Snowboarders need to wax their boards for three reasons because
- Waxing provides greater control, acceleration, and speed.
- Waxing protects against damage.
- A waxed snowboard helps keep you safe.
If you’re not familiar with snowboarding, the specifics of the hobby can be confusing. One aspect that can be particularly odd to newcomers and outsiders is waxing snowboards.
In this article, I’ll cover why snowboarders wax their boards, what happens if you don’t wax your snowboard, how to wax a board, and other relevant info about snowboards and wax.
Why Do Snowboarders Wax Their Boards?
Snowboarders wax their boards because it provides various benefits such as greater control, acceleration, and speed. Waxing also helps protect the board against damage and keep you safe while riding. Waxing a snowboard can take time and cost a bit of money, but it’s worth it.
Waxing Provides Greater Control, Acceleration, and Speed
Waxing a snowboard gives it a sleek layer that reduces friction between the board and the snow. Wax melts snow it comes in contact with, effectively creating a second layer of protection against dastardly friction that can slow you down.
Less friction means better acceleration, which increases your potential top speed in turn. Greater acceleration and speed, surprisingly, aid your ability to turn and make other maneuvers, such as jumps for the more advanced snowboarders. This extra bit of smoothness to your runs will make learning and executing different maneuvering techniques a cinch.
Waxing Protects Against Damage
Snowboards come into contact with snow, ice, wood, rocks, and all kinds of other materials during the course of a few runs. Especially when you’re going fast, this can add up to damage on your board, including cracks and holes.
It’s impossible to protect against damage from exposed and hidden rocks out on the slopes, but waxing regularly will help preserve the board and keep it from drying out. A dry board gets damaged much easier and doesn’t last as long as one that’s taken care of and waxed before every three or four runs.
A Waxed Snowboard Helps Keep You Safe
Dry, damaged snowboards are slower, less responsive, and more prone to damage from abrasion and friction. Especially when riding in warmer and wetter conditions, the snow can ‘grab’ a board that isn’t waxed properly. Going full speed on such snow without a waxed board could lead to serious injuries.
What Happens if You Don’t Wax Your Snowboard?
If you don’t wax your snowboard regularly, a moderately used snowboard will begin to dry out. A dry snowboard will perform poorly, suffering reduced speed, acceleration, and handling. Without waxing, your snowboard can get damaged much more easily.
Snowboards that aren’t waxed often enough are at risk for delamination. In this scenario, the topsheet (the shiny top layer where graphics typically reside) gets compromised by abrasion, and moisture gets into the board’s internal components. This is bad for a snowboard because topsheets are composed of materials such as nylon, fiberglass, and other materials designed to keep water out.
Delaminated snowboards can suffer chips, cracks, holes, and other damages that regularly waxed boards don’t have to worry about. You’ll also usually see rust forming on boards in this condition.
Do You Need To Wax a Brand New Snowboard?
You don’t need to wax a brand new snowboard, as most come with a thin coat of all-purpose wax. You can expect to get three days of moderate use out of a new board before it’ll need to be waxed again. This can be especially useful for beginners who are still learning the basics of snowboarding.
How Often To Wax a Snowboard
How often you’ll need to wax your snowboard depends heavily on how much you’ll be using it. Someone who only occasionally snowboards won’t need to wax nearly as often as, say, a professional snowboarder. As a rule of thumb, every three to four trips out will call for a new coat of wax.
The frequency at which you wax your board will also depend on whether you have an extruded or sintered board because the two different types hold wax differently, not to mention their other general needs vary.
Other than these types, which I’ll cover in a moment, there are other ways to tell how often you should be waxing your snowboard.
Some ways to tell you should be waxing more often:
- You ride on powder a lot. Powder snow wears on wax more than other types of snow and will call for more frequent waxing.
- Wax more often when riding in areas that have drier or wetter snow.
- Wax your board if you notice a chalky gray residue forming on the base.
- Wax your board if you notice light discoloration around the edges of your board. This is due to the pores drying out.
- A rule of thumb to tell when you need to wax a board is to lightly scratch the base with a fingernail. If you leave a line, it has wax on it. If not, the board needs a good hot wax.
Sintered vs. Extruded Bases
Snowboards generally have either an extruded or sintered base, and it’s not as easy as just looking at the bottom – they look nearly identical. On your board’s packaging, it will tell you which it is, likely under a specifications category. These two types hold wax differently, and the type you have will determine how often you need to wax it.
Sintered base snowboards are virtually always more expensive than extruded base snowboards because the manufacturing process is more expensive. Sintered boards hold wax better than extruded boards because they have bigger pores – these pores expand even further when exposed to hot wax.
Sintered boards generally perform great on most snow conditions, but they are expensive to fix. While sintered boards are more durable than extruded boards, they are also correspondingly more expensive to fix – it’s like having a sports car versus a daily driver hatchback. Sure, the sports car goes faster, but the hatchback will be cheaper to fix when it has problems.
Beginners won’t appreciate the superior handling and speed that sintered boards provide, which is why they’re more recommended for experienced snowboarders.
Nearly all of the cheapest snowboards, including beginner boards, are made with extruded bases. As mentioned before, that’s because it’s simply cheaper to produce them versus making sintered boards. Extruded boards need to be waxed more often than sintered boards because they have smaller pores.
Extruded boards are recommended for beginners because while they need more frequent waxing, they’re easy to learn on without worrying about damaging an expensive board. Also, worth noting is that novices won’t notice much of a difference between the two types if given the chance to try them side-by-side anyway.
