top of page

Technical information 

INTRODUCTION

 

The following discussion is intended to give you a better understanding of how wax works and how to best prepare your surface for competition. It begins with a three-page summary that contains the minimum information someone who wants to grow for a race needs. Those who take the time to read the detailed document will be rewarded with a clear understanding of the operating principles and - regardless of experience - a different approach to growing in competition. In the words of a well-known World Cup technician: "It's a look behind the curtain, and a lot of things that have confused me for years now make a lot more sense." It's also about science, but it's been simplified so a science background isn't necessary.

SUMMARY

 

The information is divided into four main topics:

 

  • Snow friction and how to reduce it

 

  • Apply wax to the covering

 

  • The three steps of competitive waxing

 

  • Strategy for race day

 

Snow Friction and How to Reduce It:Snow friction is the resistance that the surface encounters when moving on snow and is made up of at least two, and sometimes even up to four, components:

 

  • Dry friction

 

  • Friction caused by environmental pollutants

 

  • Wet suction

 

  • Electrostatic friction

 

 

On very cold, clean snow, only dry friction and electrostatic friction are present; on dirty spring snow, all four snow friction components are present. On competition routes there is almost always friction from pollutants due to the chemicals used by the organizers as well as oil and exhaust fumes from the snow groomers.

Snow friction is reduced by applying wax, which acts as a lubricant.To achieve maximum speed, the wax must reduce all friction components present.

 

Applying the wax to the base: There are two ways to apply wax to the substrate: absorption and adhesion.

 

  • The covering material is very compatible with hydrocarbon waxes and melted wax and are absorbed by the base material. Optimal conditions for absorption are an ironing temperature of 20°C above the melting temperature of the wax and an ironing time of one to two minutes. Softer, lower melting waxes are absorbed deeper into the base than harder, higher melting waxes; Waxes that require an ironing temperature of 145°C or higher are unlikely to be absorbed into the covering and remain close to the surface. Hot waxing is the most common and effective way to add wax to the surface. With this type of application, the wax is melted and applied to the covering by ironing. The heat from the iron serves two purposes: it melts the wax and heats the polyethylene. The melted wax is now free to move and the hot polyethylene has the ability to absorb wax in its amorphous areas. This absorption of wax into the base material is a reversible process and depends on temperature; as the covering material heats up, it absorbs wax; as it cools, it expels wax. The colder the surface gets, the more wax is squeezed out. So when you iron wax into the base, the wax in the core of the base acts like fuel in a gas tank; As the base slides on the snow and it gets colder, the wax is pressed to the surface of the base and provides lubrication. Not all of the wax is pressed out, there is always some wax left that is absorbed by the base, even at very low temperatures.

 

  • Hydrocarbon waxes adhere well to the base even without heat, and a surface layer of wax can be applied to the base by rubbing a wax block and then polishing. With this surface treatment, the wax only adheres to the surface; it does not penetrate the core of the covering. Non-heating application methods include rub-on waxes, pastes, and liquids. The durability of the wax layer applied without heat is limited and depends on the snow conditions, the hardness of the applied wax, the presence of wax on the surface and the base core that can act as a binding agent and, above all, the polishing method.

 

The three steps of competitive waxing: Snow sports are unique, and most require different strategies, tactics and techniques, but there are three main steps that are common to all snow sports:

 

  1. The base preparation, which is carried out in the wax room to clean and prepare the base, and the choice of wax for this step are independent of the snow conditions.

 

  1. Applying glide wax to increase gliding speed and choice of wax may depend on expected snow conditions.

 

  1. On-site application of waxes and overlays to increase glide speed, refresh the wax or adapt the base to changing snow conditions, with the choice of wax depending on the known snow conditions.

 

There are three aspects of basic preparation:

 

Preparation of new coverings - If the base is new or freshly sanded, a few applications of a base prep wax will be required to incorporate sufficient wax into the core of the base.

 

Removal of old wax and dirt through hot scrape cleaning -- The Baseprep wax dissolves old wax and lifts the dirt from the covering during the ironing phase; If you peel the Base Prep wax from the base while it is melted, old wax and dirt will be removed from the base along with the Base Prep wax.

 

Basic preparation of the surface - This is intended to create the basis for the gliding wax: The core of the covering must be filled and the surface of the covering must have a composition that does not affect the properties of the gliding wax.

