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Hairy skis for hairy conditions

Thu, Dec  10, 2009 - By Peter Hale

Peter Hale is Technical Service and Race Manager, Madshus USA

You knew it would happen.  And it did, in three consecutive weeks in March.

We had championship classic races, humid fresh snow, and warm, rising temperatures, around zero degrees Celsius.  Snow clouds rolling in, sun coming back out for three weeks in three venues -- World Masters in McCall, US Junior Nationals in Anchorage, Canadian Nationals in Callahan Valley.

“Hairies” were a very smart answer – abraded or sanded kickzones, with the hairs providing the kick when waxing became the most difficult.   These skis are rapidly becoming a vital part of any serious ski assortment.    Madshus Zero-degree skis were particularly successful in these races, especially when both the racer and the skis were well-prepared. 

Madshus Nanosonic and Hypersonic “Zero-degree” models feature a special sintered kickzone area, inserted into the middle of the Madshus Nano P190 base.   Additives to this special white kick zone material allow longer, more elastic hairs, with superior durability vs. the more brittle hairs created by abrading a normal waxable black base.   Extra hydrophobic properties in the Madshus Zero base help resist icing.   Best of all, the bases can be customized to each day’s conditions, and to needs of the individual racer, with quick re-sanding.

The new Madshus Nanosonic 158 Zero for 2008-09 is available beginning fall 2008, in lengths from 180cm to 210cm, with a variety of skier-weight ranges in each length.  Just as with top waxable race skis, matching the camber to the skier is important, then the skier needs to learn to ski them in changing conditions!

Our Madshus camber design for Zero skis – Hypersonic or Nanosonic – is a modified klister camber, slightly softer than klister skis but stiffer than Cold skis, and with a slightly higher half-weight camber.  The high point of camber is slightly forward compared to cold skis, for best glide with effective kick when prepared properly.

Got late snow this spring?  Many skiers do, and we have the current Madshus Hypersonic 258 Zero in most lengths and flexes, at special pricing and quick delivery.   These Hypersonic skis have the same Zero base as the Nanosonic model, and getting them on-snow this spring can be a head start in being prepared for the next “hairy” wax conditions next season.  Plus very nice classic skiing all this spring!

Why the growing popularity of Zero bases?   Partly because of the increasing effect of global warming.   Partly from longer racing seasons putting major races later on the calendar, and into warmer weather.   Certainly the looming 2010 Olympics:  more racers will return frequently to B.C.’s Callahan Valley, and its frequent tricky wax conditions, for major races leading to and following the 2010 Games.

But most of all, we are simply finding more and more conditions where hairies and Madshus Zero skis work well.  Some years ago, hairies worked best in fresh falling, humid snow around 0c, and quit working when snowfall abated, tracks became glazed, and black-base hairs wore off in mid-race.  Today, our Madshus hairies are working effectively in a wide variety of conditions, including glazed tracks, coarse, loose corn snow, and even in fresh humid snow down into the low 20s F.

For the casual fitness skier, or for skiers from the skating-only crowd starting to embrace classic skiing, the Zero ski allows a more positive kick – and experience – in the most difficult wax conditions.

Here is what we at Madshus recommend to get the most from our Zero-degree skis:

Basic Zero-degree ski principles:

  1. For all skiers – casual and serious – it is vital to get used to skiing on hairies.  Use them in all possible conditions for training, to learn when they are needed, and which abrading or sanding techniques can make them work even better in various conditions.   In these conditions, a faster tempo and quicker, lighter kick often works better than hard kicking, and it’s best to discover this on training days.  
  2. Even with the sport’s top wax techs in McCall, Anchorage and Callahan Valley, hairies had major impact on top results.   The best skiers and technicians will certainly test both waxes and hairies to come up with best results. 
  3. Adjust kick with various sanding techniques and keep testing.   A good hairies job is tapered, with coarser sanding in the middle of the kickzone -- much like a tapered wax job is thicker under the ball of the foot, thinning toward the front and back of the kickzone.  
  4. Don’t wait until 15 minutes before start time to give up on klister or hardwax testing, and try to find the hairies skis somewhere in the bag, in panic mode.   Make hairies part of early race-day testing in potentially tricky waxing weather, just to get a starting reference.

A good rule of thumb is to start with basic preparation techniques.  Here is what Reece Rendall of Madshus Canada found to work best at Callahan Valley at 2008 Canadian Nationals, in early March:

Yes, the Hyper or Nano Zero skis were the choice!

Regular Hairies didn’t last, as the hairs would tear off quickly. Our Zero ski with its softer material inserted in the pocket allowed much finer sanding to work. We sanded as follows:

  • Red and Violet pocket (full zone): 100 G sandpaper  - 4 times - Tail to Tip; lots of pressure.
  • Klister pocket (inside/center of zone): 80 G sandpaper  - 2-3 times - Tail to Tip; lots of pressure.
  • Cleaning:  100 G sandpaper  - 2 times – Tip to Tail; almost no pressure other than the weight of the cork on the sandpaper, to remove “fuzz”.
  • Anti icing formula:  ToKo Helix -- Very light spray; fast pass.

This abrading pattern was linear from Tail to Tip, and was very free on the snow.   Please note that sanding sideways or making circular swirls only serves to shear off the hairs from the linear sanding technique.  We recommend linear sanding, and this can be tip to tail, or tail to tip, as with the Callahan Valley conditions.

In short, take advantage of this new Madshus “Zero-degree” technology:  upgrade your “hairies” skis from wax-panic status, to effective, trusted skis in a well-planned ski quiver.