Unlike hydrocarbon race
waxes, which have carbon
molecules with neutrally
charged hydrogen atoms,
fluorocarbons contain nega-tively-charged fluorine atoms. They repel water more
efficiently, reducing wet friction between the base and
the snow. They also help
keep bases cleaner in dirty
snow by repelling dirt particles, which, like fluorine atoms, are negatively charged.
Fluorocarbon waxes are offered in specific temperature ranges as well as a
range of formulations.
Low-fluoro (2% to 3% fluoro content) for low-humidity conditions when
it’s hard to make a snowball.
Mid-fluoro (3% to 5% fluoro content) for mid-humidity conditions when
it’s easier to pack a snowball.
High-fluoro (5% to 15% fluoro content) for high-humidity conditions
when it’s easy to pack a wet snowball.
Fluoro waxes are best applied atop their hydrocarbon race wax counterparts. Assuming that humidity levels warrant it (and your budget allows
it), you can also apply layers of increasing fluoro concentrations over your
hydrocarbon wax — for example, low fluoro wax layer
over hydrocarbon wax layer,
then higher fluoro over the low
Race fluoro overlays
One-hundred-percent fluoro-carbon overlays are applied last,
assuming that snow conditions
warrant their use. These are
available in a variety of block,
powder or liquid forms in tem-perature-specific formulations.
Of all the overlays, powders require the greatest expertise and are best applied indoors where wind won’t interfere. They’re sprinkled evenly over the
ski or snowboard base, then melted into underlying wax layers using a hot
wax iron, roto-cork or felt polishing block. Finish with a stiff nylon or horsehair brush followed by a soft nylon polishing brush for best results.
Using an iron to melt in powder yields the greatest wax durability, but
it is essential to adhere
to the manufacturer’s
temperature recommendations and application guidelines to
avoid base damage and
the potential of creating
Traditionally used by
for maximum wax dura-
Types of friction
Wet friction: Water absorbed by a dry base
Dirt friction: Sharp or sticky contaminates in
the snowpack create drag.
Static friction: Static “cling” is generated when
a base slides over dry snow.
Dry friction: Sharp snow crystals literally tear at
P-tex bases to create drag.
bility on long icy World
Cup speed courses and
longer nordic races, it’s
an unnecessarily risky
application for most juniors, masters, coaches
or parents to attempt.
A safer alternative for
this process is to use a
felt polishing block or
roto-cork to rub and
melt in overlays, creating heat via friction to
melt fluoros into the
base. Although they
don’t generate temperatures as high as an iron
to yield equally durable
results, these techniques
effectively bypass the
safety and health concerns of ironing while
still providing the same
fluoro speed benefits for
later on the racecourse.
These are 100-percent
powders that are poured
into a mold and compressed under extreme
pounds). This process
not only transforms
them into solid form,
but also crunches fluoro
particles into a smaller size, which melts into bases at a lower temperature
Fluoro blocks are applied by rubbing a thin, even layer onto a ski or snowboard base, then melting in with a natural hand or roto-cork. They are then
finished with a soft nylon polishing brush.
Liquids & Pastes
Liquids and pastes are usually the fluid equivalent of powders or blocks, at
least when offered by the same manufacturer. They contain fluoro particles
smaller than those used in powders or solids, which, combined with an
evaporative solvent, allows them to permeate deeply into underlying base
material and waxes. They’re sprayed or wiped on with a lint-free cloth, allowed sufficient time to dry, then hand-corked and brushed with a nylon
The wide array of modern waxes offer solutions to the problem of friction
unimagined 150 years ago. Making a wax choice can seem overwhelming.
We recommend doing some research, picking a wax system and sticking
with it (at least for a while) and learning it well. Reducing some of the variables can help you achieve repeatable results.
Choosing the Right Wax
Consider the following conditions before
deciding on the best race wax for the day:
1. Snow temperature: Measure with a thermometer inserted within the top quarter-inch of the
snowpack for accurate results and to determine
which temperature range wax to use.
2. Air temperature: Usually fairly close to the
snow temperature, but if it’s significantly warmer, it
will tend to warm up the snow, which can affect your
choice of wax by race start time.
3. Snow crystals: If snow crystals on the race
course are new and sharp, you need a harder wax
to prevent crystals from digging into the base and
creating drag. If crystals are rounder and wetter, a
softer wax will provide greater water repellency and,
therefore, faster glide.
4. Humidity: This will determine if you want low,
medium or high fluoro waxes. The higher the humid-
ity, the higher you usually want the fluoro content in
the wax to be.
5. Wind: If the air is dry, wind will tend to decrease
moisture in the snow. If it’s foggy or moist, wind can
add moisture to the snow.
6. Solar exposure: If critical flat sections on the
course are in the shade, wax colder. If they’re in the
sun, wax warmer.
7. Miscellaneous: There’s always more consider-
ations you can factor in, such as graphite additives
to combat static conditions in very dry snow, wax
hardeners for very abrasive ice or manmade snow,
etc. How far you want to take it is up to you, but at
least pay careful attention to the first 3 or 4 factors
if you want to finish on the podium.
Scott Churchill is the owner of Tognar Toolworks ( tognar.com), a worldwide purveyor of
ski tuning tools and waxes.