Keeping Your Skis Clean in the Spring

Boulder Nordic & Cycle Sport Staff

As most of you undoubtedly know, spring skiing can be some of the best of the year. The air is warm, the sun is high, and the snow is often pretty fast. Heck, depending on where you are, there might even be some crust cruising in the near future. However, there is one somewhat unique challenge that comes with this glorious part of the season: dirty snow.

As the snowpack starts to recede in the spring, dirt and debris that has accumulated all season long begin to collect on the top layer of the snow. That is to say, the more the snowpack melts, the dirtier the running surface of the snow becomes. While it may not always be apparent, it's there.

Why does dirty snow matter? It makes your skis slow! Having the correct wax and structure is always important, but having clean skis is an underrated part of ski care that is particularly important in the spring. As you ski over dirty snow, your bases pick up all sorts of minute residue that will reduce their performance over time. Think about all the stuff you see falling to the forest floor in the you really want that in your otherwise well-cared-for ski bases?!

The good news is that there are ways to remove all that junk and gunk from your skis. The "hot scrape" method has been a tradition for many years. This process involves applying a very soft (e.g., yellow) wax and then scraping it while still hot. While effective, hot scraping has some significant downsides; hot ski bases are far more malleable than when cool and are much easier to damage. When scraping a hot base, too much pressure (and it doesn't take much!) can damage the structure, leave accidental bumps and ridges if the scraper sticks, and even cause the base to become rounded or concave. This kind of damage can only be resolved by getting a new stone grind! Luckily, there is a solution that is better for your skis and easier.

Enter the glide zone cleaner. This relatively new product category is a solvent designed to remove undesirable elements, like dirt, without affecting the paraffin glide wax. Some of these cleaners are also effective at eliminating most fluorocarbons from your skis as well. Think of it as a liquid hot scrape. It's essential to distinguish glide zone cleaner from wax remover, sometimes called base cleaner. Wax remover, used for removing kick wax, will leave your bases bone dry if accidentally used on a glide zone! At the same time, glide zone cleaner will do nothing to remove kick wax.

Glide zone cleaner is so easy. Just apply the liquid, brush out with a cleaning brush, and finish with a lint-free wipe like fiberlene. It takes just moments, especially compared to hot scraping. Before applying wax, ensure that all of the solvent has dried, and give your skis one more brush and wipe down.

We recommend using glide zone cleaner early and often all season long, but it's imperative in the spring. It's an inexpensive way to take better care of your skis and ensure you get as much speed as possible—especially in a post-fluoro world. We particularly like Rode's Glider Cleaner, available in an easy-to-use spray can.