How To Apply Kick Wax

Our cross-country ski series continues today. Last week we discussed how to select ski’s and the difference between a waxless ski base and a traditional waxable ski base. We also discussed how to find your kick zone if you chose to go with a waxable ski.

For those of you who prefer a waxable ski today we’re talking kick wax.

Kick wax is important because when we transfer our weight while skiing, our ski is pushed down and our kick zone very briefly touches the snow. As a result we need a nice pocket of wax in our kick zone to grip onto the snow and allow us to kick off to the next stride.

The first step in this process is selecting the correct wax.

Selecting the right kick wax is important for a fun day on the trails.

The right wax depends on snow conditions, snow temperature and humidity. Because snow types are varied, a wax that works for old crusty dry snow won’t work for warm, wet snow. I typically just make a good guess based off the temperature and how the snow looks, feels, and tastes (okay, not tastes). Colder snow requires a harder wax (like a green or blue), warmer snow requires a softer wax (violet or red).

Once you have selected your wax, it’s time to slap it on your bases so you can get skiing.

Here are a few tips:

  • Apply kick wax at the trailhead where you can check the temperature, touch the snow and maybe ask other skiers the wax of the day.
  • If you find that you don’t have enough kick, either apply a slightly warmer wax or extend your kick zone towards the tip of the ski an inch or two.
  • Most racers get really fancy with wax but for the beginner I’d recommend going to your local ski shop and asking what 2-3 waxes typically work well in your area. Growing up in Bozeman, Montana and now living in Laramie, Wyoming Swix Blue Extra and Violet Special are my favorite kick waxes.
  • A little kick wax goes a long way and kick wax lasts a long time. I’m sure formulas change, but I’ve got a tin of wax that my Dad used in the early 80’s. For an easy day on the trails the wax works just fine and there’s no sense in throwing away (or saving) a family heirloom like old ski wax.
  • Make sure you carry your kick wax with you when you’re out on the trails. I typically carry what I applied at the trailhead and then the next warmer wax with me so I can stop and adjust wax as conditions change or if I’m not getting good enough kick.
  • You can apply a warmer wax over a colder wax, but it can get messy and slow your skis down if you try to apply a colder wax over a warmer wax. If the temperature drops it’s best just to scrape off the old wax (I use a clean putty knife, coffee filters and a teeny bit of base cleaner) and start with a clean base.

There’s nothing more fun than having the perfect kick out on the trails, but there’s nothing more miserable than being stuck with the wrong wax. Learning to select the perfect wax takes a little bit of time, but it’s a skill worth learning and waxing skis is a cinch!


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  6. Doug |

    In what conditions would you also use a binder wax before the kick wax? I also love me some blue extra

    • Rebecca |

      Ahh yes, good question. If the snow conditions are crazy, let’s say a light layer of powder on top of ice or something or if you’re going to be skiing for 20+ km or so then it’s important to use a binder. If I know that I’m going to be using klister (we’ll get into that later) I’ll typically use a heat gun to melt in a layer of a harder, colder wax, let it cool at home and then apply klister over the top at the trailhead. Or…sometimes I’ll apply klister as a binder with a kick wax over the top, messy but works like a charm every time I’ve skied in in June! And this may be me being weird, but I’ve had the best luck with Toko kick waxes if I always apply a layer of the green kick wax before moving on to warmer layers. This is where waxing gets fun, experimenting with what works, and what doesn’t!

      • Ruth Forsey |

        Great tips and tricks! I love the blue extra as well!

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