 

Glide waxing maximizes speed by reducing snow friction. It can be done in the wax room or on site, and the choice of wax depends on the snow conditions.

 

Due to time and equipment constraints, hot waxing is typically performed in the waxing room the day before the competition. This requires some guesswork about the snow conditions at the time of the competition. The choice of wax depends on the snow temperature, the shape of the snow crystals and, for DOMINATOR competition waxes, the age of the snow (new or old). Snow that has fallen (natural or artificial) is considered new until approximately two days after snowfall.

 

The application of waxes and coatings on the slopes takes place shortly before the start and depends on the current snow conditions. Their purpose is to provide more speed together with the gliding wax. To date, fluorocarbon powders have been most commonly used because they provide excellent acceleration on wet snow. Other common overlays are Rub On`s, which cover a wide range of snow conditions, from very cold to very wet, and can be formulated in both fluorine and fluorine-free versions. The durability of overlays is generally limited; they range from a few hundred meters to a few descents. However, they are easy to apply and offer a significant speed advantage, which is why they are widely used in competition.

 

Competition day strategy: Snow sports are unique, and most require different strategies, tactics and techniques. Waxing for a single run is very different from waxing for multiple runs during a ski or snowboard halfpipe day, but some strategies are common to all disciplines:

 

  • Obtain a good weather forecast for the times the competitor will be on the course.

 

  • Find out if they provide snow to the competition area or treat the course with chemicals.

 

  • Expect the snow to be colder than the air, especially in the morning.

 

  • When in doubt, grow colder.

 

  • When in doubt, grow for fresh snow.

 

  • Allow enough time to correct the wax with paste or rub ons if necessary once you are on the mountain.

 

  • For events with several rounds, the time interval between the rounds must be determined.

p1.jpeg

TECHNICAL MANUAL

The information in this manual is grouped into four main topics:

  • Snow friction and how to reduce it

  • Delivering wax to the base

  • The three steps of competition waxing

  • Competition day strategy

SNOW FRICTION AND HOW TO REDUCE IT

 

Snow friction is the resistance that the base encounters when moving on snow, and it is the sum of at least two, and sometimes up to four components:

  • Dry friction

  • Friction from environmental pollutants

  • Wet suction

  • Electrostatic friction

DRY FRICTION appears when snow crystals are rubbing the base, and is reduced by the application of hydrocarbon waxes as lubricants. The hydrocarbon must be harder than the snow; if the snow is harder and the wax is penetrated, lubrication is lost. If you see snow sticking to the base, this means that the wax is too soft for the snow and the base feels slow. The first indicator of snow hardness is the snow temperature; this is why waxes have specific snow temperature ranges. Since colder snow is harder, waxes for colder snow are harder than waxes for warmer snow. The second and nearly as important indicator is the snow crystal shape. Most new snow crystals are sharp and pointy and become rounder as they age or the snow is groomed. As the crystals age and become rounder, their wax penetrating power is reduced. Among new snow crystals, certain shapes are much more aggressive than others: star-shaped crystals penetrate wax much more easily than needle-shaped crystals, even when both types of crystals are at the same temperature. Therefore, both crystal shape and snow temperature are factors that determine how easily a snow crystal can penetrate wax. An aggressive snow crystal will require a harder wax than a more rounded crystal at the same snow temperature.

 

 

Reducing dry friction: Dry friction occurs when the base and the snow contact each other through invisible microscopic irregularities called asperities. The easiest way to visualize how a lubricant works is to think of a deck of playing cards where the cards slide easily against each other when pushed sideways. When a lubricant is placed between the snow asperities and the base asperities it causes a slipping effect, helping the base slide faster on snow, while “cards” are left behind. Eventually, you run out of cards and have to replenish the lubricant.

Dry friction is reduced by using a hydrocarbon wax as a lubricant. For the hydrocarbon wax to be effective as a lubricant it must always be harder than the snow; this is the cardinal rule of waxing. If the snow is harder and the wax is penetrated (imagine a nail piercing the cards), lubrication is lost.

 

 

Although the first consideration in using a wax that is harder than the snow is snow temperature (colder snow is harder, so waxes for colder snow are harder than waxes for warmer snow), there is another factor which cannot be ignored: the snow crystal shape.

