The Choice of Wax in Different Snow Types

Q: Could somebody please explain how to identify the different snow types and how these affect the choice of wax, both glide and kick?
Also, after watching one of the Worldloppet races on TV: what causes the elite skiers to change tracks frequently? You often see them switch and sometimes switch straight back if the track is not as quick as they expect.

A: The best wax for any day must maximize two conflicting variables. As they say no two snow crystals are alike, so there are an infinite amount of snow types. But to begin think of two: new snow vs. older transformed snow. When snow first falls it is the sharpest it will ever be. Every hour each flake gets rounder. The colder the snow the harder these crystals. So new cold snow has sharp hard crystals that like to stick to wax.

This is why getting kick in new cold snow is easy while getting glide is difficult. Each hour/day or grooming run the crystals get rounder and kick is more difficult and glide get easier.
The warmer the air the faster the transition from sharp to round take place.

For kick wax you want a wax that is just softer than softest crystals so you can get adhesion and kick. For glide you want glide wax harder than the hardest crystals to get glide. The more moisture and humidity the rounder the crystals.

For glide the snow crystal types matter, but not as much, as in kick. The newer the snow the more you need a hard wax to resist crystal penetration. So you choose the ideal hardness based on the temperature of the snow and air.

From there: the wetter and higher the humidity the more you need to manage moisture by adding fluorocarbons that are hydrophobic. New snow is slower in glide than old snow and unforgiving in glide waxing errors. Old snow is more forgiving because it is rounder but the older it gets generally the dirtier it gets and the more moisture there is to manage(often).

Skiers change tracks much as nascar racers change lanes looking for an advantage. Every skier across the snow warms the crystals, so you can get different performance depending where you are in line.

Andy at


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s