Coaches Corner...Try a little tenderness-Summer Storage ski care and maintenance

April 26, 2022 1 Comment

Coaches Corner...Try a little tenderness-Summer Storage ski care and maintenance

“Beautiful day but wow, the snow was sure slow”-a commonly heard comment at the cabin on these beautiful spring days.   Cross country skiing is all about the glide, but skis don’t glide at all on dirt. And dirty skis don’t glide well on snow. In this article we will talk about the importance of skiing with clean skis and how to prepare your skis for summer storage.


This past winter I provided some ad hoc ski waxing and maintenance clinics on Sundays after the Mt Hood Nordic/Teacup Team practices. On two occasions  participants were treated to test the glide of skis in after each stage of cleaning, glide waxing, and hand structure. While each step was confirmed as valuable, perhaps nothing impressed the skiers so much as trying their skis after only the first stage- cleaning the bases. Even before glide wax was applied,  a clean ski performed noticeably better, appropriate wax and structure were just icing on the cake. Clean skis are fun skis. Keep it simple.

The end of the ski season is ideal to start a regular practice of ski maintenance. Spring snow is often dirty and the bases will pick up dirt and become slow, so its best to do a bit of maintenance now before storage and be ready to go when the anticipated news comes in November that Teacup just groomed!  

If your skis don’t have glide wax on them or are only occasionally glide waxed, simply wash them with soap or detergent and water. Use a sponge and/or a nylon vegetable brush, rinse well. Not much time is needed to ensure that your skis will deliver some fun the first day on snow the next season.

Skiers that use glide wax frequently and have higher expectations for performance will need to do some extra steps. Commercial glide zone cleaning solvents are very effective but will not completely strip the ski base of glide wax intentionally hot waxed into the amorphous zones. While just following the
directions on any supplier’s base cleaning product will work, there are some details that will ensure best performance.

  1. Apply the cleaning agent to the base
  2. Using a base brush with soft metal bristles (copper, brass, or fine steel) take one or two passes the length of the ski
  3. Wipe off with an absorbent towel
  4. Let dry completely and finish with a nylon brush

The second step is crucial as it brings the contaminants out of the stone grind structure. For fun, on one ski skip this part and just wipe off the solution. On the other ski use the brush and then wipe clean; when you compare the difference in the amount of dirt you will realize just how much dirt hides in the structure and you’ll never skip this step again!

A couple points about the use of metal brushes. Nylon, horsehair and boar’s hair brushes are effective used in scrubbing motion, but tradition holds that such a back and forth motion with a metal brush can be potentially damaging. No comparison test has to my knowledge been done, but it is reasonable to assume that by just scrubbing the back of your hand with a metal vs a nylon brush. It is the change of direction that can hurt! Not a bad idea to mark a metal brush with a directional arrow as the bristles often take a permanent set or bend.

Good practice is to use brushes dedicated to cleaning. If you want to use the same brush for finishing a glide wax, the best you can do to clean a brush is to use a vacuum cleaner. Please don’t use a wax solvent on your brush, it will just create a mess!
Your skis are now ready for summer storage, or the next glide wax treatment.

What about summer storage wax coat?

Tradition says that skis should be protected from oxidation during summer by applying a coating of a hot wax.  If you do so, this will certainly do no harm. But the science says that maybe this is unnecessary, at least for skis bases using UHMWPE.  Much research has been done on this material's process of oxidation because of its application in joint replacement and the need for durability. The medical research shows UHMWPE is highly resistant to oxidation, in one test where the material was exposed to high temperatures for a long time, the degradation of mechanical properties from oxidation was estimated to take three decades. The bases material of a ski is likely to outlast the usefulness of the ski.

Forgotten skis that have been stored for years without a base protective wax coat can be revitalized by rewaxing but but takes some extra work. Also, a layer of wax does provide a layer of physical protection if there is some basement or garage jostling this summer.  So, if you choose to apply a storage wax it is not a bad idea, especially if you apply a wax that is likely to be great for the first day on snow next season!  But if you forget to apply a summer wax coat, don’t worry. Just start from the beginning in the Fall - clean, hot wax, and go ski.