 

 

 

 

 

The snow crystal chart above shows the types of new snow crystals. As these crystals age or the snow is groomed they become rounder. We see that certain shapes are much more aggressive than others: The star-shaped crystals on the left side of the chart will penetrate wax much more easily than will the rounded crystals on the right side of the chart, even when both types of crystals are at the same temperature. As the aged crystal becomes more round (less aggressive) its wax penetrating power is reduced. Therefore, both crystal shape and snow temperature are factors that determine how easily a snow crystal can penetrate wax. An aggressive snow crystal will require a harder wax than a more rounded crystal at the same temperature.

If the wax must always be harder than the snow, the logical question is why not wax with very hard waxes all the time and ensure that this condition is met? How easily these cards slide

  

against each other depends on the friction between them. Let’s call the friction between two cards internal friction (FI). Think of a soft wax, such as yellow, as a deck of small cards with low internal friction. Think of a harder wax, turquoise, as consisting of larger cards; this is shown below. It takes more effort to move the larger cards against each other, so harder waxes have higher internal friction than softer waxes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At first thought, the wax must be as soft as possible so internal friction is low, as long as it is harder than the snow. There is, however, another consideration: softer waxes have a higher initial resistance to motion. The people in the field call that “slower to break.” The explanation for this is complex and not critical here, so we will skip it. What we need to know is that the lower internal friction of soft waxes will give them a higher top speed, but it will take a little longer to get to that speed. In downhill racing a potential higher speed is an advantage that justifies the initial resistance to motion, but in slalom where the high speeds of downhill are not reached, the initial low speed of the softer wax will be a disadvantage. So it helps to think of the softer waxes as taller gearing for a bike; lower initial acceleration, higher top speed.

A good understanding of this concept can give a significant edge because it plays a big part in snow sports competition. Let’s use two iconic downhills, Kitzbuehel and Wengen, as examples. Since the start is at higher altitudes, the snow is typically colder there than at the flatter sections further down the course. Clearly, having the ideal wax for the flats is critical to speed, and to have that means waxing too warm for the colder start. This is not a concern for Kitzbuehel because the start is steep and gravity easily overcomes the initial “taller gearing” of the softerwax. This is not the case in Wengen, where the start is fairly flat and a softer wax will give lower acceleration. So technicians often compromise and use a somewhat harder wax in Wengen than would be ideal for the later section of the course, so they can get better acceleration at the initial section. A technician with a good understanding of the “gearing” concept will iron in the ideal wax for the lower flats, and at the start will rub on a thin layer of the harder wax more suitable to the conditions at the start. This way both sections will have wax with the ideal hardness. This is clearly not an exact process like spaceship pieces disengaging at certain altitudes; it is impossible to know exactly where the harder wax will wear off. But this system definitely works and offers a significant speed advantage.

The “gearing” concept also has implications for different snow sports disciplines. Compare ski cross and snowboard cross, the same day, on the same course. One would expect that the same wax would be used for both disciplines, but this is not the case. The skiers have poles which they can push to overcome the initial resistance of the wax, helping it “break.” The snowboarders don’t have that option and must rely on the initial acceleration of the wax alone to get them to speed, so the snowboarders must wax a bit harder than the skiers for the same course and snow conditions. In cross, four or six competitors are on course at the same time

 

and a number of tangles and sudden stops during the same run are not uncommon; fast acceleration to get going again is critical at several points of the course in cross events, not just the start.

Image 1.png
Image 2.jpg
Image 3.jpg
Image 4.jpg
Image 5.png

Hydrocarbon wax technology

 

The most effective base lubricants for skis and snowboards are hydrocarbon waxes. Hydrocarbons are so called because they contain two elements, hydrogen and carbon, and they can be either natural (derived from petroleum) or synthetic. Its basic building block is the methylene group CH2, which contains one carbon and two hydrogen atoms and which we represent with a red circle.

 

 

 

 

These building blocks can be strung together to form linear waxes called paraffins (the... in the figure represents additional building blocks not shown for space reasons).