Many people opt to simply buy an affordable extruded snowboard every season, whether they don’t have space for storage, don’t want to deal with protecting the board, or other reasons.
Choosing the Right Wax for Your Snowboard
Waxing provides great benefits that make it easier for you to hit the slopes without worrying about a slow, unresponsive board making it difficult. However, there are multiple types of wax with varying characteristics that make them suitable for different circumstances.
How Snow Temperature Affects Wax
When waxing a snowboard, the temperature of the snow is crucial when determining the type of wax you should apply to your board. Everyone loves fresh, powdery snow, but warm and wet snow can be downright dangerous – especially if you don’t use the right kind of wax.
There are three types of wax for different weather conditions: warm weather, cold weather, and all-weather or all-purpose. The difference between them is the hardness of the wax, which is formulated to provide the best glide during specific weather conditions:
- Warm weather. This wax is the best for wet, slushy, grippy snow. You won’t have to worry so much about the melting snow grabbing your board and making you feel like you’re going to fall over at any moment.
- Cold weather. This wax is best for temperatures ranging below freezing to even colder! This wax will provide superior glide properties on powder, hard-packed snow, and icy snow.
- All-weather. As the name implies, this is an excellent wax for any situation. It doesn’t provide anything special for any single condition but is handy if you don’t want to bother buying multiple types of wax.
Unless you’re very specific about getting the best possible performance out of your snowboard, you’ll probably be OK with all-weather wax. For racing and other competitive activities, though, you’ll probably want to match the wax to the weather for an extra edge.
Rub-On Wax vs. Hot Wax
Rub-on wax appears similar to the wax surfers use on their boards, but it’s not the same case here – hot wax is superior as far as performance and will give your board the best possible glide for top speeds and acceleration. Rub-on wax only smears wax across the surface layer of the snowboard base, while hot wax expands the base’s pores during the waxing process.
Rub-on wax has its place as a short-term fix that’s easy to apply. Hot waxing provides better results, but it’s also a bit more complex than just rubbing some wax on the board – you can’t pull out your iron and scraper in between runs!
How To Wax a Snowboard Using Hot Wax
Before you can get to the step-by-step process of waxing a snowboard, you’ll need to prepare the board and gather the necessary materials for the procedure. This section is going to assume you’re using hot wax, rather than rub-on.
You will need:
- A hot wax iron
- Your snowboard
- Plastic/metal scraper (credit cards work in a pinch too!)
- A clean cloth
Remove or Loosen Bindings
If you’re not keen on completely removing your bindings, at least loosen them. The screws mustn’t be close to the surface of the board’s base or you will give yourself extra scraping work when the process is complete.
Clean the Base
Before you can wax the board, you have to ensure that the base is free of any dirt, grime, or other impurities that could have gotten there during one of your runs. You can use a base cleaner and a cloth to wipe it down, or do a ‘hot scrape’ if you don’t have any base cleaner.
Hot scraping involves using the iron to coat the base in a thin coat of wax, and then immediately scraping it off before it can soak into the pores of the base. This is a very effective way to strip off grime, dirt, or other dirt from your board’s base.
Apply the Wax
First, heat your iron to a low setting and drip a small amount of wax onto your board – you can always add more if you need it, but it’s very easy to add too much at the beginning.
Use the iron to spread the wax around the edges of the board, and then fill in the center with a zig-zag pattern. The entire base should have a nice, thin coat of wax. If you need more wax, add more at this time.
Scrape the Wax
Before scraping the wax off, you should allow it to dry for about 30 minutes, or up to an hour. Using your scraper, scrape the wax off in long, smooth, and even motions. Scrape at about a 45-degree angle to avoid scratching the board.
It’s not a big deal if you don’t get all the wax off, because it will naturally come off when you’re riding the board. However, it’s not environmentally friendly to do this if your wax is petroleum-based.
Snowboard Maintenance Tips
While waxing is important for the overall performance and longevity of any snowboard, there are other maintenance factors that should be kept in mind to keep your board in the best possible shape.
Practice Good Storage
How you take care of your board on a day-to-day basis as well as at the beginning and ending of seasons will make a big difference on how long it lasts and how it performs. A snowboard that’s been taken care of will serve you well for many years.
Daily storage tips:
- Always put your board away from direct sunlight. Sunlight will degrade a snowboard’s base in no time.
- Wipe your snowboard down with a dry cloth when you’re done riding for the day. This will keep water and other impurities from forming rust spots on your board.
- Avoid storing snowboards directly touching plaster, rocks, gravel, dirt, etc. This can cause incremental abrasive damage if done regularly. Opt to store your board on a shelf, table, or rack instead.
End of season storage tips:
- Avoid long-term storage in a humid place such as a basement or garage. This can cause delamination if there’s even the slightest crack or gouge in your board. Use a room of your home or a climate-controlled area if at all possible.
- For best protection during the offseason, wax your board but don’t scrape the wax off. This will add an extra layer of protection against humidity and abrasive forces.
- Some people remove bindings during long-term storage, but it’s not really necessary. You’re more likely to lose parts and forget your angles after so many months away, so just leave them on if possible.
Sharpen Your Board As Needed
Snowboard edges need to be sharpened as they get dulled down from regular use. You can do this at home with some basic supplies, or you can bring your board into a shop to be serviced – you can get them to wax it too if you don’t want to do it yourself.
Keeping sharp edges on your snowboard is important for gripping the snow to handle the board, especially during warmer weather when the snow is slippery and uncooperative.