With snow conditions changing across the Sierras constantly, knowing how to pick the correct wax can make a huge difference in the level at which one’s skis or snowboard performs. Recent weather in the Sierras has more than likely caused many skiers a bit of frustration from a lack of glide while out on the hill.
Bases on modern ski equipment are comprised of millions of strands of polyethylene in varying densities, creating a porous surface. Wax acts to fill these pores and provide a smooth and consistent surface to repel the very thin layer of water created by the melting of the top layer of snow due to the friction induced heat between the snow and the base material. This friction can actually “burn” unwaxed skis, causing the fuzzy white appearance associated with neglected base material, necessitating intensive technician work to return damaged skis to their original performance potential, if even possible. Certain additives, like graphite, are used to enhance a waxes performance in a specific set of conditions. Perflouroether Diol is an additive that is used to increase the overall glide effectiveness of a wax, in addition to its durability and resistance to gummy or dirty snow. These “fluorinated” waxes are available in a variety of different temperature ratings and hardness compositions. This performance comes however at a higher unit cost, more temperature-specific wax requirements, and the environmental detriment caused by the introduction of fluorocarbons into the snow.
Proper application of wax is just as important as proper selection. Iron, or hot, wax, is known to be the longest lasting and overall most effective method of application. Regular hot waxing is considered by many professional ski technicians to be the only proper way to maintain and season bases. The proper tools, technique and temperature must be used for iron waxing to have its maximum effectiveness. It is also somewhat costly and time-consuming, which makes rub, or buff, on waxes an attractive option for many snow sport enthusiast. While it doesn’t have the rejuventive capabilities of hot wax, buff on waxes offer a quick and simple solution to those who don’t have the time or facilities to perform iron waxes. These waxes should be applied each time the user intends to use their equipment.
By Jordan Golnik of Sugar Bowl Ski & Sports