 

 

 

 

The properties of paraffins depend heavily on the number of building blocks. Gases contain up to four (propane has three building blocks); Liquids contain up to 18 (octane has eight building blocks) and solid paraffins contain 19 or more building blocks. As the number of building blocks increases, the paraffins become harder and melt at higher temperatures. It is important to know that the paraffins used in ski and snowboard waxes do not consist of individual components, but are mixtures of individual paraffins. A soft paraffin is a mixture of individual paraffins with 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 and 28 building blocks, i.e. a mixture of nine waxes with an average of 24 building blocks, at 53 ° C (128 ° F). melts. For a harder paraffin, the average number of building blocks is 32 and it melts at 60C (140 F), and for a super hard synthetic paraffin, the average number of building blocks is 52 and it melts at 110C (230 F). Natural paraffins have melting points up to 65C (150FO); synthetic paraffins must be used when a higher melting point or hardness is required. When the number of building blocks becomes very high, the paraffin turns from wax into a plastic called polyethylene. For extruded polyethylene the number of building blocks is 40,000 and for sintered polyethylene it is 200,000, i.e. H. Even in the plastic mold, more building blocks lead to a harder material.

 

Paraffins are hard and slippery and are the main components of hydrocarbon ski and snowboard waxes. As shown below, their linear structure allows them to be tightly packed and slide easily against each other.

 

 

 

 

 

The hydrocarbon building blocks can also be connected in a nonlinear manner to obtain microcrystalline waxes:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The linear part is called the backbone and the hanging parts are called side groups. Depending on the total number of building blocks and the configuration of the side groups, microcrystalline waxes come in different levels of hardness and melting point, ranging from sticky to elastic. Because of their side group configuration, microcrystalline waxes are not very tightly packed and do not slide together easily because the hanging groups of packed molecules tend to get tangled together. However, they are well absorbed by the surface and, due to their elasticity, are more resistant to being removed by the grinding snow than the paraffin waxes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite the poor sliding properties, small amounts of microcrystalline waxes are added to the paraffins because of their absorption capacity and durability in order to improve their durability and absorption capacity by the covering.

 

In summary, dry friction is reduced by using a hydrocarbon wax with the appropriate hardness selected depending on the snow hardness and discipline. Most hydrocarbon waxes used in skiing and snowboarding are mixtures of various types of natural paraffins, synthetic paraffins and microcrystalline waxes.

Image 6.jpg
<p class="font_8" style="font-size:45px; text-align:center"><span style="font-size:25px">POLLUTION BY ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTANTS (DIRT)</span></p>

<p class="font_8" style="text-align:center">&nbsp;</p>

<p class="font_8">The snow on competition courses is typically contaminated by one or more of the following factors: salt and clay from the water used for snowmaking, dyes and chemical hardeners used by event organizers, oil and exhaust from snow groomers, and pollen of trees. These contaminants can stick to the wax and significantly increase friction. It is important that the wax remains clean by being resistant to the penetration of hard contaminants and the adhesion of oily dirt. Penetration resistance is achieved by adding high-pressure lubricants such as graphite, molybdenum disulfide or ceramic to the hydrocarbon waxes. Resistance to oily dirt is achieved by adding fluorinated additives (commonly referred to as fluoros) to the hydrocarbon waxes. The type and amount of high pressure lubricant and fluorine must be carefully selected as some reduce the lubricating properties of the hydrocarbon waxes to which they are added.</p>

<p class="font_8">&nbsp;</p>

<p class="font_8"><span style="text-decoration:underline">Reducing friction caused by dirt</span>: Dirt and other environmental pollutants can be a deciding factor when choosing wax.</p>

<p class="font_8">&nbsp;</p>

<p class="font_8">We've already mentioned that the wax always needs to be harder than the snow, but that assumes the base slides on pure snow, and that's not always the case. The following images show this: In the first image we have clean snow, the wax is harder than the snow, and the wax cards can slide freely against each other. In the second figure we have a hard contaminant in the snow that some of the cards have penetrated and the friction is increased. To mitigate this problem, we add an extreme pressure lubricant to the wax, shown as black cards in the third illustration. Lubricant for extreme pressure, such as Some materials, such as graphite, have a structure similar to a deck of cards, so they are slippery. As the third illustration shows, wax that contains a high-pressure lubricant works much better on dirty snow than wax without one.</p>

<p class="font_8">&nbsp;</p>

<p class="font_8">&nbsp;</p>

<p class="font_8">&nbsp;</p>

<p class="font_8">&nbsp;</p>

<p class="font_8">&nbsp;</p>

<p class="font_8">&nbsp;</p>

<p class="font_8">&nbsp;</p>

<p class="font_8">&nbsp;</p>

<p class="font_8">&nbsp;</p>

<p class="font_8">&nbsp;</p>

<p class="font_8">The following common environmental pollutants can affect snow friction:</p>

