Today was a new first for me, out on x-country skis which require waxing to both grip and glide properly. Until now I have been content with the one-way-pattern "waxless" skis.
Should new beginners go straight in for waxed skis and cut out this middle man?
Fish-scales as some people call them, save of course guessing the temperature and you are guaranteed fairly good grip on herring-bone ascents. They do slow your glide down though and there are limits to their effectiveness of grip, at below -9 and above 2'C. However you can actually combat this by using ....glide wax and "klister" wax, akin to UHU glue in consistency and adherence. Kind of defeating the purpose, but in fact in winter conditions and in the high hills at easter, wax free can give you a trouble free day and some good training.
Waxed x-country skis, ie normal, glide faster and you just adjust the wax to optimise the kick. However you do have to wax and re-rub off and occaisionally rewax the "sole" to a base wax. Problems come when conditions under foot are very variable, and this is the case where the sun or mild winds get access to part of the ski runs. Combine this with a gradient against you and it's time to stop up and do some major cosmetic surgery on the soles of your erstwhile sliding-shoes.
Incidentally, the very best wax free skis are available in carbon fibre, and are intended for both such tricky conditions in racing and training. So they're not just for poosies and lazy gits who can't read a thermometer.
Waxing is not only its own language and currency of conversation, it is its very own culture of excuses and denials. Like we brit's talk about the weather to break-the-ice with strangers, so Norwegians ( at least, if not scandinavians) will suddenly engage you in warm conversation which otherwise would, as is par for the course here, be lacking ( "No Banter" said one mate who lives in Oslo and works for GE Healthcare). Also any bad performance, slow progress on one part of the course or general bad mood can be explained away under the "wrong wax, failed wax" book of excuses. I find myself reaching for the first chapter now, unwittingly....
In general, wax less skis give you better kick but less glide: I think this is probably an area for debating their overall value to beginners: if you kick but don't glide enough then you are not learning the complete technique and you are wasting energy. If however, you ski in variable conditions, prepared and just ski-made-tracks, and have more of a walking style than "Jogging" then waxfree are all you will most likely ever need.
If you want to get the most exercise out of the sport, then in fact wax free can also help you in the beginning because of the rather unique "stride and hold" gape. If you are fit already, then you may find , as I did actually on carbon wax frees, that you end up injuring yourself because your quadracepts will be strong enough to work really hard while your little crotch and knee muscles engaged in x-country are not ready for the punishment your major abductors are giving them. Waxfree makes it easier to "hold" because the ski grips on the back foot better and the glide is somewhat "on the brakes". You could of course over-wax with higher temperature wax applied to a longer area under the ski onto a normal ski.
Waxing will allow you to really get into the swing of things, literally, because you will get the full benefit of the more jogging-come-striding style. This is faster and give's you argueably a better work out, both forcing you to keep a rythm and also rewarding you with faster progress.
There is one other good reason to buy an entry level set of waxfree skis is that even if you just get one holiday', course' or season's use out of them before you feel, like me, that they are braking your speed and limiting your technique. Keep these as your reserve skis for those difficult days, for those tours in certain hill and moor ski tracks but not prepared runs, easter, summer glaciers and when you venture to terra nova not knowing if the conditions and availability of tracks.