Addressing the Wax Conundrum (Kuzmin Method) 

The use of glide wax is a bit of a “Catch 22”. Applying glide wax can definitely improve performance but paraffin based glide waxes can easily pick up contaminant which will slow skis down. A significant value of the phased out fluorocarbon waxes was their ability to repel dirt (which is why fluorocarbons were used as stain repellents for clothing and carpets).  Some years ago there was a trend in some ski areas – mostly Scandinavia – to go without using glide waxes. Referred to as the Kuzmin method it came with unfortunate baggage as proponents accused wax manufacturers of marketing unnecessary products.

The reality is more nuanced. Yes, skis with UHMWPE bases do glide quite well without glide wax, and therefore don’t need – or rarely need – cleaning because they don't get as dirty. But the use of glide wax will always outperform an un-waxed ski. Kuzmin’s method has been tested at the world cup level by many National teams – Knut Nystad, a long term head tech for Norway commented that “we only use what works” and the Kuzmin method in tests has never come close. Waxed skis are faster but take a bit of maintenance to keep clean.  

Details, more details

  1. Before summer storage, check the binding integrity. Check any screws for looseness, binding plates for solidity.
  2. Kick wax. Got a putty knife? Scrape off as much as possible. If a klister was used it is best to clean with a solvent. Tip – buy one of those kitchen sponges that have one side with a green scrubby surface. Cut the sponge into four or more smaller sponges. These make a superior grip wax cleaning tool as far less solvent is needed. Don’t re-use.
  3. Hot Scrape cleaning. Commonly recommended years ago for cleaning glide zones. Don’t do it. Please. Scraping a base while still hot can damage the stone grind. Worse, it only dilutes the dirt in the existing glide wax and is only effective after several repeats. Just…don’t.
  4. Fluorocarbons. If you did apply an ironed-in fluoro top coat, it may be best to find a fluoro specific cleaning solution. Most base cleaners have hydrocarbon aromatics in them and a pure fluorocarbon top coat might repel that. Cleaning more than once with a fine metal brush might be good enough.
  5. For a summer storage wax coat, a liquid glide wax is sufficient. A protective coat of wax doesn’t need to be thick.
  6. Please, if you use a roof rack for your skis and you like smooth gliding skis, put them in a ski bag!
  7. Regarding low density PE bases – usually found on touring skis with a stamped type grip pattern –unfortunately those bases are much softer than UHMWPE bases and will pick up dirt readily. Definitely worth cleaning them even if glide wax isn’t used. In short- when in doubt always clean.  


Over this season we have written a few articles about ski care and tuning.  Check them out here-

Liquid Glide Waxes

Benefits of Ironed-in Waxes

Klister Application

We have also had multiple in person demos- Join us for the last one of the season on the last day of grooming on 5/8 12-2PM at the small shed near the bathrooms. We will cover the techniques talked about in this article, answer any other questions. Also equipment and wax will be provided to put clean and put storage wax on right there with supervision and instruction.  In celebration of Mother's Day, Moms can get this done for free! Snacks and Drinks provided! 

Thanks for reading- Coach Karl and Kelly

1 Response

Richard R. Fay
Richard R. Fay

April 29, 2022

The “new Teacup management” has certainly done a complete & accurate job on informing the membership of the goings-on, events and opportunities at Teacup. The enclosed waxing information & willingness to instruct “how to” get ready for summer & next ski season is a perfect example. The trail maintenance & grooming has also helped to enhance all you good efforts. Finally, many Thank You’s for embracing & being involved with the WSSB XC Ski volunteer activity at Teacup. This was 13th year of Teacup hosting and supporting this event since 2008. Only the 2021 event was cancelled due to covid.

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