Cross-country ski tuning 101

Cross-country ski tuning 101 

Our guide for beginner to intermediate skiers 

You bought your first pair of classic cross-country skis and want to learn more on how to wax them yourself? Learning to use the right wax will help you enjoy this sport to the fullest. Here are a few tips and tricks that will help you get started! 

First of all, find out what type of cross-country skis you picked by simply looking at your ski base and its grip zone. The grip zone is the part of the ski base under the boot that prevents the ski from sliding during the propulsion (pushing) phase. 

There are three types of grip sections: 

  • Fish scales 
  • Integrated skins 
  • Regular waxing base 

Maintenance for these different types of skis is completely different! 

Fish scales: 

This type of ski requires the least maintenance. Skis with fish scales are recommended for beginner to intermediate skiers. They offer a good grip, but are slower than other types of skis. Their advantage? No matter the weather, they require minimal maintenance. The downside? These skis are more grippy, so they slow you down on descents. They are also noisy on hard snow. Grip can also be poor on very hard snow and groomed trails. 

To optimize glide and extend the life of your fish scaled skis, we recommend that you clean the base with wax remover to remove contaminants, then wax the entire base (even the fish scaled part) to nourish it and optimize glide or prevent snow from sticking. Everything you need to maintain your fish scaled skis is available in this neat Swix waxless skis care kit. 

Integrated Skins 

Classic cross-country skis with integrated skins are becoming increasingly popular with beginner and intermediate skiers, as they are very easy to maintain and require less preparation before setting off. 

Here are the steps to follow: 

  1. Clean the skin section periodically to remove dirt and debris. Using a Fiberlene cloth, rub in a circular or gliding motion. Leave the skins to dry. Never use traditional ski cleaner on your skins, as this could damage the glue that holds your skins in place! Use Swix Skin Cleaner.
  2. After each cleaning, it is recommended that you impregnate your skins with Swix Skin Impregnation to optimize the adhesion to the snow. This step counteracts water absorption when skiing. If your skin gets wet and freezes, it may not grip properly on the snow. Apply Skin Impregnation using a Fiberlene cloth in circular movements and leave to dry overnight.
  3. Before each outing, apply Skin Boost to your skins to maximize glide and prevent ice build-up. Shake the bottle well and apply to the skin in the sliding direction (from the tip to the back) using circular movements. Leave to dry for 5 minutes before setting off!
  4. To maintain the glide zones periodically and keep them effective, we recommend Easy Glide Nordic wax, which covers all temperatures. It is very easy to apply and includes an applicator. Simply apply a thin layer to the gliding surface using the applicator, wait a few minutes and you're ready to go.


Classic skis to wax 

Never try to go out on a cross-country ski ride with classic skis that have not been waxed! Grip wax allows you to push on the ski to move forward. The options for grip or glide waxes seem complex, with choices varying according to temperature and snow quality. Moreover, there are many wax types to pick from: rub-on, paste, hot iron or spray! Let's try to simplify the process for you! 

Universal rule:  

Glide wax is applied in the glide zones, grip wax in the grip zone! 

To determine your ski's grip zone, if it's not clearly defined, it's the area under the camber of the ski at the boot level (before the toes and directly behind the heel, on a length of 30 to 65 cm). The grip zone for beginners is generally longer than that for experienced skiers. The other sections towards the tip and tail of the ski are called the glide zones. 


Maintenance of the grip zone : 

  • Remove the old wax with a scraper and clean the base with a wax remover. 
  • When your base is clean, start by sanding the grip zone with Swix sandpaper to optimize wax adherence. 
  • You can also use base spray wax as a base coat: VGS35C Base binder spray for temperatures from -1°C to -22°C or KB20C Base klister spray for -15°C to +10°C for klister application when temperatures are warmer and wetter. 
  • Then apply several thin coats of grip wax, polishing with a synthetic cork block between each coat. These waxes are rubbed back and forth over the grip zone. Always start with a base coat of your hardest wax (so for the coldest temperature).Appliquez une couche de fart d’adhérence pour chaque tranche de 5 kilomètres que vous planifiez parcourir durant votre sortie!  
  • Choosing the right wax : 

Air temperature: Temperatures indicated on the packaging are always air temperatures. For more advanced skiers, taking the temperature of the snow allows for a more accurate wax application. 

Snow condition: grainy, fresh, old, wet, etc. 

SWIX has developed a colour code for temperatures. The most popular waxes are: 

  • Green: -8°C to -15°C 
  • Blue: -2°C to -10°C 
  • Violet: 0°C 
  • Red: 0°C to +1°C 

The basic tools you'll need to start preparing your skis yourself come in a handy little bag: 


Maintenance of the glide zone : 

To keep your glide zone in good condition, you can use liquid glide wax with an applicator that can be used for all temperatures: 


XC Rec Application of hard wax on Vimeo 


With these few basic tips, you can ensure that your cross-country skiing outings are a success!