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How to Choose Ski Wax
Wax is important for two reasons. It improves glide and protects your ski/snowboard base from oxidation that will degrade its properties and shorten its useful life. There are several forces that work against you:
- Wet friction - overcome by wax and brushing.
- Dirt friction - overcome by moly additives to wax.
- Static friction - overcome by moly additives to wax.
- Kinetic friction - overcome by wax and brushing.
The ski/snowboard base is like a sponge in that soaks up wax; the wax will bleed out of the base as you ski and lubricate the surface to enhance your glide and protect your ski base against these frictional forces that can contribute to oxidation. But remember that you ski on your base, not your wax, the wax only lubricates. So you need to scrape and brush all the wax off the ski base surface otherwise the sharp snow crystals (especially for fresh snow) will dig into that wax and slow you down.
Everyone starts with a hydrocarbon wax. This is the most basic of waxes. Recreational skiers will use this alone; racers and high performance seekers will use wax with additives.
All waxes use a hydrocarbon base to which various additives are incorporated.
- Hydrocarbon waxes: These waxes are primarily made up of three types of hydrocarbons: paraffin, microcrystalline, and synthetic waxes that are combined together in various proportions. Paraffins are soft, candle-like waxes, that have low coefficients of friction allowing the ski to glide easily over the snow crystals. Microcrystalline waxes are a branched type of hydrocarbon that are more durable than paraffins and do not wear off as fast. Synthetic waxes are slightly branched hydrocarbons that also make the wax stronger.
- Molybdenum (moly) or graphite additive: The molybdenum additive counteracts electrostatic effects that slow you in cold, dry snow; it also repels dirt in warm snow. Molybdenum is better than graphite, and considered a speed additive as well.
- Fluorocarbon additives: Fluorocarbons are hydrocarbons where some or all of the hydrogen atoms (attached to the carbon backbone) have been replaced with fluorine atoms. Fluorine is very hydrophobic, meaning that it repels water molecules. Fluorocarbons give increased glide in moist and wet snow conditions by reducing the attraction between the water and the base.
NOTE: RaceWax high fluoro waxes don't drip on; use the crayon method (see the Wax Application link above for more details).
There are three levels of fluoro racing wax in the RaceWax series:
- The FluoroMax wax system is designed for speed and simplicity. It is a high fluoro wax with two temperature ranges. The all-temperature wax is great for speed-seeking non-racers, a race system for young racers, or for race training wax for all levels. Use the molybdenum version in warm-dirty as well as dry snow to counter electrostatic effects.
- The T-series wax is highly-loaded with fluoro and starts with a hydrocarbon wax with more (five) finely tuned temperature ranges than the FluoroMax wax. The black TX series wax adds molybdenum to the T-Series wax. Use the molybdenum TX-Series in warm-dirty as well as dry snow to counter electrostatic effects.
- The Hybrid wax series is a high-fluoro wax that continues to place racers on the podium. Starting with the highest quality hydrocarbon wax, two types of fluoro speed additives are used to build a superior wax. There are five specific temperature ranges. The black X series wax adds molybdenum to the Hybrid wax. Use the molybdenum X Hybrid in warm-dirty as well as dry snow to counter electrostatic effects.
Wax Temperature Ratings
RaceWax temperature rating numbers are for air temperature, not the snow temperature.
For RaceWax hydrocarbon waxes there are 3 basic types:
- Warm rated (Red) hydrocarbon (PB-1000) is best above 25 F. It is a great wax to ski on but is also used for conditioning a new base and is the best wax for hot-wax-scrape-cleaning.
- Cold rated (Green) hydrocarbon (PB-1010) is best below 25 F. Combined with the red it makes a complete wax system for most skiers.
- Universal all-temperature (White) hydrocarbon (PB-1030) is a good one-wax system for non-racers. At temperatures above freezing the wax will work, but not as well as the red hydrocarbon wax (PB-1000).
- If you do ski in the ultra cold or ski very aggressively and you tend to get dryness in your bases (especially under the bindings) you may want to consider using the Swix CH3 powder as an additive to your wax of choice to harden and fortify it. Just apply your wax, spread it with the iron, sprinkle on CH3, then iron them in together.
RaceWax fluoro waxes have five temperature ranges and the cited numbers represent the "sweet spot" for each temperature bracket. While each wax will still work well above each cited range, if the temperatures are below that range (or other factors apply - see below) it would be best to use a colder wax.
Race Day Considerations
Factors that affect wax selection include:
- Temperature: For RaceWax waxes, use the air temperature as a starting point in the selection process. Most race days vary in temperature between the morning and afternoon; select a wax for the coldest temperature of the day.
- Snow crystals: New snow is sharp. For this wax colder.
- Humidity: RaceWax formulations are fairly insensitive to humidity. The wax selection changes depending if the wax is wet enough to make a snowball. Consult the Wax Wizard for details.
- Wind: If the air is dry it will decrease the moisture in the snow making conditions drier. If it is foggy, the moisture will increase; brushing will be important here.
- Sun: If the critical flat sections of the course are in the shade wax colder, and if they are in the sun wax warmer and brush thoroughly.
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- Base Structure Theory
- Edge Tuning
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- Sidewall Cutting
- Wax Application
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- Choosing Wax
- Wax Charts
- Choosing Tuning Kits
- Tuning Kit Instructions
- Essential Equipment List
- Fluoro Powder Application
- New Skis/Board Care
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