We thought Bob FitzPatrick would be a good person to ask about waxing cross country skis.

FitzPatrick estimates he has waxed 5,000 pairs of cross country skis since 1978, when he started ski racing. Two years later he began a long career as coach, during which he served as mentor for several generations of young Central Massachusetts racers, in the Bill Koch League and at the high school level. He also manages the cross country ski operation at New England Backpacker in Worcester, Mass.

Why wax?

"Basically it's to keep the bases in good shape so they don't dry out, for speed over the snow, and to get kick in classical cross country skiing," FitzPatrick said.

The process of waxing the base of Nordic skis is straightforward: scrub the skis with a fibertex cloth, brush off all old wax with a brass brush, drip on new wax, iron it in, let it set, scrape it off, brush with a nylon brush, and buff the base with a softer cloth.

Whew.

FitzPatrick said even so-called waxless skis need some type of wax so new-fallen, sharp-crystal snow in a temperature range of 26 to 35 degrees doesn't ice up on the scale pattern.

Plain bases also can ice up because of the use of several different types of materials in their construction, so skiers should carry a scraper with them on the trails.

Skiers should be mindful of temperature changes during the day, and carry the appropriate kick wax for the temperature range expected on their outings.