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 SkiPost.com

 

Warm Weather Glide Waxing

Q: I’d like to ask a question about glide waxing when the temperatures go above the freezing point. We are having unseasonably warm weather with melting temps and possibility of rain when traditionally we are working with the coldest waxes trying to stay warm and find glide. I can certainly go to a warm weather wax, but now that the snow has melted and not yet refrozen, I’m afraid that a yellow wax is too soft to hold up on the skis. I know a dry base will not shed water, and I know that the right structure is important to helping break suction, but how does wax hardness (durability) factor into this. Any suggestions?

A: In the wettest weather you want a soft wax because it is more hydrophobic and lubing than the colder waxes. It will last 100km. The problem is that it picks up dirt. So you want a hard under-layer and then a soft water repelling top coat. The longer the race the more you want to go slightly harder to keep the dirt off.

When it is wet, fluors do really help. And help you buy time. A low-flouro layer of “Moly” or “Graphite” to the glide-zone before applying the warmer, wetter high-flour glide-wax will help with the dirt while giving the ski the right wax on-top, for the snow conditions.

You can get a block of warm flour and put it on top of the high-fluro glide wax, this will help speed the ski up even further, but will not last more than about 10km.

For warm and wet snow, use a wide shallow linear structure tool. Remember it is always better to go for a wax that is too cold than too warm, and too much structure vs. too little.

Andy at SkiPost


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Slow in the Tracks

Q: At a recent frigid race in the UP, we had light lake effect snow falling on a nice hard groomed base. The classic track was significantly slower than the skate deck, even after skiers from a shorter race had skied in the tracks. Nobody used the tracks from the elite wave. Some skiers with stiffer skis and medium grinds reported faster skis than those of us with soft flexes and “cold” grinds. Flouro didn’t seem to make a difference one way or the other. What was going on here?

A: In the new cold snow you were in the classic tracks were most likely slower because the ski base had a greater surface area contacting the new cold sharp (slow) crystals. On the corduroy, the skis had a smaller surface area trying to glide over the new sharp crystals there by reducing glide. If it was so cold and dry that no water layer is ever created between the ski and the snow the reduced contact area would help. If no water layer is ever created, than skiers skiing in the tracks would barely affect the crystals they ski over so the in tracks would not get faster very fast. If no water layer is ever created (and the snow is clean) than Fluoro’s would not be seen to increase speed as they do not have have any water to manage. If temps got warmer or if humidity increased this could all change very quickly.

Andy at SkiPost


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Iron Cleaning

Q: I was wondering what are the appropriate steps to take to clean a wax iron between waxing for glide and applying base binders (i.e. klister or hard wax binder). Also, my iron has gobs of hardened glide wax on it. What is the best removal method for this?

A: It is best to have two irons. One digital for glide and an inexpensive one for kick. Otherwise it is really difficult to make sure that you do not get kick into your glide or visa versa. But if you must share an iron, wipe thoroughly with fiberlene between jobs wile the substance is still warm. If you warm up the wax you should be able to rub it off with fiberlene. Worst case, wax remover but not hot.

– Andy at SkiPost


WAX ROOM – Cleaning and Maintaining Tools

In Humble Defense of Klister

By: CXC Team Member, Andy Brown 

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There are two kinds of skiers in the world, those who like klister and those that don’t. Many skiers cringe at the very thought of having to resort to something so “repulsive” and simply throw in the towel or switch to their skate gear when things aren’t Extra Blue. Why is this? What have these little tubes of goo done to earn their near universally shunned status within the ski community? Yes it’s a bit sticky, and yes it can make a mess, but there is more to it than that.

Here in the Midwest, we are generally fortunate to have plenty of hardwax classic skiing. Most days we can throw on one of any dozen green or blue hardwaxes and go kicking merrily down the trail. We forget how rare this is in comparison to mainland Europe and the wetter warmer coasts. When we think of klister, it is treated as an inconvenience, forced on us by less than ideal conditions. We overlook the fact that klister lets us ski more; that this little tube is doing everything in its power to keep us from sliding backwards despite the icy, wet, dirty snow. If we lived somewhere warmer we wouldn’t question this fact. It would be obvious that klister equals more skiing.

Skiers aren’t born with this unreasonable bias, they are taught it. The anti-klister indoctrination begins in high school where upperclassman described to the freshman the horrors that are contained within those little cardboard boxes. That if you open pandora’s box, your skis will turn into glorified snowshoes, your hands will become permanently fused together, and your dog will get glued to the ceiling. Within that tube are horrors from beyond this world, radioactive alien space snot, and heaven help you should you need it for a race. The freshman’s eyes grow wide as they listen to these tales and three seasons later they will repeat them to the next batch of impressionable minds. I know, I’ve done it myself.

