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2013 Birkie Waxing: Detailed Analysis & Commentary

Main Street Hayward is now blanketed in beautiful snow & ready for all of you Birkie finishers!  Photo Credit:  Jim Kelley

Late February is always a hectic and fun time of year for xc skiers - both bitter and sweet!  This is certainly the sentiment of us here at Cyclova XC again this year.  It's been a really great winter for snow here in the St. Croix Valley, and we have absolutely perfect conditions everywhere - oh, and there is a race happening up in Hayward called the American Birkiebeiner.  

It's the big show, a chance to ski with 10,000 of your closest Nordic friends, the measuring stick by which xc skiers are measured!

With this phenomena known as the "Birkie" comes much ski selection and waxing anxiety for many event participants.  Back on Valentines Day, I published what I believe was the first wax tip for the 2013 American Birkiebeiner, and the wax tip hasn't changed a bit.  Following is a detailed discussion on why:  

WARNING / CAUTION:  The following is an extremely detailed & dorky commentary on ski prep methodology & reasoning for the 2013 American Birkiebeiner.  Read if you want to know what the factors that go into a professional waxer's creation of a wax tip for an event like the Birkie are...

Anticipated Conditions:  
Weather Patterns:  While many may disagree with me, generally speaking, I believe this time of year is remarkably predictable in terms of weather.  In the 15 years I've been professionally involved in doing wax tips, the Birkie wax tip has been almost identical in at least 11 of those years.  
Trail Conditions on Race Morning:  Generally, the track consists of a beautifully machined mix of new and old snow, likely with a dusting of new snow on top of the firm corduroy deck.  The trail will be beautifully machined by the fleet of (I believe 4 to be exact) Pisten Bully groomers at the Birkie.  The result is a firm corduroy skate lane with beautifully sculpted classic tracks - for the first thousand or so skiers.  The further back in the race you are, the more chewed up the trail will be and the less sharp the snow crystals will be.  The skiers up at the front will encounter sharp aggressive snow crystals, requiring a harder (colder) glide wax than skiers in later waves. Also consider that every single uphill on the course, is a north facing hill (meaning colder snow).
Weather:  It has been cold in Birkie country for some time - VERY COLD!  The beautifully compacted snow that Birkie skiers will be skiing over on Saturday will still be COLD.  Throughout the day on Friday and into the wee hours of the morning on Saturday, it's likely that 3-8 inches of snow will fall - but don't fret.  The previously mentioned fleet of Pisten Bully groomers will be out there tilling the new and old snow together, into a beautiful relatively firm skiing surface.  The snow is predicted to slow down in the early hours on Saturday morning, so there may be an inch or two of fresh snow on top of the corduroy.  In short, you can expect a beautiful winter snowscape for your skiing adventure through the northwoods.  While I trust the National Weather Service forecast more than any, if history repeats itself, the Friday overnight low will be lower than the forecasted low of 15 degrees, with a Saturday daytime high of 31 degrees.  I expect Friday overnight lows to be roughly 10 degrees, with a Saturday daytime high of about 30 degrees.  The sky will be cloudy, so temps will warm slowly throughout the day with a light northwest wind (tailwind).  

Cyclova XC team racer Jim Kelley out scouting out the Birkie race course.

Ski Selection:  Ski selection will be the single most important factor in having fast skis at this year's Birkie (as it always is).  First, your skis camber stiffness must fit you!  Second, the pressure distribution characteristics of your skis should be such that they are ideal for medium to softish trail conditions (not super stiff, and no hot spots).  If you have any questions about your skis, give us a call at Cyclova XC, or better yet, stop on by for a free quiver / ski analysis.

Healthy Ski Base / Appropriate Structure:  More important than wax, having a "healthy ski base", with appropriate structure is also critical.  If it's been more than a year since your skis have been stoneground, they probably aren't absorbing much of the wax you're ironing into them, and the ski bases probably aren't very flat (which makes it almost impossible to do a good job of waxing).  
 Stonegrinding your skis flattens your ski bases, and exposes a fresh / healthy new layer of base material which will absorb more wax in the first few layers you apply than the last 50 layers you likely have applied.  In short, a healthy ski base ensures you maximize the time and money you spend on waxing.  When your skis are stoneground, you can also choose a structure of your liking - with for the first few waves of the Birkie will be the Cold SuperFine Grind, while wave 4 and back will be best served by the Cold Universal grind.  If you haven't had a stonegrind recently on your skis and there is very little structure, I would recommend 1 pass with a fine interrupted type roller sturucture tool (such as the Toko or Holmenkol tool).  As always, if you have any questions on the condition of your ski base or structure, stop on by Cyclova XC for some expert advice!

Wax:  While wax is what gets all of the attention at the Birkie, it is less important than either ski fit/flex or having a healthy ski base - but it can still make a tremendous difference.  It's the final piece of the puzzle that will ensure you have lightning fast skis on your feet!  

As you look at the forecast, people naturally gravitate to the forecasted daytime high temperature (forecasted to be 31 degrees).  However, bear in mind that your skis will be gliding on snow - and the snow temp always lags behind air temperature.  The snow crystals will be sharper and colder than most people will expect.  Therefore, it's absolutely prudent to error on the cold side with glide wax - this is always the safe call.  This is precisely why we are not changing our published wax tip.  Bear in mind that a cold weather highly fluoriated glide wax will run very well in cold conditions, but will continue to run very well as conditions warm and humidity rises (thanks to the hydrophobic & dirt repelling fluorine in the wax).  Highly fluorinated cold weather wax is unquestionably the most versatile wax, with the biggest range out there - particularly when covered with a fluorocarbon top coat.  

Duane at Cyclova XC applying a flourocarbon overlay - a key to having optimal skis in the 2013 Birkie.

Feel free to give us at Cyclova XC a call to talk wax and ski prep - we'd love to talk with you!  We still have most every wax product in stock, not to mention much of our top end ski gear on closeout at 40% off!

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