Introduction to Ski and Wax Selection
A common method to test skis is to look at the forecast and wax up your favorite skis with your favorite waxes. One pair might be waxed a little colder, another a little warmer, etc. and then test the day before or that morning if lucky enough to find a spot to test your skis early enough before heading to the start line. It is our personal experience that selecting a pair of skis in this format might not always be the best method. One ski might be fast because the structure or flex is better and another might be better because the wax job was more appropriate for the conditions at hand.
The process we take with the CXC Team program is step by step. The athletes first test their skis and narrow down which pair of skis they will be racing on and then we typically wax one pair of skis for each athlete. The waxes we select to apply to the race skis are based on consistent on-snow testing of both base high paraffin waxes first and then pure fluorine waxes. Sometimes the best wax application requires a fluorine powder followed by fluorine block and sometimes even a pure liquid fluorine on top of that. Other times simply one or two layers of pure fluorine powders is appropriate. In general, approximately 10-35 different wax combinations are tried for each major event. The time, resources and expertise is primarily in all the physical testing. The actual application of wax for all our athletes’ skis will happen in approximately 30 min-2 hours for all 12 pair of skis start to finish. The testing on the other hand might take up to 10-20 hours as it did last year for the Birkie to have the wax combination that we werw comfortable with sending everyone out on. We sometimes consume 1/3 of our high end wax resources in this testing procedure. These skis and waxes are never utilized for actual racing, but is absolutely critical to provide a very high probability of very good skis.
How we test:
We have 3 specific fleets of test skis. 6 pair for glide wax, 4 pair for kick wax and 4 pair for grind structure testing when temperatures are at or above the freezing point. The glide wax skis are all stone ground the same (Finn Sisu universal) and have the same or very similar flex patterns to ensure consistent test results. In short, we eliminate structure and flex and focus on glide waxes on the glide wax test fleet. We conduct two tests. The first test is with an electronic speed trap that provides us quantifiable data as to which waxes and gliding downhill the best. We narrow down to 2-3 waxes and then do a “feel” test or actually ski with a different ski on each foot to make the final call. I have also found that doing all the testing alone is also not feasible in the narrow timelines we tend to need to work in.
Conditioning New or Newly Ground Skis:
There are two goals in conditioning a new ski base. First, you need to penetrate the base with a warm non-fluorinated paraffin (like yellows) and then harden the base with harder non-fluoro base parrafins (like blue). We do the following with our skis:
– 4-6 layers of Toko S3 yellow
– then alternate yellow and blue
We alternate 2-3 times, so another 4-6 layers of wax. We recommend letting each layer cool (i.e. don’t hot scrape). Hot scraping can result in modifying the structure in the ski base. We then use Toko LF moly as our base for all our race prep. The athletes get their skis to LF moly and then our wax staff tends to apply the HF paraffin and pure fluorines. LF moly works as a good base in all conditions with the exception of real cold conditions. In that situation, we either use LFmoly/LFblue mixed 50-50 or simply use LF blue alone if it is really cold. Toko HF blue is almost always the next layer in this situation. HF blue and HF moly are Toko’s best waxes. We recommend never putting Toko HF yellow alone on your skis. Mix HF yellow and HF moly 50-50 in real warm conditions. This is just a side note sinces we know the Toko line so well.
Narrowing Down Your Ski Quiver:
It is our opinion that the best method to test your skis is to first wax them all the same and test on the course the day before (if at all possible) to narrow your selection to one pair of skis. There are times we will also physically speed trap skis on an athlete’s behalf, but we have found that also doing a feel test with the same high fluoro paraffin wax on all the skis often presents the best results. Note the feel downhill as well as uphill. It is in the uphills that we truly can identify the flex pattern of a ski and how it reacts to the present snow conditions. Put one ski on one foot and another skis from another pair on the other foot. Switch the skis around a few times because we tend to favor one leg. I always pick whatever is the fastest ski and somewhat disregard stability. Our skis are all quite stable. On the other hand, if you have a ski that is really unstable, then throw it totally out of consideration and focus attention on glide characteristics on the skis you are comfortable skiing on.