<p class="font_8">&nbsp;</p>

<ul class="font_8" style="text-align:left">
	<li>
	<p class="font_8">Salts and clay from the water used for snowmaking</p>
	</li>
</ul>

<p class="font_8">&nbsp;</p>

<ul class="font_8" style="text-align:left">
	<li>
	<p class="font_8">Hardening chemicals and dyes used by race organizers</p>
	</li>
</ul>

<p class="font_8">&nbsp;</p>

<ul class="font_8" style="text-align:left">
	<li>
	<p class="font_8">Diesel exhaust from snow groomers and car exhaust from nearby highways</p>
	</li>
</ul>

<p class="font_8">&nbsp;</p>

<ul class="font_8" style="text-align:left">
	<li>
	<p class="font_8">Pollen from trees</p>
	</li>
</ul>

<p class="font_8">&nbsp;</p>

<ul class="font_8" style="text-align:left">
	<li>
	<p class="font_8">Especially in Japan: volcanic ash and salt from the monsoon snow</p>
	</li>
</ul>

<p class="font_8">&nbsp;</p>

<p class="font_8">In the spring, when much of the snow has melted away but the pollutants remain and their concentration is much higher relative to the snow, all of the pollutants mentioned above become much more apparent. On glaciers, pollution is so severe in late spring and early fall that only very hard waxes with extreme pressure lubricants are useful.</p>
Image 7.jpg
Image 8.jpg
Image 9.jpg

POLLUTION BY ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTANTS (DIRT)

 

The snow on competition courses is typically contaminated by one or more of the following factors: salt and clay from the water used for snowmaking, dyes and chemical hardeners used by event organizers, oil and exhaust from snow groomers, and pollen of trees. These contaminants can stick to the wax and significantly increase friction. It is important that the wax remains clean by being resistant to the penetration of hard contaminants and the adhesion of oily dirt. Penetration resistance is achieved by adding high-pressure lubricants such as graphite, molybdenum disulfide or ceramic to the hydrocarbon waxes. Resistance to oily dirt is achieved by adding fluorinated additives (commonly referred to as fluoros) to the hydrocarbon waxes. The type and amount of high pressure lubricant and fluorine must be carefully selected as some reduce the lubricating properties of the hydrocarbon waxes to which they are added.

 

Reducing friction caused by dirt: Dirt and other environmental pollutants can be a deciding factor when choosing wax.

 

We've already mentioned that the wax always needs to be harder than the snow, but that assumes the base slides on pure snow, and that's not always the case. The following images show this: In the first image we have clean snow, the wax is harder than the snow, and the wax cards can slide freely against each other. In the second figure we have a hard contaminant in the snow that some of the cards have penetrated and the friction is increased. To mitigate this problem, we add an extreme pressure lubricant to the wax, shown as black cards in the third illustration. Lubricant for extreme pressure, such as Some materials, such as graphite, have a structure similar to a deck of cards, so they are slippery. As the third illustration shows, wax that contains a high-pressure lubricant works much better on dirty snow than wax without one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following common environmental pollutants can affect snow friction:

 

  • Salts and clay from the water used for snowmaking

 

  • Hardening chemicals and dyes used by race organizers

 

  • Diesel exhaust from snow groomers and car exhaust from nearby highways

 

  • Pollen from trees

 

  • Especially in Japan: volcanic ash and salt from the monsoon snow

 

In the spring, when much of the snow has melted away but the pollutants remain and their concentration is much higher relative to the snow, all of the pollutants mentioned above become much more apparent. On glaciers, pollution is so severe in late spring and early fall that only very hard waxes with extreme pressure lubricants are useful.

Image 10.png

WET SUCTION If you put some water between two pieces of window glass, they stick together and it takes some force to separate because of the continuous water film that connects them. The same thing happens when the base slides on very wet snow, a water film connects the snow to the base, causing suction. The magnitude of wet suction depends on the moisture content of the snow. A little moisture present in the snow is a good thing, because the small droplets formed act as lubricating ball bearings that help the base glide on snow. As the content of water increases, the droplets change to a continuous film and that causes a suction effect between the base and the snow.

