SKI TIP OF THE MONTH

WAXING FOR WET COASTAL SNOW

by TONY CHIN

At the 2010 Vancouver Olympics we saw the best waxers in the world struggling with the wet coastal snow.  So I give you what I've learned over 20 years of waxing for this variable, wet snow.

The three variables you need to pay attention to are:

1. Snow crystals - do the snow crystals have any sharp edges or are they rounded?

2. Moisture - try to make snowball.  Does it pack to make a snowball or is it impossible to get snow to stick together?

3. Freezing level - I check snow-forecast.com to see where the freezing level is currently at and which direction it is moving to in the next day.

GLIDE WAX
If you can't make a snowball then it is BLUE glide wax.

If you can make something resembling a snowball then it is RED glide wax, preferably with some fluoro in it.

If your snowball is a wet snowball then it is YELLOW glide wax, preferably a high fluoro glide wax.

If the snow is so hard and icy that you can't grab snow then BLUE glide wax.

If the snow is sugary (rounded crystals) and you can't make a snowball then BLUE glide wax if freezing level is below the elevation that you are skiing at or RED glide wax if freezing level is above the elevation that you are skiing at.

GRIP WAX
If you can't make a snowball or a crumbly snowball then it is HARD grip wax and you can use the temperature ratings on the canister.

If you can make a decent snowball or a wet snowball then it is KLISTER, based on the temperature rating on the tube.  If the snow crystals are sharp or broken then you should apply a layer or two of HARD grip wax over top of the KLISTER.

If the snow is so hard and icy that you can't grab snow then BLUE KLISTER or ICE KLISTER.

If the snow is sugary (rounded crystals) and you can't make a snowball then KLISTER, based on the temperature rating on the tube.

FREEZING LEVEL
Knowing the freezing level and the direction it is trending (higher or lower) helps you identify the best wax to apply.  For example, if your ski area is about 840m and the freezing level is currently below 800m and is forecasted to rise over 1000m then you will find that the snow you are initially skiing on is hard (moisture is locked into the snow so it may feel icy/crusty) but will soon soften (moisture will be released from the snow).  This is what all the waxers were struggling with at the Olympics.  If the conditions remain consistent during the day then waxing is a breeze but when the snow changes its characteristics in a few hours then it becomes a challenge.

In the above scenario I would go with UNIVERSAL KLISTER (or a KLISTER covered with a HARDwax).

GRIP WAX BRAND
Everyone always asks which wax I prefer.  My answer is simply, find a brand you like and stick with it.  Until you get really good with waxing and/or have the time to test a lot of waxes, best to stick to one brand.

I've used a lot of different brands and I find the simplest one to use is Rode.  Rode has a waxing chart that I find easy to use and has always given me good grip - see chart on page 13 of waxing guide. I rely on this chart rather than read the temperature on the canister or tube.

Note Rode wax chart mentions "Nord Europe Snow" which is drier snow similar to what we would find in the interior, so you want to use the coloured line that is not "Nord Europe Snow" as our wet coastal snow is more like Southern Europe Snow.

I am not sponsored by any manufacturers so this is my unbiased opinion.

FINAL THOUGHTS
People have been asking me about the YesWax system.  This is the glide wax system that does not use an iron.  This non-iron system is used by the Canadian National Team on dirty snow.  If you want to keep your waxing simple, stick to the hot waxing system.  If you can afford to purchase the YesWax system then go for the warm, high fluoro wax.  (The iron in waxes are paraffin based and thus are soft and dirt will embed itself into the paraffin wax; the YesWax is a very thin layer of wax that sits on the base of the ski so dirt does not embed itself into it).

For more great ski tips see Tony’s blog http://tonydreamsofskiing.blogspot.com/