A good wax job will make your snowboard perform better, meaning you’ll have more fun on the hill, in the park, or in the backcountry. Learn what gear you need and what you need to know to do it yourself in our 10-step guide to waxing your snowboard.
How to tell if your snowboard needs wax
You can’t really go wrong throwing a fresh coat of wax on your board’s base. Some riders will wax every day to adjust for changing snow conditions and to ensure a consistent ride every time. Waxing before every session might seem like overkill if you’re going to be riding in similar snow conditions and you’ve recently waxed your board; however, if the base of your snowboard looks dry — especially along the edges, which take the brunt of the abuse your base gets — it’s probably time for a fresh application.
Note: You don’t need to hot wax your snowboard if your board has an “extruded” base. Most snowboards, these days, come with what’s called a “sintered” base, which is porous and absorbs wax when hot waxed.
What gear you’ll need to wax your snowboard
• A snowboard-specific waxing iron
. Look for an iron with a range of temperature settings and a smooth base to evenly spread the melting wax. Can you use your mom’s clothes iron for waxing your snowboard? Sure, you can. But getting snowboard wax all over it is going to ruin it (and piss off your mom), and the holes that most clothes irons have can cause problems when you’re trying to evenly apply a coat of wax. So if you plan on waxing your board fairly often, the investment in a snowboard-specific iron will definitely pay off.
• Base cleaner
. Not a necessity, but a good thing to have on hand if your base is getting dirty.
• Wax scraper.
These come in many different shapes and sizes, but all do pretty much the same thing — remove excess was from your base. Find one that fits nicely in your hands, as you’ll be putting a lot of pressure on it while scraping the wax off.
• Brush or brushes. For removing additional wax from your snowboard base after scraping. If you’re really serious you can get multiple brushes, but for most riders an all-purpose nylon-bristle brush will be all you need.
• Snowboard wax.
There are many different brands, colors and forms of snowboard wax out there. Most companies make a variety of different waxes that are designed for different snow conditions and temperatures. In general, the temperature of the snow you’ll be riding is the main factor to consider when deciding which wax to apply. Waxes designed for cold snow conditions perform best when, you guessed it, the snow is cold. But a cold-snow wax can contribute excess drag when the snow temperature warms up. Many companies also make more general waxes that perform well under a variety of temperatures and conditions.
10 steps to a better ride
• Step 1 (insider’s tip): Loosen the screws that attach your snowboard bindings to your board. If you’ve ever felt the base of your board and noticed a slight depression below where the bindings are attached, what you’re feeling is the indentation caused by the binding screws pulling up on the base. Before applying any heat to the base of your board, it’s a good idea to loosen your binding screws enough to get rid of this “binding suck,” so it doesn’t become permanent.
• Step 2: Apply liquid base cleaner: Take a clean towel and apply enough liquid base cleaning solution to dampen the towel, then wipe down the base to remove excess dirt and grime.
• Step 3: Set your iron’s temperature: Take a look at the wax you’re using. The best waxes will list the temperature at which that wax is designed to be applied. Set your iron to that temperature and you should be good to go. If your wax doesn’t give a temperature guideline, just make sure that the wax doesn’t start smoking when you rub a bit of it on your iron (it should just melt nicely). Smoking wax means that your iron is too hot and you’re burning the wax, which will lead to poor performance and a nasty cloud of chemicals for you to breath in.
• Step 4: Drip wax onto your base: Hold the stick of wax to the iron and let it melt and drip onto the base of your board. Aim for about one drip every square inch, and make sure you get plenty on the edges of your base, which spend the most time in contact with the snow.
• Step 5: Run the iron over the base: No need to put much pressure on the iron, just run it along the base of the board until the wax you just dripped onto the base becomes molten and evenly distributed. Too much heat concentrated in one place can damage your board, so keep the iron moving back and forth smoothly until you can see the wax melting into the base. If the board’s top sheet feels hot to the touch, take a break and let your board cool off before continuing.
• Step 6: Wait. Let the newly melted wax cool down for 20 minutes before scraping off the excess. Or let your board sit overnight and scrape in the morning.
• Step 7: Scrape. Find a good platform to lay your board down on so it won’t move around on you. Make sure your wax scraper has a nice edge, and hold it at about a 45-degree angle to the base. Start scraping the wax off the base from nose to tail, holding the scraper so that the trailing edge is in contact with the base. You want to get as much wax off as possible with the scraper, so make sure to check every inch of your base.
• Step 8: Clean off your edges. Many scrapers come with a small notch cut out of one side, which fits over a snowboard edge and makes scraping the wax off the edges easy. If your scraper doesn’t have this feature, just get creative and use a corner to scrape the edges clean.
• Step 9: Brush. The base of your board comes complete with what’s called “structure” — basically tiny grooves or patterns in the base that help the board perform optimally. Brushing your board after waxing will help expose that structure by cleaning out the wax from the ridges and valleys. Make multiple passes from nose to tail with the brush, exerting a good deal of pressure each time.
• Step 10: Admire. A good wax job should make your base look shiny and new again, and make you feel like a rock star on the snow. Enjoy.