Musings on Wax

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Smitty
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Musings on Wax

Post by Smitty » Mon Jan 27, 2020 9:51 pm

Coming out of western Canada's recent deep freeze, I had a few thoughts on wax.

We had a couple weeks of -25C to -40C. This might be "just stay inside" weather for rational folks, but between all of life's other obligations, sometimes you just have to go for a ski when there's time to go for a Ski. Regardless of ambient temperature.

As has been covered extensively, tip to tail polar with wax-of-the-day underfoot works great in most conditions. Grips, glides, whole nine yards. But what about when polar is the wax-of-the-day? At -25C or so it becomes draggy and I can't maintain any speed or cadence. Switch out to skis with cold temp hot wax (Swix CH4) on tips and tails with a pretty tight zone of polar underfoot, and can't get much traction to build speed. Extend kick zone polar to get enough traction, and we're back to square 1 with the drag.

Anyone have a go-to extreme low temp waxing regime? Does an exotic colder-than-V05 kick wax exist out there that I could use as a base when temperatures call for polar underfoot? Should I have thrown hot waxed base with kicker skin into the mix? Or do I just live with shuffling at -30C and be happy that I'm out on skis?

Second waxy observation. If you're in the "polar as a base wax" camp as many are, does ski base material / quality not become moot? If you're covering your base in a thin film of polar, then structure / micro-pores / glide wax retention are no longer a factor. Granted there's some density and longevity benefit to sintered over extruded. And the waxless among us will have pattern preferences. But all else being equal, there should be no day-to-day performance difference between base materials if you're applying polar tip to tail. Don't get me wrong, I see this as a good thing. If you like the other attributes of a ski, you don't have to let an "inferior" base material turn you off. You're going to lather it in polar anyways.

Be well.

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Lo-Fi
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Re: Musings on Wax

Post by Lo-Fi » Mon Jan 27, 2020 11:51 pm

For anyone who is totally mystified by the alchemy that is waxing, here's the bit I learned about waxing to try to deal with the particular challenge of cold weather:

Cold Snow

In general, the colder the temps, the sharper, harder-edged and more resilient the snow crystals, and so the more penetrating and abrasive the snow is against your ski base. Also, there's less humidity in colder snow so there's less water to lubricate and reduce the friction between the snow and your ski base. At sub -20C It's hard to get much glide.

Cold Wax

Both glide and grip waxes get firmer and less penetrable to reduce the harder and drier snow crystals from digging into the ski base. You can see this in cold glide waxes when you go to scrape the excess off after hot-waxing and its very brittle. In the case of the grip wax you can instantly tell just by how much less sticky and gooey it is to the touch compared to warm waxes. However, even with hard polar grip wax, it still needs to be soft enough to let the cold snow dig in momentarily, when you want it to grip.

Nordic Cambered Ski

With a properly cambered ski (for your weight, strength of technique, track condition, ski length and width, etc.) the grip zone should flatten when you fully weight one ski (to get it to grip, to push off of it) and then lift/arch off the snow slightly as you glide on both skis. There's an ideal ratio of length of grip zone to length of glide zone also, eg. too long of a grip zone and you'll reduce the free gliding portion of the base for a given overall length of ski.

Smitty wrote:
Mon Jan 27, 2020 9:51 pm
... Switch out to skis with cold temp hot wax (Swix CH4) on tips and tails with a pretty tight zone of polar underfoot, and can't get much traction to build speed. Extend kick zone polar to get enough traction, and we're back to square 1 with the drag...
I suspect that's the main problem with extending the grip zone to get more grip. The gliding surface area, at the tips and tails, that is already struggling against the abrasive cold snow, is reduced.

Maybe worse, the sticky grip wax is extending beyond the area of the cambered base that you want to have raised off of the snow while in the gliding phase of the kick&glide technique (with your weight distributed over both skis) - thus the grip wax is sort of contaminating the glide zones, and as you say, dragging everything down.

Try sticking to your optimally cambered grip zone, and just thickening the grip wax by corking in an additional layer or two of the polar grip wax,or even, try overlaying a shortened wax pocket with a layer of slightly warmer/stickier green special (Swix).

Also, in severe cold, stay with cold glider on the tips and tails instead of the polar grip wax tip to tail.

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Re: Musings on Wax

Post by lilcliffy » Tue Jan 28, 2020 11:26 am

Hi Smitty! Great to hear from you!
Great topic.
I typically get at least three blocks of the same prolonged temperatures you describe (though in Central NB the lows are now only hitting -35C- -40C used to be common in the past). We got our first one in early November and since have only had blocks of 2-3 consecutive days of -25C weather.

To the subject of your thread-
I am no expert on any of this- so anyone please educate and correct me if any of this is wrong, inaccurate or incomplete!
Smitty wrote:
Mon Jan 27, 2020 9:51 pm
Coming out of western Canada's recent deep freeze, I had a few thoughts on wax.

