A Love Letter To Start Grip Tape

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?

The Fluorine-Free Race Wax Development Process

This is an interview with Toko Chemist Stefan Jung about the development of fluorine free race waxes. Stefan relates some of the stories and challenges that he has faced as well as talks a bit about what he expects in the future.

Toko has been working on waxing solutions that don’t involve fluorine for the past 13 years. However, when the FIS announced three years ago that they would be banning fluorinated wax use at the World Cup, it gave all of the wax manufacturers a sense of urgency and importance to the project. 

Episode Link:

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?

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).

Andy at SkiPost.com

Summer Storage Waxing for Nordic Skis

At the end of the season, it is so tempting to just leave the skis the way they are and walk away. There is a price to pay for this though: slow skis that need to be stoneground. Here are some basic steps to take at the end of the season that you will be grateful for come early winter:

  1. Clean any kick wax or klister completely off the ski bases using Waxremover or GelClean.
  2. Clean and copper brush your bases very well so the bases are clean. Quite often in the spring, the snow is very dirty. You want to remove any dirt you might have picked up. This includes not only brushing the skis out well with a copper brush but probably also using wax remover. If ski bases are dirty, apply wax remover and then brush well with a copper brush through the wax remover before cleaning. You might need to do this multiple times. Powder snow, which is what is commonly skied on in the fall is extremely sensitive to dirt. Dirty skis will be especially slow in early season snow.
  3. Hot wax the bases with Base Performance Red. Red is the perfect consistency for storage waxing. A harder wax can yield air pockets and a softer wax can get “eaten up” over the summer. Make sure to use a lot of wax for maximum protection.
  4. Store the skis in a place or fashion where they will not get very dirty or dusty. If they do get dirty during storage, be sure to scrape the ski bases before heating wax in (do not reheat the dirty summer storage wax!).
  5. I like to use this time of year to make sure that my klister tubes are closed completely so they don’t leak out over the summer.

Additionally, consider storing opened klister tubes in a colder place to prevent leakage.


This advisory is courtesy of TokoUS.com


The Right Tool for the Wax Job

If the proliferation of waxes, skis, training equipment and outdoor gear involved in Nordic skiing has you overwhelmed, it’s intimidating to think that you need even more tools to keep it all in good shape. Luckily, most skiers like to work with their hands just as much as their lungs. Here are three helpful—outside the box—tools for working with your racing or touring boards. Certain brands offer variants of these tools in a ski-specific format, but that doesn’t mean the traditional tools can’t get the job done. Most of these items can be found at your local hardware or home improvement store—the wax tech’s favorite retail outlet aside from the nearest coffee shop.

[Photo] Liam John


Whether it’s a frozen glaze of green hardwax fossilized on your base, or a runny pool of klister that looks like an avant-garde fingerpainting, it’s going to have to come off your skis when conditions change. A sharp, stiff putty knife is the best tool for the job. Don’t skimp on plastic versions unless you’re purchasing for a young skier, and avoid the flimsier metal variants. There are a lot of cheap options, but just like scissors or kitchen knives, your work will be faster, cleaner and safer with the higher quality options out there. Seven or eight dollars for a good putty knife is money well-spent.


Torches can be invaluable on race day as well as for home waxing. There are safer options for changing pole tips and grips, but torches work in a pinch. There are smoother ways to apply klister too, but torches work when you need them and are especially handy if you are without a power source for an iron or heat gun. Frozen wax bench components? Tent stakes entombed in ice? Time to reach for the torch. For the fastest and most efficient work, purchase a torch-head with a “trigger start.” Like a good stiff putty knife, these are more expensive than the typical torch components. But the ability to open and close a powerful flame one-handed, with your gloves or mittens on, can be invaluable. This is another item that is well worth the added up-front cost.


Klister has a unique way of adhering to surfaces such as the snow, your ski bases and your skin. Scrubbing with hand soap does a marginal job with removal, and one popular practice is to put your hands right into your gloves. It’s common knowledge that the klister is magically transferred from your hands to the lining of your gloves, where it disappears forever. But there is another way. Some wax companies produce creams and salves that whisk klister right off your hands. However, you can also find products that do the exact same thing without costing a fortune. Most hardware stores, and, in this case, mechanic and auto-parts stores, stock hand creams designed to remove oil, grease and other car crud from your skin. Lo and behold, these products work for klister, particularly the creams that contain a bit of fine sand particles for extra scrubbing power. A little bit goes a long way!

Adam Terko is the head coach of Vermont’s Mansfield Nordic Club and has been skiing competitively (and writing about it) since before Fischer skis had holes in their tips. He’s also the technical editor of Cross Country Skier and writes the how-to column “Back Shop” in each issue.

Subscribe now to the print Cross Country Skier Magazine to read Terko’s latest column and more at crosscountryskier.com/subscribe.

Race Waxing in March and April

Starting around this time of year, the sun warms the snow much more than it does earlier in the winter. In December and January especially, a good practice is to identify the overnight low temperature and then estimate the snow temperature at race time (adding a few degrees depending on start time). However this time of year, when the sun is out, the snow can warm up extremely fast and racers can be caught by surprise by wet conditions.

