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SKI TECH: Cold Weather Waxing

This article was written by Frank Lundeen and previously published in Master Skier Magazine:

This time of year in many areas, skiers encounter very cold race conditions. While these conditions may seem tricky to wax for, waxing for cold snow is very straight forward.

Often when skiers have slow skis, they blame it on the wax. It is important to realize that there are other factors that are more important than wax in any condition, including ski flex and the condition of the ski base.

When waxing for cold weather, the simple secret of having fast skis is to harden your ski base as much as possible. The only way of achieving this is by applying repeated layers of cold weather, hard glide wax. Additionally thoroughly brushing and polishing a cold weather wax is especially valuable.

Getting your skis to run fast in cold conditions can be challenging but rewarding!

Fresh Fallen Snow: The way in which snow falls dramatically affects the sharpness of the snow crystals. Generally, if snow falls warm, and temperatures drop, the snow crystals will be extremely sharp. The colder snowflakes fall, the less sharp the snow crystals will be. As you can see, if given the same temperature, the sharpness of snow crystals can vary greatly.

For snow which falls warm, but then cools down, (to 5’F or colder) there is generally little or no advantage to a fluorinated glide wax or a fluorocarbon. The key here is of course applying multiple layers of cold weather wax to harden your ski base as much as possible.

When snow falls cold, and stays cold (5’F or colder) a fluorinated glide wax will generally perform better and has a much broader range of performance if the temperature should warm up.

Packed Powder: As snow ages, gets skied on, and is groomed, there is less and less air in it. This obviously results in a snow base with a denser concentration of snow crystals/moisture. Additionally, the shape of the snow crystal is rounder and not as sharp. Cold packed powder conditions are the realm where fluorinated glide waxes and fluorocarbons really begin to make a difference in performance as well as improving the range of the wax job.

Transformed Snow: Similar to packed powder, transformed snow crystals are generally round and relatively dull. This happens as the snow crystals melt, refreeze and are wore through use (skiing on, grooming, etc). Even in very cold transformed snow, fluorinated glide waxes and fluorocarbons really make a dramatic difference in gliding performance.

Wax Application: There are a few details that many people overlook when waxing for cold conditions.

When ironing cold weather wax, there should be no clear spots or bubbles in the wax. If there is air between the ski base and the wax, obviously there is no wax penetration. If you see air between the ski base and the wax, use more heat with the iron (either hotter or more, slower passes). As always, it is critical to use enough wax and only move the iron in one continuous motion from tip to tail to avoid damaging the ski base.

Always use a sharp scraper, especially with cold weather waxes. It will result in a better, easier scraping job!

Brushing cold weather waxes is obviously more challenging than brushing warm weather waxes. It is however most critical to do a good job of brushing cold waxes. Using a copper brush will dramatically speed up the brushing process when used in conjunction with the normal nylon brush, horsehair brush, and polishing brush. Additionally brushing your ski out with a polishing brush outdoors in the cold shortly before your race start will ensure your skis will be running at their very best right off the start line!

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