In order to get the best performance out of your cross country skis as well as to enjoy a long-lasting performance on the slopes, you need to make sure your skis are properly cleaned and well-maintained. In fact, all you have to do is to dedicate less than an hour to cleaning, brushing, and waxing to give your ski gear a new life.
Useful Tools and Accessories
Here are the important tools and accessories that you will need for proper cleaning and cross country ski maintenance:
It is easier to clean your own skis when they are upside down so flip them over before starting the cleaning process.
If you have a wax profile, lock your skis into it. A wax profile is a special piece of ski equipment that you can find in outdoor supply stores or at your local ski shop. It holds your skis and ensures they are steady when you work on the skis. If you have a wax profile, put your skis in an inverted position (bottom up) on it. The wax profile has clamps in the center to hold your skis. Fix the center of your ski using the handle. If you do not have a wax profile, it is best to put your skis on a flat surface such as a tall table or a workbench, so the XC skis do not act like a seesaw when you try to clean the ski edges.
If there is visible dirt, using sandpaper sparingly can remove the dirt and sand. But make sure you do not over-rub any part of the skis.
The liquid ski cleaner is great for removing dirt and grime off your skis. In addition to cleaning, it leaves a super thin layer of wax on your skis that works as an effective binding agent for the next layers to come.
If you do not have it, you can skip this step but then you will have to work harder and longer with the brush. The liquid ski cleaner can be found online as well as in most of the outdoor supply stores or ski shops.
Sponge or Cloth (or Paper Towel)
For applying the ski cleaner, use a clean microfiber towel, a soft cloth, or a paper towel so that the friction does not cause scratches on your skis. A small amount of liquid will be enough – do not oversoak the cloth with the cleaner.
There are different types of brushes that can be used depending upon your skis and the weather condition you will be skiing in. A bronze or nylon brush is commonly used; however, you need a brash brush along with a horsehair brush if the weather is relatively warmer.
The brush removes loose wax and makes the skis better. If you plan to ski in colder conditions, use a nylon brush. Make sure that you brush the length of the ski while taking away loose wax and smoothening the surface. If you plan to face warmer weather conditions with the snow getting wet (around 26 degrees F), use a brass brush to structure the waxed base, and then use a horsehair brush.
How to Clean Your Cross-Country Ski Equipment?
Before you apply new wax to your skis, it is important to remove the old wax from the surface of your XC skis. This old wax may well be carrying dirt and other build-ups so it is crucial for you to remove it before applying a new layer of wax.
There are primarily two types of XC skiing waxes:
- Glide wax: As the name indicates, this wax helps the ski glide smoothly on the snow.
- Kick wax: This wax is applied to the kick zone of your skis in order to get traction.
It is extremely important for you to remove the old glide wax as well as kick wax in order to properly clean and maintain your cross-country skis.
Removing the Glide Wax
Here is how you will remove the old glide wax from the surface of your skis:
- Put the skis in an upside-down position on a bench or a flat surface (you can also use two chairs) that will not cause the skis to wobble. Dry off the skis using a paper towel to remove any loose dirt.
- Using a plastic scraper, scrape your skis making sure that you do not press too hard. Ideally, keep both your hands on the scraper and make a 45 degrees angle while doing so. Move from the tip of the ski to the tail while scrapping. This way, any semi-loose micro hair will settle in the scrapped direction.
- Now take a fine copper brush and brush the ski using quick strokes going in a single direction from the tip to the tail. This will take off the old wax and grime so that when you put in new wax, the new wax will settle in better. Make sure you do not brush the kick zone.
- Once you are done brushing, spread the soft wax to the surface of the XC ski base. You can heat it using a wax iron with a temperature between low and medium. While heating, make sure you apply enough heat to only melt the wax and not to heat the ski itself. Keep the iron on the move in order to prevent any area from overheating.
- While the applied wax is still warm and hence soft, use the scraper to remove the extra amount of accumulated wax. Now let the waxed skis cool at room temperature. Once cooled down, scrape the skis again to remove any wax that resurfaced during the cooling process.
- Using the copper brush, you will then have to brush once more from the tip of the ski to its tail. You must apply the new glide wax depending upon the expected snow conditions.
Removing the Kick Wax
Here is how you will remove the kick wax:
- Using a plastic scraper, scrape off the old kick wax while applying medium pressure. In order to remove as much kick wax as possible, run down one side of the groove, and then switch to the other.
