Introduction to Cross Country Ski Waxing

Waxing?!  Just think of the dizzying combination of waxes and conditions, the complexities and costs!    Well, here are the two simple rules of cross country ski waxing that cuts to the quick of this nettlesome issue:

  1. Put kids on modern skis that fit.
  2. See rule #1.

The best ski, the fastest and most fun ski is the ski that fits well.   No amount of waxing knowledge and gear will make a ski that is too long or boots too small work well or feel right for your young skier.  And, embrace the 21st century.  Lose the hand-me-down wooden skis and 75 mm wide bindings.  Modern boots are warmer, the skis lighter, faster, and easier to ski.

Buy or Rent?

Best deal in XC skis for kids is probably the NENSA Skis for Kids Program run each year by the New England Nordic Ski Association.  Double-check the facts but in previous years a complete XC package (poles, skis/bindings and boots) can all be had for under $75.  The skis are returned at the end of the season, but are brand new for your child.  The website helps you pick the right type of ski and the correct size.  A word of warning:  Stay close to the program details as it sells out every year.

If you’re borrowing or buying, consult an experienced shop for help.   If the perfect ski setup is not within reach of your budget, and you have to weigh some compromises, err on the side of the boots being a touch too big, and the skis being a touch too small.  A new skier shouldn’t grow into the skis.  There’s a good chance that a skier unhappy during year one, won’t see year two.

Ski Type:  Wax-less, Combi and Classic vs Skate Skis
The ‘no wax’ or ‘wax-less’ ski has a patterned area underneath the boot that grabs the snow when the ski is pressed down.  The right size ski means that the area under the skier’s foot is kept just off the snow until the skier depresses it (with young kids this can be little more than a step motion or shift of weight).  And, yes little kids can skate on a wax-less, but only if they fit.

Older kids can opt for a “combi” ski.  This ski has a uniformly smooth base from tip to tail.  When the skier wishes to classic ski, he/she will apply kick wax underneath the boot area.  The proper kick wax can grab the snow when the skier presses down on it, similar to how the pattern of a ‘no wax’ ski grabs the snow.  On days kids wish to skate, they remove the kick wax.


No-wax or ‘Wax-less’ skis – if new, e.g., rented from NENSA, they don’t need much of anything.  Maybe an application of glide wax to the tips and tails of the base at the start of season, but that’s about it.   Depending on your time and energy level, glide wax can be reapplied several times throughout the season.   Generally, the more glide wax embedded into the ski base the faster ski.

Waxable skis:

Combi – ski can be used for both ‘classic’ and ‘skate’ skiing.  How often glide wax is applied is up to you.  When classic skiing, a ‘hard’ kick wax will need to be applied to the base ski beneath the boot, and removed for skating.

Classic – ski dedicated to ‘classic’ technique.  It is always waxed underneath the foot for ‘kicking’.

Skating – ski dedicated to ‘skate’ technique.  The ski is glide waxed for prevailing conditions.  A skate ski is never kick waxed.

Waxing Stuff:

A racer’s wax box probably holds about 30 waxes, 10 scrapers, a couple of brushes and a few corks among other things.    The basics are:

Three “hard” kick waxes – these waxes are sold in tins and are crayoned into the area beneath the ski boot.  Different waxes, of varying hardness span about every conceivable snow and temperature condition.   Three can span most basic temp/snow conditions from 20˚F to 40˚ F.  Recommended:   Swix V40, V45 and V50 (or equivalent).

Cork (synethic) to rub in and smooth out layers of kick wax.  Kick waxes work best when applied in multiple (4 – 5) thin layers.

Wax remover – a citronella-like solvent which makes removing kick wax a cinch.  Particularly helpful when using a combi ski.

Groove scraper – to scrape glide wax out of groove in base and to take off kick wax (an old Klister paddle works well).


Glide wax – these are tied to the same temperature and snow conditions as hard waxes.  Recommended:  Swix CH7 Violet (or equivalent).

Base scrapper – to scrape off glide wax

One or two klisters waxes – I know some people who never use klister and they seem to live perfectly normal and happy lives.    Recommended:  don’t sweat it.

How do you use all of this stuff?   The Club can show you and will hold a few show n-tells during the run up and early season practices.  But if you want to get a basic idea try the website:  http://www.swixschool.com/ The videos there show you how the Norwegians do it.


  1. Modern skis that fit!
  2. A type of ski appropriate to the skier’s age. Typically kids 7 and younger have a good fitting wax-less ski.
  3. The basic waxing stuff is needed (and it doesn’t have to be that much) if skiing a  wax-able or combi ski.

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