We had a couple weeks of -25C to -40C. This might be "just stay inside" weather for rational folks, but between all of life's other obligations, sometimes you just have to go for a ski when there's time to go for a Ski. Regardless of ambient temperature.
I love ski touring in really cold weather- and typically the best blocks of the best snow conditions are in very cold sunny weather following major storms.
As has been covered extensively, tip to tail polar with wax-of-the-day underfoot works great in most conditions. Grips, glides, whole nine yards. But what about when polar is the wax-of-the-day? At -25C or so it becomes draggy and I can't maintain any speed or cadence. Switch out to skis with cold temp hot wax (Swix CH4) on tips and tails with a pretty tight zone of polar underfoot, and can't get much traction to build speed. Extend kick zone polar to get enough traction, and we're back to square 1 with the drag.
First question-
What is the snow like? Soft? Hardpacked?

I experience this regularly- snow that is cold enough that Polar grip wax is actually an effective kick wax.
My current approach- heat/melt the polar base- partially cool then scrape and polish with a brush. This makes a big difference. When the snow is warmer- I melt the Polar into the base evenly- do NOT scrape- buff with a natural cork. I am committed to avoiding stripping and applying glide wax. This is partially a function of never being totally satisfied with the glide/grip wax complex on BC snow and variable terrain- it is also a function of it soon warming up enough for me to want to strip the ski again and go back to a Polar base. Drives me crazy to be constantly stripping bases!!! I am not doing it anymore for my BC touring.

Scraping and polishing the Polar base does make a significant difference on very cold snow. Does it glide as well as a an appropriate glide wax? No- however- my really cold snow is typically soft and I am also skiing hilly/steep terrain where I am able to live with a little loss of glide in order to have the grip I need to tour in the hills.
Anyone have a go-to extreme low temp waxing regime? Does an exotic colder-than-V05 kick wax exist out there that I could use as a base when temperatures call for polar underfoot? Should I have thrown hot waxed base with kicker skin into the mix? Or do I just live with shuffling at -30C and be happy that I'm out on skis?
Cant' speak to whether there are more effective extreme cold kick waxes-
BUT- your mention of the kicker skin (MOHAIR!!) is smart- but for this to be more efficient you would need a ski with more camber and a more effective wax pocket (than your Gamme 54) in order to release the kicker skin. If that kicker skin drags during the glide phase- it is an anchor on that very cold snow. I would think a ski like the Amundsen BC would have the higher and stiffer intital camber to do this. But the tradeoff would be a potentially SERIOUS handful coming down hills...I think we should both add an Amundsen BC to our quivers... :idea: :twisted:

I have been doing some lake-country touring on very cold snow that is making me seriously consider a ski like the Amundsen...
Second waxy observation. If you're in the "polar as a base wax" camp as many are, does ski base material / quality not become moot? If you're covering your base in a thin film of polar, then structure / micro-pores / glide wax retention are no longer a factor. Granted there's some density and longevity benefit to sintered over extruded. And the waxless among us will have pattern preferences. But all else being equal, there should be no day-to-day performance difference between base materials if you're applying polar tip to tail. Don't get me wrong, I see this as a good thing. If you like the other attributes of a ski, you don't have to let an "inferior" base material turn you off. You're going to lather it in polar anyways.
Again- my understanding of this may be incomplete/incorrect-
My understanding of using wax is that your skiing on wax- not the base- whether it is grip waxed and/or glide waxed...
Is not the advantage of a "higher quality" base the porosity of the base and its capacity to absorb/retain wax?
So- for example- when you scape and polish glide wax- you are still skiing on wax- not the base. The advantage of a sintered base vs extruded is the wax absorption and retention. Isn't what you are saying true whether we are considering glide or grip wax?
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Re: Musings on Wax

Post by lilcliffy » Tue Jan 28, 2020 12:35 pm

Smitty wrote:
Mon Jan 27, 2020 9:51 pm
Switch out to skis with cold temp hot wax (Swix CH4) on tips and tails with a pretty tight zone of polar underfoot, and can't get much traction to build speed. Extend kick zone polar to get enough traction, and we're back to square 1 with the drag.
To add to Lo-Fi's excellent post-
Is the cold glide wax working?
If so- it does sound like you should try increasing the effectiveness of the kick wax alone- as opposed to extending it on to the tip.

So- as Lo-Fi said-
Step 1- thick layer of Polar in the kick zone
Step 2- go to the next softer wax in the kick zone
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Re: Musings on Wax

Post by greatgt » Tue Jan 28, 2020 5:29 pm

The only way to get going in really cold temps is to head down some steep areas.....Gone flying many times....damn cold mouthfuls.....TM

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Re: Musings on Wax

Post by w8n4snow » Tue Jan 28, 2020 7:02 pm

I come forth from the mountains...

