For years ski shops have been pushing hand-iron wax upgrades and for good reason. While belt waxing does a adequate job of spreading wax the length of the ski some of the wax is actually forced into the base through friction from the fast moving waxing belt. If you are a now and then skier a belt wax is a good affordable way to go, usually only costing between $6 and $10. The other thing to remember about belt waxing is in most if not all cases the shops are using a universal wax, a good wax in a variety of conditions. While these waxes work well they are not designed to be temperature specific. you know in the spring when it’s hard in the morning and sloppy in the afternoon. It’s tough to expect your universal wax to perform in such extreme snow textures and temperatures, but then who wants to change waxes mid-day.

Waxing is an art and like all good art you have to be willing to fork over the bucks to own it. But remember that belt waxes don’t last as long as an iron or hot box waxing, usually only about a day, so I suppose that should be calculated into the expense of an upgrade.

You’ve seen all those ski tech gurus laboring over a pair of skis getting the wax evenly distributed from tip to tail. They are also going back and forth with the iron heating the base of the ski so that the wax penatrates the base material. The iron technique is far superior to a belt wax and your wax will last longer especially when using cold hard waxes. 

Hot box waxing, “hot-boxing”, what an idea! Once your ski bases are cleaned and prepped, the wax is lathered onto the base with an iron and then the skis are put into a hot box that heats up to 140 degrees and then left there for up to 8 hours. Talk about penetration, the heat makes the pores in the base material expand allowing the wax to seep deep into the base, conditioning every fiber.  This wax application last along time, why because as you ski the pores contract and squeeze the wax out onto the base. Racers will hot box their skis up to 6 times in between stone-grinding. With each hot-boxing the skis get faster. The other thing to remember is that when the skis are removed from the hot box they need to be scraped and brushed! Scraping removes any wax residue and brushing exposes the stone-grind pattern.

Final thoughts: 

Belt/friction wax:  quick, cheap, universal wax, better than no wax.

Iron wax:  choice of wax, last longer than belt wax, usually a third to twice the cost, penetrates deeper,

skis perform better, good to use in between hot box waxing.

Hot-boxing: deep, deep penetration, choice of wax, last way longer, costs a lot, don’t need to wax as often, ski bases get cold and contract squeezing out more wax, skis ride fast and smooth. (don’t forget to scrap and brush!)

With these waxing techniques it still comes down to wax selection, a universal wax is a great everyday wax especially in the Sierra. But when performance is paramount pick your wax and with an experienced ski and wax technician.  Next month we’ll talk about wax selection and combinations. Metals have been won and lost because of ski and base preparation.

I’ll be checking back to answer any questions you post under the “comments” tab below.

The Chief


  1. Martin

    Ok, I’m sold on hot boxes but I do have one question. What about temperature changes? Don’t you wax to specific snow and temps. If one of the benefits is how long hot boxing makes your waxing last, do you want to your wax to last that long if the conditions are constantly changing? Just curious as to who benefits most. But I would like that deal on hot box waxing. How do I get it?

  2. admin

    Hey Martin! Great question, as there are definitely things to consider with hot boxing. In the Sierras the temperature is a little more predictable then say the East Coast. We use two of the softest waxes, on the spectrum of waxes, since we generally have warmer temperatures. Now that being said, it is highly important for ski racers to iron wax a more temperature specific flourinated wax on top of the hot box.

    Just remember, a hot box wax is going to penetrate the ski deeper and make your skis faster. We always say more wax is better, until you hit the point of diminishing returns, so if you have more of a need for speed, you should follow up your hot box with an iron wax.

    To get the deal, all you have to do is mention the article that you read when you bring your skis in!

  3. T

    To add a comment to the above question/response…the additional advantage to hotboxing is that the softer wax that has penetrated and saturated far deeper into the base than normally achievable with ironing provides a ‘highway’ if you will for the temperature specific waxes applied afterward. The harder temp specific waxes will actually travel far deeper into the base as the deep/soft wax heats up and absorbs it. You would be amazed at how much more wax a base will absorb as you iron it in on a hotboxed ski!

  4. ned

    and what about the warranty issues of hot boxing a ski? repeated hot boxings can cause ski delamination, and nearly all the manufacturers wont warranty the ski if it delams and it has been hot boxed. and at least one of the major manufacturers only hotboxes its world cup race skis and doesnt advise that any of their skis be hot boxed. just something to keep in mind

  5. david

    With redards to the delamination comment, I thought this only occured at much higher temps, in the hotbox we dont go above 140F P tex melts down at 185F, is there a specific temp for delamination? I was told there was no problem at these lower temps.

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