With a bias firmly established many skiers simply avoid the stuff than actually gain any experience or proficiency with it. They don’t know how quick and easy it is to smooth a coat of klister on a classic ski by hand. My klister enlightenment came skiing at Elm Creek with Marc Beitz. The snow was coarse wet corn snow and no one was having any luck kicking. Marc took my skis and squeezed on chevrons of Rex OV brown klister. He then took his whole palm and slowly dragged it down the ski, smoothing the klister perfectly in one pass. Marc put his gloves back on, the whole process taking less than 2 minutes, no muss, no fuss. We started down the trail, effortlessly striding past everyone who were stuck herringboning the hills. Two hours of perfect classic skiing in the warm sun was our reward, and to this day Rex brown klister holds a special place in my heart along with Rode Multigrade klister, though that wax is story for another day.

The final reason for klister’s unpopularity is skate skiing. Yes skating is great and yes it’s easier to simply skate rather than use klister. Why mess around trying three kinds of klister when my skate skis will always glide. And they have a point. Klister isn’t the easiest answer, but like everything in life you get out what you put in. Challenge yourself to classic with klister and you will be a better, more enlightened skier. Striding with perfect kick in difficult conditions is incredibly rewarding and in a way makes klister more special than any pure fluoro or swix extra blue will ever be..

I have many great memories of classic skiing, a lot of them made possible by using klister. On those days klister enhanced my experience, not hindered it. If a little tube of goo can help me make fond memories with my friends and family, then I am proud to call myself a klister lover.

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Little Things to Make Skiing a Little Faster

By: CXC Team Member, Andy Brown

Skiers are almost by definition gear junkies. A combination of high tech equipment and a difficult sport that rewards efficiency makes skiers everywhere think about what’s on their hands and feet. The term “Nerdic” was coined for good reason with many skiers willing to embrace their inner geek and obsess about technology and equipment. The intersection of material science, classical mechanics, chemistry, and sports physiology that come together to make someone go fast on snow is fascinating. I am more guilty than most when it comes to overanalyzing equipment, spending hours worrying about what grinds I should get on which skis, or taking 45 minutes to cut down a pair of poles because they were off by a millimeter. However along the way I’ve picked up a few tricks that I’ve found make my skiing better, or my life easier.

1. Waxing respirators and digital irons

Ski waxes have some pretty gnarly organic chemistry going on. While fluorocarbons are great for going fast when it’s wet and dirty you really don’t want to breath this stuff. Even normal paraffins make particulates when you scrape and brush. You spend how many hours training your aerobic system? why do something that is potentially harmful?

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I wasn’t always so paranoid about waxing, I’ve rotocorked pure fluoro on in a dorm room with the ski vice clamped to my bed frame. I changed my view though after a couple of my friends ironed in pure fluoro and then slept on the floor nearby. The next day three of them had awful Birkies with trouble breathing. Don’t do this! I wear a p100 particulate filter that’s also rated for organic vapors and acids.

Okay now we’re sure we’re not hurting ourselves let’s not hurt our skis. Too many skiers burn the heck out of their skis, most being blissfully unaware. Drip/crayon the wax on and make ONE maybe two tip to tail passes with the iron, that’s it. If the wax isn’t smooth set the ski aside to cool and work on the other one before coming back. Any waxing iron will work but a digital iron is so much easier. I used a cheap waxing iron for eight years convincing myself that the thermal time constant of the system was slow enough that digital electronics probably weren’t necessary. Boy was I wrong. It’s a life changing experience when you finally get one. I value a digital wax iron as a higher priority for a household than a dishwasher. It’s that good.

2. Klister and ski gloves

This is an old trick but if you haven’t heard it you’re in for a treat. So you’re out classic skiing in difficult wax conditions (as you should be) and have just finished smoothing on a layer of red klister by hand (use your whole palm not just your thumb). Problem is the nearest sink to wash the klister off is at the trailhead 10k away. You can’t ski there without poles and gloves. What are you to do?

Just put your gloves back on and keep skiing! The first time my coach showed me this I was sure my gloves were going to turn into an unholy mess of klister but then the magic happened. The klister just disappeared. Someone told me it was the heat from your hands evaporating the hydrocarbons or something like that, I don’t know, but it totally works. One less excuse to avoid klister.