You must creat the hardest, smoothest Base possible for glide. Harder and smoother than Ice. Like the pupil of a raven.

Scraper must be like kanna or nomi, sharpness is a theoretical place that cannot be seen, only experienced.
Scraper must be flat and smooth therefore. Take care of your plastic bases-it is the wax you want.
Many layers of cold glide wax of good quality must be used..scrape well, polish, repeat. The pores are filled. There is no structure. For this reason many Skiers have skis only for the Quiet Cold.
Edges must gleam like katana.
There is no liquid water in this world of white sand and talc you wish to slide on, so the mind must be lubricated instead.
Trudging, shuffling. The occasional slide like an otter.
You will be happy with this when it is 35 below. Soon you will realize the glide is as it should be, and the kick is wanting. For this you must search out the diminutive hive of Bombus polaris and borrow some wax from her. Apply tenderly under a gibbous moon and you will fly down the trail.
If the crystals are truly old and advanced, and you are not on a groomed trail with bouncy skis, your kick wax will be gone soon enough and the opportunity arises to try many techniques. All that wax scraped off by snow goes into our water keep in mind. Be careful what you put on your Skis, mountain friends!

The cold is strong now, my cheeks are scabby and tender. I revel in the quiet and accept the cadence that the snow and the mountains give. The sun blazes over the peaks stronger now, and the caribou are moving high on the ridges. The valley bottoms sit pale and still under their lids of dense cold air. The wolverine cares nothing about all this but lopes on.
I have come out of the forest for important business concerning Warranty Issues and the greatest scourge of our time, delamination damnation. All is not well underfoot. When this business is finished I will report truly and in full for my mountain friends.

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Re: Musings on Wax

Post by Telerock » Tue Jan 28, 2020 8:35 pm

Well said!

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Re: Musings on Wax

Post by bgregoire » Tue Jan 28, 2020 9:58 pm

Yes, super-concentrated quality advice and vision has been expounded here!

Not much to add really. I have a stong affinity towards Granpa's advice: you got good strong grip that you can't shake off? Take advantage and hit the steeps you dared not ski in warmer conditions! Opportunity.

A harder wax (polar is harder than green but remember glider wax is harder than grip wax) will glide better on cold,structured, dry snow (to a certain extent perhaps?). So to me, cold glide wax on tips and tails is best for glide when its real cold. Of course, I do appreciate the versatile polar wax over whole ski option too, but If I need a prepped ski for the very cold, and am willing to clean up, I would go for cold hard glide wax.

That being said (Sorry Lilcliffy), I'm guessing a good part of the reason why Lilcliffy is getting decent glide results with the polar melt, scrape and brush is that he is essentially removing most of the grippy wax he has melted in that is inhibiting glide in very cold temps. I fully understand why you would not use glide wax, as you explained very well LC, but I think here the secret to glide here is no wax, or very little anyways? No?

Good night!
I live for the Telemark arc....The feeeeeeel.....I ski miles to get to a place where there is guaranteed snow to do the deal....TM

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Re: Musings on Wax

Post by Inspiredcapers » Tue Jan 28, 2020 11:49 pm

I had some really great luck with my first serious attempt at using kick wax instead of skins on my Rossi’s today. It was pretty awesome to be using kick n’ glide uphill on the same stretch of trail I’d previously been skinning up.

Something I quickly learned is that the wax I’m putting on at my starting elevation might not be as workable after some elevation gain and the resulting drop in temperature/change in snow. There was a need to quickly scrape off the snow accumulating red and cork in a little more of the blue and violet to get that glide back whilst still keeping traction for forward mobility.

This picture shows the ‘kick zone’ I was playing with today...Image...it worked quite well for me.

I got to wondering if anybody has experimented with a thinner line of a warmer wax down the centreline...
Image...on top of a colder wax? Does it work in situations where you know some elevation gain is going to get you into colder snow before long?

I’m looking forward to more experience with waxing technique...a good start is encouraging.

Ironing in some Polar is in the near future- gotta order some from MEC...

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Re: Musings on Wax

Post by Cannatonic » Wed Jan 29, 2020 1:44 pm

interesting discussion - I've never skied below around -15 F. Your lungs need to acclimate to breathing the cold air, it's hard to live at the warm coast & then travel to the mountains where it's 30 F degrees colder.

I was thinking the advice to wax the whole ski with grip wax is for tours with a lot of climbing. If you're mostly cruising the flats in XC mode then glide wax on the tip & tail works great. I woudn't give up on kick waxing the middle of the ski. I would add a touch of green wax to the 10-12 inches underfoot & see how that works (on top of the polar). Maybe even a 6-inch patch in the middle. If it slows down glide too much, maybe a ski with more camber is better.
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