Maintaining a fresh wax doesn't just make you faster than all your buddies, it can also protect your board from minor damage and prolong its life. You may not notice a speed of light difference, but the areas you'll find the biggest improvement are those flat traps near the bottom of the hill as you traverse back to the lodge.
Why should you wax?
The base of a board is made out of a low-friction material called ultra-high-molecular-weight-polyethilene. Just call it P-Tex. It's similar to a really high end frying pan that nothing sticks to. It's a durable material, but not indestructible. We use wax to protect it like a shield. P-tex is very porous, and when activated by heat, it's pores open up to absorb wax. As the board cools down, the pores close holding the wax in the base. Wax is a high-friction material. How does that make you go faster? Friction generates heat. The heat melts the snow creating a thin layer of water under your board to glide over. This is why you don't want to over wax your board. Too much wax causes too much friction and slows you down. Snowboard bases can be constructed in different ways. Sintered and Extruded. The difference between the two will determine how often you'll need to wax your board. Because of their unique construction, Sintered bases are highly porous. This means more wax absorption, and more snow melting friction. However it can be more expensive and require more maintenance. Extruded bases are less porous, but require less maintenance and are preferred by park riders and beginners as they are durable and easier on the wallet.
Invest in a few key tools
*Before you begin, give your board a good once over. Make sure that rock you hit last season wasn't a core shot. Damage like that needs to be taken care of before you wax.
Edges, how important are they?
You can sharpen your edges, but who are you really racing? Most of the time, you just want to remove any metal burrs with a File Guide and make the finished edge look clean and polished with a Gummy Stone. Plain and simple. If you want to get more technical than that, pop into your local shop. They can show you a thing or two about edges.
Prep is key
Wax absorbs much better on a clean surface, so start by using a citrus based cleaner and some good old fashioned paper towel to wipe away any dirt and grime. If there is storage wax or old wax still on your board it’s best to get that off using a plastic or metal scraper. Scrape the board vertically, from nose to tale. Some do this standing up with the board leaning against a wall, others lay the board flat on a tool bench. Allow the cleaner to dry for about 10 minutes.
Wax - We're not talking about a Brazilians
There are primarily 3 temperature ranges of wax. Cold Temp, All Temp and Warm Temp. To get the optimum performance out of a wax, you should try to apply the right temperature range for each day on the hill. However, it's okay to lean to the cold side when in doubt. If you're planning on riding in more humid conditions, consider a warm temp, flouronated wax. Flouro wax repels water best. When riding over heavy, wet snow it wicks away the excess water for an even smoother glide. Unfortunately this type of wax can have negative effects on the environment. The PFC chemicals in flouro wax interact with the snow and eventually end up in the water table. As an environmentally conscious alternative to flouro waxes, Beaver Wax is a soy based brand, hand poured in Canada. It's environmentally sustainable without compromising performance.
Practice Makes Perfect
Begin by holding your block of wax against an iron on medium heat. Space the drips out every couple of inches. Keep in mind the more wax you use, the more you have to scrape off. Begin to iron the board always moving in a circular motion to spread the wax evenly across the base. You will notice a little wax goes a long way. It also doesn't need to be super hot for the wax to absorb into the pores. A good rule of thumb is that you should never see smoke coming from the iron...that means it is TOO hot. Another way to judge, is to feel the other side of the board. If it is hot to touch, turn down the iron. Otherwise you run the risk of delaminating the topsheet. Make sure you've evenly coated the surface then give it 20 mins or so to cool.
Now it's time to scrape your board. A scraper with a good edge works the best. In a vertical motion as you did for the prep, scrape all the way from tip to tail with smooth, even pressure. It might look like you're taking it all off but you want to remove most of the wax, leaving a thin layer. You're done when wax no longer comes off.
The Finishing Touch
Once your board has been scraped, the base should feel smooth and even. However, to help break the surface tension that exists between the base and the snow, we use a nylon or horse hair brush to make small grooves in the new wax. Then, buff it out! You can use many different buffing tools here but we recommend a fine fibre tex pad to make her shine and ready to rip.
Storing your board
Wherever you store your board, make sure the area is cool and dry. It is best to store your gear standing up, as opposed to laying it on a flat surface. Storing your gear upright helps to preserve its shape. Avoid placing your gear on a hard surface. Carpeted surfaces work best.
If you're not ready to put the wax to the iron yourself, pop down to the shop. We offer a full-tune wax service at both locations. If you have any other maintenance questions, we're always happy to share the knowledge and get you back to top speed on the hill!