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Wax Recommendations: the History of the Snow

Fri, Feb  13, 2009 - By Dan Meyer

There are several key aspects that go into making wax recommendations and fast skis: temperature, humidity, ski flex, grind or base pattern etc…. One of the key elements that many times gets missed is the history of the snow and understand the snow type. 

Is it transformed, fresh new, cold-wind blown– Yuk. 

We all watch the weather to get the temperature and humidity for race day, however, we do not ski on temperature and humidity, we ski on snow, and understanding the type and history of the snow is as important as the current weather conditions. 

After a cold spell the tendency is to wax warm for the warmer temperature, this is a mistake. The fine, dry, snow crystal from the cold spell will remain and the snow will ski cold. The cold north winds have put a lot of energy into drying out the snow and it will take a major temperature change to transform the snow into a more humid faster snow - wax cold. 

The temperature listed on the wax package follows the the 80-20 rule. It is really a guideline of the expected snow conditions within the listed temperature range. 

Remember the 80-20 rule it prevails,  with this temperature range you will can expect these conditions 80 % of the time, however 20 % of the time ski conditions will not follow the temperature.

It is understanding this other 20 % of the ski conditions that really will give an advantage on race day.

Here are some helpful tips:

Cold clear still night: The snow crystal will be colder and sharper than expected. Wax for colder than expected conditions. 

Cold night and north wind: Expect low humidity and cold snow. Wax for colder than expected conditions 

Fine Dry New Snow (Alberta Clipper): Wax for colder than expected conditions. 

Low areas near open water: Colder and more humid than expected. 

Overcast: The snow will be closer to the air temperature and more humid.  Wax for warmer conditions with higher humidity and more structure. Fluoro waxes work well 

Race in the Woods: The snow will stay cold and have sharper crystals, wax for colder conditions. 

Wet New Snow: Use fluoro waxes, wax for warmer than expected temperatures, use lots of structure. 

Old Dirty Snow: Use fluoro waxes and add structure.