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Waxing on Wednesday

Wed, Mar  7, 2012 - By Bert Hinckley

While at the American Birkie I had a discussion with a dedicated SOLDA wax user about waxing for weekend races 3 to 4 days prior to the race. I am not in favor of doing that because of the uncertainty of the weather and snow conditions 3 to 4 days out. His position was that because he has to travel, often on Friday before the race, and ends up staying someplace with no waxing facilities or just gets in too late to wax, he is forced to prep his skis on Wednesday or Thursday. I have not been trying to get wax recommendations out before Thursday evening, and even so, will sometimes post updates the night before a race as conditions change. At the highest levels of racing/waxing, the techs are out testing the morning before the race and making the appropriate changes so their athletes will have the best chance to do well. I understand that this is not an option for most citizen racers.

So, how can you prep skis on Wednesday for a race Saturday?

One thing is that you really should keep wax on the skis at all times that they are not being used. Skis that are waxed every time hold wax better and are faster when the day’s application is gone. Pick your favorite wide range wax (I use Solda UF7) and apply it to the skis after skiing for more than three hours.

You will also have to become a student of weather and the snow at the race venue. For example, snow in Sun Valley or in McCall, ID always skis colder than the temps might indicate. If the temps and forecast call for Red, go with Violet. This means getting a good handle on the weather and snow of your region. Places like Hanson Hill, MI will generally be colder that the forecast for Grayling, MI. Temps at Mt Bachelor, OR are almost always lower than the NOAA forecast. In the high-dry Rocky Mt area snow can warm to red conditions during the sunny days, but can return to green conditions overnight if it is dry and windy. Snow that forms and falls at high altitude will transform more slowly than snow that forms and falls at lower altitudes and that has more moisture. All this influences how you wax for a race.

So, I would suggest a number of things to prep skis on Wednesday for a weekend race.

  1. Be sure to wax them after the last training before Wednesday with a wide range hydrocarbon or LF type wax.
  2. Solda HC28 has proven to be a great first layer for many snow conditions. It can be applied as with any other wax, ironed, scraped and brushed. It can also be crayoned on to a dry ski base. After a good layer is on the base, then wax with your base layer over the HC28.
  3. In snow that is colder than -5C (23F) I like to use a layer of Solda S30 cold powder in the base. I apply the powder, iron it in with an iron temp of 130C (265F) and scrape lightly while it is warm. Don’t bursh. Now apply the chosen paraffin layer.
  4. If the forecasts (check more than one and check in with the race venue to confirm) are consistent, and it looks like the snow will be well transformed, even old and dirty, go with a F40 Carbon wax. You will have to estimate the temps at race time. If the forecast looks like new snow, then consider Solda F31 Pink in high humidity and air temps from 33F down to 16F, especially if it is snowing during the race. If humidity is 40 – 70% this can be F15 Pink. If the snow is fairly, i.e., not significantly transformed, use F40 Orange Special in the same temperature range. Use F40 Violet special in high humidity new snow followed by cold weather; F31 Violet in low humidity cold new conditions. Old, hard, transformed snow from 32 down to 13, just go with F40 Red or Red Carbon.
  5. Powders: If you are using powders there are a few things we have found that I will share here. There are also mysteries that I cannot explain.
  • Fluor 100 runs in falling snow at warm temps and melting spring snow
  • HP04 runs best on a day that is cloudy, high humidity and there will be little transformation of the snow during the race. Snow temps 32 down to 18F. There are other days when HP04 runs and I am surprised. I think the key is that the humidity is high and the snow is not transforming much.
  • HP05: think cold and old snow. It will stretch well as cold snow warms during the race. It will also handle cooling during the race. Snow temps from 20F to 5F. It will also run warmer than that in real old snow.
  • HP06 has very few times it runs. One time is during snow storm on a cold, humid day. It is also good on very cold artificial snow.
  • S20 often runs well at Sun Valley. S20 often runs well in dry windblown snow. S20 has a fairly wide range in Canadian East Slope conditions.
  • S30 can be a top coat in cold dry. Think West Yellowstone at 0F.

The Solda F40 Special waxes have the appropriate fluor powders added to them. In medium to short length races this can mean having good skis without having to use powders. This is especially try if the snow is not too abrasive.

All this means that if you are going to wax on Wednesday, you need to do your homework. Know the snow, know your skis and learn the wax system. I will still try to come out with requested wax recommendations on Thursday and update as needed.

Have fast skis.