Hot Waxing Skins
Hot waxing ski touring skins is one of the best things you can do before a ski touring trip – all you need is an old iron, a block of ski base wax and 10 minutes to spare. In return – you’ll have skins that glide better all week, don’t ball up with snow, are waterproof and also stick on better – not a bad return for 10 minutes work!
Hot waxing of skins is a trick borrowed from the world of ski mountaineering racing, where the improved glide allows competitors to go much faster. For all forms of ski touring however, it is a simple and extremely effective way of preventing water and ice particles penetrating your skins – which in turn improves glide, prevents balling and stops the skins becoming saturated with water in warm conditions (wet skins don’t stick!)
If the skins are folded in half, then do each side in turn – or if you have an old pair of skis you don’t use, then stick the skins onto these whilst you wax (but don’t use your regular skis in case some warm glue transfers off the skin and onto your bases).
1. Set the Iron on ‘Low’. About 60 degrees is ideal.
2. Rub a good layer of wax onto the skin. Either with or against the grain – it doesn’t matter which direction at this stage.
3. Iron the wax in for about 60 seconds. Always moving in the same direction as the fibres (the direction IS important this time!)
4. Rub more wax onto the skins and repeat. Repeat for a 2nd time (or even a 3rd if you are keen).
Your skins should now be well impregnated with wax and will perform better in all conditions. Please note that when you first go skinning the skins won’t glide particularly well for the first 5 minutes, whilst excess wax rubs off the skin – but after that you should notice a distinct improvement in glide and performance.
ON-THE-HILL SKINS ADVICE
Whilst we are on the subject, here’s some general advice on keeping your skins working well whilst out on the hill.
Keep Skins Warm and Dry
During a trip, try to keep your skins warm and dry. If they are going on and off your skis during the day, keep them in a pocket close to your body, or wrap them across your stomach inside your clothing (especially important in cold conditions). Keeping the skins warm in this way helps the glue to bond to your ski. When you do put skins on, get moving on them as soon as possible – the pressure also helps the skins to stick. At the end of a day, in a hut, hang your skins up to dry before packing them up overnight. If you are in tents, take them into your sleeping bag at night.
Avoiding Coming Unstuck
If you look after your skins and use them properly, there’s no reason they should ever come off. It may sound obvious, but it’s extremely important to make sure the bases of your skis are properly dry and free of snow and ice before sticking the skins on! This is the number one cause of skins falling off – but it’s amazing how many people you see putting skins onto a ski base that’s still covered in water droplets or a bit of frost, only to have the skin come off a short time later. Getting all the moisture off the ski can sometimes be tricky, so it’s a good idea to carry an absorbent cloth with you to dry your bases with. Make sure your skins are well stuck on by firmly smoothing them down the length of each ski, paying particular attention to the front and back where problems are most likely to occur.
If You Lose A Skin…
If someone does have a problem it’s important to know how to deal with it. If a skin does start to come off, then don’t ignore it. You are advised to have some tape handy to strap it back on before things deteriorate – many folk carry a length of duck tape wrapped around an old lift pass ready for the purpose (avoid wrapping tape around your poles as is also commonly done – because 2 years later when you try and use it, you’ll find the tape has got damaged by UV light and doesn’t stick!).
If a skin comes off entirely, then you’ve got a problem – as you need to get the glue free of snow and water to stand a chance of getting it to stick again – which is no easy task (always carrying a spare pair of skins is highly advisable). First, rub the glued side across your thigh to get as much snow/moisture off as possible, then if possible hang it up with the glue facing the sun for a few minutes to dry. If you have a can of glue renewing Colltex Quick Spray to hand at this point, then it’s a very useful thing to carry. In bad weather you may have to put the skin inside your jacket for a few minutes to warm the glue up again so it stands a chance of sticking.
Dealing With Balling Problems
On hot days and particularly after fresh snowfall, skins start to ball up with snow in the sun, which can be an annoying problem. Pre treating your skins by hot waxing them with skin wax (or standard ski base wax) is the best and recommended defence. At the first sign of balling, try stamping you feet to unclog them with each stride – or if it all gets too much, then de ball them by rubbing a ski pole up and down the bases. If you have a block of skin wax, then rub it onto your skins now to stop the same thing happening again a short while later. Various glide sprays are available which do the same thing, but they don’t tend to last as long or work as well as waxing your skins. If you do use some Colltex Glide Spray – then whatever you do, don’t get any spray onto the skin glue, as it will stop the glue sticking entirely!