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How to Wax Backcountry Climbing Skins

Wait, what? Wax my climbing skins? Won’t they melt? Isn’t that what that purple bar of wax is for?

The fastest human powered skiers in the world have a little trick up their sleeve that they aren't necessarily telling you about. No, it’s not good coffee or having the aerobic capacity of a mutant - many experienced ski tourers hot wax their climbing skins, both to improve glide and to keep snow from sticking to the skins in transitional conditions.

Hot waxing can be used in conjunction with products like Nikwax Ski Skin Proof or Black Diamond Glop Stopper - it simply makes your skins work better for longer.

Let’s get started

  1. Start with the wax you’re already using on your skis. Here in the Pacific Northwest, Swix PS8 or CH8, with its temperature range of 1˚C to -4˚C (34˚F to 25˚F), is good for 90% of our winter days, so it’s usually a good choice for skins as well. If you live and ski in colder temperatures, use the same wax that you normally use on your skis.

  2. Put your skins on your skis and then in a ski vise or supported at tip and tail like you’re going to wax the bases (skis level, bases facing up). If you’ve got a clean, non-porous table surface handy (like a Formica or stainless steel counter top) you can put the skins directly down on that, but clean up that pasta sauce first so you don’t contaminate your skin glue.

  3. Note: Make sure your skis are scraped and brushed properly before you apply your skins. Any wax improperly applied and left in too thick a layer on a ski base can come up in flakes with the glue when you remove the skins – not nice.

  4. Apply the wax by rubbing it directly onto the skin plush heavily and in both directions. BOTH DIRECTIONS? Doesn’t this trash the plush? No, the plush is very resilient, and you want the wax under the fibers, trust us. Pre-heat your wax iron to between 100 C. and 110 C. (212 F. - 230 F.), and iron the surface of the skin just like you’d iron wax into your ski bases. Iron from tip to tail only and KEEP THE IRON MOVING AT ALL TIMES, at a speed of about 2-3 inches per second.

  5. You can repeat the process with the skins still warm if it looks like the skins can use more wax – rub the bar directly on the warm skins or “hot dab” the wax (touch it briefly to the iron and then rub it on the skin) and heat again with the iron.

  6. Let the skins cool for a minute or two – it’s not necessary to let them cool completely like when you’re waxing your skis because you’re not going to scrape them. When the wax has firmed up, just brush the skin plush from tip to tail with a coarse nylon brush until all the fibers line up and look smooth. Don’t use a brass or bronze brush, it’s too rough and may damage the fabric.

There. You’re ready. All you need now are legs and lungs of steel. Party on!

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