By Jacob Huseby
I love grip waxing. I own skins but haven’t used them in over two years. This isn’t because I am opposed to skin skis. I think they have helped countless people get into classic skiing. However, there is something magic about kicking on wax. To the point where getting on skin skis feels like an incomplete experience.
Before skins, there was grip tape. Grip tape is something that is truly unique to Start as they are the only company to have nailed the formula. The machinery to make grip tape is proprietary, and I have had the unique experience to see the production first hand. It is the closest thing we have to a Willy Wonka candy factory. Since its invention, grip tape has become one of the best selling waxes in the world, and for good reason.
While I have access to some cool waxes, grip tape sticks around in my box. At the Birkie expo this year, I hope to have a handful of new World Cup Grip waxes for sale that the Start Finland domestic racing service and myself have been testing. When picking the grip of the day, I have no shortage of exciting options to put on skis! However, the reality of coaching my local club and working in the ski industry means that the winter is my busiest time of year, and I don’t always have time to prepare skis. This is where grip tape saves the day.
Here are five reasons why I love grip tape, and why you should keep a roll in your wax box.
1. The wax works. This may seem like an obvious one, but let me explain. The wax is advertised for -4F up to 41F. I have successfully used this wax in every temperature in that range. I had sufficient glide and kick to get through a game of “sharks and minnows” or “capture the flag” with the juniors and plenty left for a “coaches’ fitness 5k” afterwards. Is this going to be as fast as If I were to go out and test 6 different options and then apply the winner? No. Is this going to have kick and glide for an enjoyable day out on skis? You bet. The wax already works perfectly fine in most of the listed temperature range, but with the addition of a covering wax like Terva or BM hard wax, you can expand the number of conditions you can use the wax in.
2. I love the packaging. I have a fixation with quality packaging. The Start grip tape should be used as a case study in Colleges and Universities. The cardboard packaging allows the box to be hung on a hook, with a window peaking in to the see the red box on the inside. There are clear instructions on the back of the box to understand the following steps. The red plastic box inside is designed to accommodate every step of the application process. There is a piece of sandpaper attached to abrade the ski surface to better adhere the wax to the ski. The middle of the box may be pinched to control the feed of tape being applied to the ski. There’s a built-in cutter to cut the tape when you have pulled your desired length. Then the rounded edge may be used to press the tape into the ski. It is thoughtfully designed and results in a user-friendly application.
3. The wax goes on easily. The wax is applied with a wax paper applicator. While I don’t mind sticky fingers, most folks would rather keep their hands clean. The grip tape application is no-mess and can easily be done trailside. You pull the length of grip tape you want and stick to each side of the groove on the ski. Then you smooth the edge of the box, and peel the wax paper away from a corner. If there are any rough spots, you can reapply the wax paper and rub it with the plastic box. You can get a better idea of what I’m talking about in the video linked at the end of the article.
4. Grip tape is durable. While I will generally state that the tape lasts 100km. I have heard stories of folks skiing for several hundred kilometers without having to reapply. For some, this could mean having a pair of skis with grip tape applied and having them last the full season with one application. Since there is no worry about the grip tape wearing off, this makes it a solid option for touring and for citizen racers concerned about having grip and glide in difficult conditions.
5. It’s kind of weird. I like that it’s a little weird. The first time you look at the wax, you might think “there’s no way that will kick” or “there’s no way that’s going to glide” and yet it works. It’s kind of rubbery, looks like klister but feels firm. The color is a bright red that stands out on the ski base when you first put it on. It’s very reminiscent of the fruit roll up candies that were popular when I was a kid.
Want to buy some grip tape to try?