3. Foam rollers and chocolate milk

Going for a 18 mile trail run and want to be able to walk down stairs the next day? Break out the foam roller. The combination of a massage and stretch really cuts down on the time needed to get back to training after beating yourself up. Yes it hurts, sometimes a lot. That’s okay. Get the black roller, firmer is better. I have a friend who was training for the olympic marathon trials that uses a piece of PVC pipe! That’s hardcore.

Chocolate milk is amazing. It has carbohydrates and protein in just about the perfect 4:1 ratio for recovery. Chug a glass immediately after a workout and your body will thank you.

4. Sharpen plexi scrapers

Stripping the wax off a ski should take less than 30 seconds if you have a sharp plexi scraper. Getting a sharp 90 degree edge is easy with a piece of 100 grit sandpaper, a block of wood, and a flat surface. Put the scraper, block, and sandpaper on the flat surface and slide the scraper back and forth while holding the block down. Voila! a perfectly sharp scraper.

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5. Velcro ties for the tips, sleeves for the tails

Okay this is purely because I’m lazy. Putting the tips of a classic ski into a sleeve type tie requires holding one ski way out from the other and guiding the tip into the tie. I’m sometimes cold, tired, not thinking. I put the bottom tie on and then swear at myself as I can’t get the top sleeve on. There’s an easier way. Stick both tails of the skis into a sleeve tie and then use a velcro wrap tie for the tips. You can hold the tips easily in one hand while wrapping the tie. Seems silly but when you take ski ties on and off a couple hundred times a year it makes a difference.

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6. The right tools for the job.

When you think of a wax box, you think of an iron, some blocks of wax, corks, scrapers, etc. Adding a couple more tools really expands what you can take care of at home and might save you a drive to a shop. Ski binding screws might look like a big phillips but are actually a pozidriv #3. If you are moving bindings around, pick up a special driver and be very unfriendly to anyone who borrows it for things other than skis.

Other good things to have on hand are hot glue, a heat gun, and blow torch if you are waxing outside. Heat guns are the unsung heros of the ski tech world and are good for everything from smoothing klister, to swapping pole parts, to thermo molding boots. Blow torches are awesome for start line waxing, but you are literally taking something that is 2,000 degrees Celsius to a ski base that melts around 150. Be gentle. Also don’t start your car on fire with it either.

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7. Use pole protection

Carbon fiber poles are great until they break. There is nothing more frustrating than to be winding up for a sprint and having a pole fold under you. Small dings and scrapes your poles pick up while bouncing around in a ski bag or being thrown into a trailer can weaken the carbon. If you are traveling somewhere or have to throw your gear in with a bunch of other bags, put some ½” foam pipe insulation on your poles. It’s super cheap and protects the carbon.

8. Shrug your shoulders

Cold hands while waiting on a start line are unpleasant. Get some warm blood in them by dropping your hands down to your sides and shrugging your shoulders up and down. Just be sure to have your hands up and poles planted when the gun goes off.

9. Rollerski tracking and sharp tips

I LOVE to rollerski. You already look ridiculous so embrace it and be a total goofball. You get to ski places you’d never otherwise go and there are so many trails and roads to explore.

Key to enjoying rollerskiing is a pair of skis that tracks straight. Nothing kills me more than hopping on someone’s rollerskis to find one constantly turning on you. It just ruins the whole experience. Thankfully it’s a relatively easy fix. Loosen the rear axle bolt and shift the axle backwards on the side that it’s turning towards (think of the wheel like a rudder on a boat) In the picture shifting the axle clockwise makes the ski turn more to the left.

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Having sharp tips also helps tremendously. You can do this with a bench grinder or a diamond stone. If you use a bench grinder, go slow and dip the tip in water frequently to prevent melting the plastic which will loosen the metal tip and cause it to fall out. For diamond stones get the biggest coarsest one you can find and use it frequency. You want these things sharp!

10. Zipper chain lube

Zippers on ski boots take a beating, especially during the summer. Your sweat drips down on the zipper and corrodes the metal pull, causing the zipper to bind and eventually break. Prevent this by putting a drop or two of a wax based chain lube in the pull and working the zipper up and down. It will lubricate the zipper and prevent further corrosion.

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Testing and Waxing for Critical Competitions

Introduction to Ski and Wax Selection

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 3.09.56 PMA 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:
Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 3.12.25 PMWe 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:
Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 3.13.14 PMThere 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.

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