SKIS HAVE COME a long way from the days of wooden bases and
leather bindings, but the drive for better glide remains unchanged,
as has the age-old enemy of glide — friction. The miners of the 1850s
mixed wild potions of sperm-whale oil, pine pitch, camphor, balsam fir
and spruce oil in an effort to combat friction.
Modern skiers, too, are in search of the perfect glide, and the driving
reason behind waxing remains — the attempt to reduce friction between
the ski base and the snow.
How the right wax helps racers find
perfect glide BY SCOTT CHURCHILL
Race waxes. Back row (left to right): Swix CH8, Swix Base Prep, Dominator
HX77, Toko HF, Holmenkol Ultra Mix. Middle row (left to right): Swix LF8,
Swix Moly, Dominator ReNew, Toko X-Cold Powder, Holmenkol Hybrid FX.
Front row (left to right): Swix HF10BW, Dominator Hyper Zoom, Dominator
Butter, Holmenkol Extreme Powder.
Base Prep Waxes
Base prep wax is a soft wax formulated to penetrate to the deepest re-cesses of a P-tex base, creating a solid foundation for subsequent wax
layers. Base prep wax is essential for new bases or bases that have been
recently stone ground and which may contain contaminants.
Multiple applications of prep wax are best; allow time for it to cool
between scrapings so that the base is saturated. Hot scraping (applying
prep wax and scraping while warm) is an effective way to remove contaminants and old wax without the harshness of chemical cleaners.
Hydrocarbon Race Waxes
Hydrocarbon waxes are usually the first layer applied to race bases.
They are composed primarily of paraffin, a petroleum byproduct with
good hydrophobic properties. Most manufacturers offer a range of
temperature specific hydrocarbon race waxes. The following is a basic
Cold wax: For snow temperatures approximately 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12º Celsius) and below. This is a mix of paraffin and synthetic
Fluoro overlays. Back row (left to right): Toko Helx, Dominator 65 Fluid, Swix
FC8A, Holmenkol Speed Finish. Middle row (left to right): Toko JetStream
Powder, Dominator Q, Swix FC8L, Swix FC78. Front row: Toko JetStream
Bloc, Dominator Q6, Swix FC10BS, Swix FC8WS, Holmenkol Speed Block.
Race hydrocarbon waxes
paraffin with hardening
additives that make wax
more durable and resistant to dry friction caused
by sharp snow crystals.
Midrange wax: For snow
10ºF (-12ºC) and 28ºF (-
2ºC). This is a medium wax
formulated to counteract
the effects of both moderate dry and wet friction.
Warm wax: For snow
temperatures 28ºF (-2ºC) and above. This is a soft wax mix of paraffin
and silicone, a hydrophobic additive that makes wax more water-repellent to combat wet friction.
Graphite and Molybdneum
These additive waxes are applied to reduce the drag-inducing static
generated as a base travels over fine-grained snow when humidity is
low and temperatures are cold. They also repel contaminates such as
dirt, lubricants and pollen in old snow; these become increasingly common in springtime. Introducing graphite or molybdenum helps equalize
temperatures along the full length of the base, reducing the potential for
hot spots that can create more water and subsequently greater suction.
To apply, rub on a thin layer of the wax (rubbing distributes the graph-ite/molybdenum particles evenly over the entire base surface), then drip
on your hydrocarbon race wax of the day and heat them in together.
Extreme Cold Powders
Coarse snow crystals, manmade snow and ice are especially abrasive and can strip wax from bases very quickly, which can create base
“burn,” an oxidizing process that seals P-tex and diminishes its ability to absorb future wax. Extreme cold powders are made primarily
of hard synthetic paraffin to combat this. Sprinkle it on bases — or at
least along edges where base burn risk is greatest — before dripping
your hydrocarbon race wax over it. The two can then be melted in