When figuring out the wax this time of year, determine if it will be sunny or not and look at the forecasted daytime high for race day. You can estimate that it will warm up far quicker than it does in December and January. Use the daytime high as a reference point and subtract degrees to estimate start time conditions depending on when you are starting and also taking the overnight low into consideration (but less so than you would in December and January).

On a spring day without sun, it will warm far slower as the radiation from the sun will not be such a factor.

Kick Wax on Zero Skis

5 years ago I bought a pair of zero skis on closeout. They are a good flex for me. Unfortunately, with the advent of skin skis and less obsession with racing I have not ever found a day when the zero skis or klister were my better options. Rather than have these zero skis sit unused, is it possible to convert my zero skis to waxable by putting a layer of basewax down on the zero section and permanently using them for training? If so, would you tend to only use them for klister?

A: You can easily use your Zero skis as hardwax skis. Just wax them as you would a hardwax ski. Iron in a thin binder wax and cork in the wax of the day.

The zero ski camber is a low riding hardwax camber as the hairies Zero surface you are trying to get kick on are very short haires so must be close to the snow to get kick. They are not a high riding klister ski.

– Andy @ SkiPost

Do you really need to know how to wax skis?

by Openski.ru / Denis Kananen

The discussion about the high cost and health risks of fluoride ski wax, as well as its ban from youth competitions, made me think that this is an absolutely local problem that will never affect amateurs. And I was prompted to this dialogue with an Australian friend of mine, who is mastering his skiing skills in Sakhalin (Russia) being 50 years old, madly in love with skiing – preparing for a marathon in Sapporo.

The dialogue was very interesting. Shane is good at analyzing the information coming from the ski world — the Internet and communication with local skiers. First of all it concerns ski equipment — it’s no joke learning skate skiing at a certain age. But he is interested in all the attributes of a skier.


Photo Credit: Openski.ru

He was sure that the preparation of skis is a mandatory skill, like a single-point rental, without which a person with skis can not call himself a skier. He wanted to buy a machine, an iron, scrapers, brushes, paraffins, etc. Imagine his surprise when I told him of my formula for the perfect sliding of skis during races and training.

I have absolutely nothing, just 4 pairs of skis and one is for the first snow. Before each start, three pairs are always ready with powder — I give them to a specialist, 1500-2000 rubles for each. And you shouldn’t grudge money on this!

Before the start, I test-ski all three pairs and choose the best one, I get incredible pleasure from fast skis.

Until the next start I have:
– training skis Karhu Mini, which I give away for preparation very rarely – they’re like slow training rollerskis;
– relatively fast skis, which I used at the last start.

I alternate them during my training. As soon as the time comes to the next start, I give away only one pair for preparation. Before the start, I test-ski on all three pairs and use again the fastest pair.

Sometimes friends were desperate to find quick skis and I give them a pair, which was the second on the roll. And before the Sakhalin marathon, I gave the third pair as well. Thus, they pay for the preparation of these skis.


Photo Credit: Openski.ru

In the final analysis, if I had 10 starts in winter, I spend 20 000 rubles on preparation. I have a fast pair on training days and something to choose from on a race day.

Of course, Sakhalin has unique conditions in relation to Europe and the European part of Russia, when all winter just one powder worked well both at 0 and -15, and the snow was almost always fresh and clean. And my skis are directly from the factory, designed for my specifications. But that’s not the point.

Preparation of skis is an important part of both professional and amateur skiing. It’s a huge industry where ambition, money and a bit of magic intertwine. If you are too lazy to bother — you give the preparation of skis to professionals and they get poisoned and spend their time, while you calmly get ready for the race.

But someone likes to prepare the skis, to test, to buy powders, waxes, to spend evenings before the race themselves. No savings, if you count the time spent. But it is a certain fetish, just like among those bicycles that create a custom built bike for themselves from a wheel to spokes on wheels. This is the interest, which is also an important attribute of cross-country skiing, thanks to which people from year to year are engaged in their favorite sport.

So I presented two points of view to Shane. What will be his choice — we’ll see in the winter.

In any case, simplification and standardization are not the path that cross-country skiing should take. Let each producer invent something new, let there be new powders, grip tapes, brushes, etc. We will all have something to discuss, to experience on the track and to spend money on. As soon as there is nothing else to choose from — it will be the beginning of the big end.

Transporting Top Coat Gels On An Airline

Q: I have been having good success with SWIX HVC warm and cold liquid Cera as a final top coat in humid (above 70%) conditions. I’d love to bring the two containers I have, but a friend says the TSA may give me a hard time in transporting them in my ski tube. Have you been able to transport these kind of top coat gels on an airline?


A: If your wax containers have the little flame symbol on them, you are probably not supposed to fly with them. So, I should tell you not to…

That being said, if you are checking a bag of regular standard sized luggage and equipment that will go through the X ray machine, you will probably be able to fly with them if your bag is not searched by hand. If they are in an oversized piece of luggage that will possibly be hand screened, your chances of being able to fly with them are not very good.

The safest route would be to buy the one HVC liquid you are going to need at the expo, use it and then figure out shipping it home.

– Joe H. (CXC Skiing)

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