- Pour some good quality wax remover solution onto a paper towel and run in across the kick zone to remove any old wax or dirt still left on the kick zone.
- Wait for some time for the wax cleaner to rest on the ski. The exact time will be mentioned on the container of the wax remover and different types of wax removers vary in terms of the time they need to rest on the skis.
- Now using a clean paper towel, wipe any remaining wax remover solution and let it dry.
- Once completely dried, lightly apply sandpaper to the kick zone. Take a dry paper towel and wipe everything. Your cross country ski is clean from the old wax and its kick zone is now ready for the new kick wax.
It is extremely important to clean the kick zone on a waxless ski as you need to maintain the kick zone to avoid picking up clumps when the weather gets relatively warm. Use a dry paper towel to clean the skis once you have removed the old wax. Once the old wax is removed, you can then apply new wax to your cross-country skis. They will glide well and will no longer pick clumps of icy snow while you ski.
Tips and Tricks to Tune XC Skis
Cleaning and maintaining your cross country skis may seem hard and time-consuming as a beginner, but once you get the idea of what a massive difference it makes on the skis’ performance and life, you will not mind spending some time cleaning it. Here are some of the tips and tricks that will help you in cleaning and maintaining your cross country skis:
- Wax your skis according to the weather and snow conditions you will be skiing in. Find more on this in our cross-country ski waxing guide.
- You can also wash off the skis using a mild soap and sponge to get rid of dirt and grime. Once dried, you can then proceed to apply the wax layer.
- If you notice any beading of water on the surface of your skis, this is an indication that you need to instantly clean the skis. Beads of water on your skis indicate the presence of oil. Since an oily surface can negatively affect your skiing, you should avoid it at all cost.
- Old wax needs to be completely removed before applying the new wax.
- If you do not have a wax profile or a proper waxing table, use any table or bench that has a flat surface where your skis do not wobble. Many skiers use two chairs to put the skis bottom-up before starting with the cleaning process.
- There are many types of waxes available in the market. Ideally, check with the manufacturer of your cross country skis to see what type of wax works well with your skis.
- Make sure you always brush and scrape your XC skis starting from the tip of the skis to its tail. Do not brush in a circular motion or along the width of the skis.
- When waxing your skis, there is no such thing as over waxing them. The wax needs to be absorbed in the skis rather than on them. If you think the skis do not have enough wax even after going through the waxing process, repeat waxing by using the same steps.
- While waxing your fish scale pattern skis, make sure the wax does not accumulate in the scales.
- When applying hot glide waxing, the wax should not drip on the kick zone.
- While applying wax to your skis using the waxing iron, make sure your room is properly ventilated and there are no kids or flammable items around the heated iron.
- If you are not a seasoned skier and do not want to spend a lot of time and effort in waxing, you can go for the quick fix, that is, using a glide wax paste. It is generally done by beginner-level and most recreational skiers.
- It is important to clean your skis before storing them or putting them away at the end of the ski season. Never put wet skis into a ski bag to prevent rust on the ski edges. This way, your skis will be well-protected for the next ski season.
A Few Words About How to Store Skis
Once you have cleaned and waxed your cross country skis, make sure to store them properly at an appropriate place where they can be stored upright until your next ski adventure. Make sure this storage area is a cool and dry place. It is better to keep it inside your home in the pantry or your closet. Do not store skis in your garage or attic where they might get too hot in summers or too cold in winters.
During summer storage, the temperature can melt away the wax from the bottom of the skis. If you are storing your skis in a very cold area (for instance the garage in winters), your skis’ wax would freeze and chip off. It is also important for you to keep an eye on your skis during the offseason to make sure they are stored properly and do not show any sign of rusting, bending or chipping.
Cleaning and properly maintaining your cross country skis is totally worth the performance boost it gives to your skis. You need some waxing equipment such as a wax profile (or a flat stand), ski cleaning liquid, sandpaper, microfiber cloth (or paper towel), and an appropriate brush to do the job.
Your ski bases need wax protection in order to resist the friction of snow crystals, and also to repel moisture in order to get the maximum glide. In order to apply fresh wax, you need to remove the old wax (glide wax/ kick wax) and clean the surface of the skis to make sure there is no dirt or grime on it. Once you are done with it, you can store your skis in a standing position at a room temperature place (pantry or closet).
Once you start skiing with your cleaned and waxed skis, you will see the difference for yourself. Cleaning and maintaining your XC skis will not only give you the best performance on the slopes but will also add years to your skis’ life. And that only means many more years of exciting skiing!