 

Reducing wet suction: If you cannot make a snowball, the snow is dry and there is no wet suction; if you can make a snowball but it crumbles, there is moderate moisture in the snow and some wet suction; and if you can make a snowball that stays together, the snow is wet and there is significant wet suction. The obvious way to reduce wet suction is to keep the water

In the form of droplets and prevent film formation. This is accomplished by waterproofing the base, so the water stays in droplet form as it would on a raincoat. Continuing our deck of cards model, we are waterproofing the wax by mixing some water repellent “cards” with the hydrocarbon cards. This is illustrated in the three figures below. In the first figure we have a hydrocarbon wax (yellow cards), there is a lot of water present in film form (shown in blue), and it completely covers the base. In the second figure, water repellent “cards” (shown in white) have been added to the hydrocarbon and the water breaks up into small spheres (as it does on a raincoat) and no longer sticks to the wax. The third figure is a photo of a base treated with a wax containing a water repellent, and shows how water beads up on the base.

 

Typical water repellent additives are fluoros, silicones, and nanotechnology water repellents. These additives tend to increase the dry friction of hydrocarbon waxes and must only be used on moist and wet snows, where the benefit from the reduction of wet suction outweighs the detriment caused by the increase in dry friction.

WATER REPELLENT TECHNOLOGY

Fluorinated additives are by far the most effective waterproofing agents available today, and are synthetic chemicals named PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkylsubstances). In addition to water repellency, PFAS demonstrate excellent oil and oily dirt repellency so they are very effective on dirty snow. The first of this type were perfluorocarbons and were introduced to the ski wax market in the early eighties. They are called perfluorocarbons because they contain two elements, fluorine and carbon. Their basic perfluorocarbon building block is the fluoromethylene group CF2 that contains one carbon and two fluorines and we will represent it by a blue square:

These building blocks can be connected in a row to give linear perfluorocarbons (the - - - in the figure represent more building blocks that are not shown because of space limitations).

As is the case with paraffins, the perfluorocarbons used in ski and snowboard waxes are not single components but blends of individual compounds. Lower melting perfluorocarbons are blends containing 16, 18, 20, 22, and 24 building blocks, with an average of 20 building blocks that melt at around 110OC (230OF). Higher melting perfluorocarbons are blends containing an average of 26 building blocks and melt at around 140OC (230OF). Perfluorocarbons do not mix with hydrocarbon waxes, so when applied on top of hydrocarbons they stay on the surface.

Because of this incompatibility, perfluorocarbons demonstrate low adhesion to the hydrocarbon wax and their durability is limited. They are fairly soft and are penetrated by aggressive snow, so their usefulness is limited to snow temperatures above -8OC (18OF). Perfluorocarbons demonstrate outstanding water repellency and very low internal friction within their use range, so they have found great favor in snow sports. In the late eighties research was initiated to broaden the scope of fluorinated additives by developing new types of PFAS that would be compatible with hydrocarbon waxes and effective at lower snow temperatures.

The best way to mix two incompatible chemicals is to use an amphiphile (from the Greek word meaning “likes both”). The most common example is the use of soap to remove oil while washing. Oil and water do not mix, so water alone cannot remove an oily stain from a fabric,

hands, etc. A soap is a molecule that contains two sections, one that dissolves in oil and one that dissolves in water.

When the soap is added to oil, the oil soluble section of the molecule dissolves in it and the water soluble section stays on the surface.

When water is introduced, the water soluble section dissolves in water and the oily stain is carried away by the water.

A similar concept was used to develop hydrocarbon-compatible PFAS, by generating molecules that contain hydrocarbon and perfluorocarbon building blocks. It was discovered that using eight perfluorocarbon and 14 to 20 hydrocarbon building blocks gave molecules with the best compatibility with hydrocarbon waxes and on-snow performance. These PFAS were called C8 fluoros based on the number of perfluorocarbon building blocks they contain, as shown below:

Hydrocarbon-compatible C8 PFAS alone:

The hydrocarbon segment of the molecule makes them compatible with the hydrocarbon waxes:

 

PFAS mixed with hydrocarbon:

 

When hydrocarbon waxes containing C8 PFAS are ironed into the base, the perfluorocarbon segment of the molecule remains on the surface and repels water. If a perfluorocarbon is now used on top of this C8 PFAS-containing wax, the fluoro blocks of the perfluorocarbon will align the C8 fluoro block of the PFAS in the wax, and the wax and overlay will be compatible; this will enhance the water repellency of the wax and the durability of the overlay:

PFAS mixed with hydrocarbon

and perfluorocarbon:

 

 

 

 

 

It is worth noting that the PFAS used by most wax companies are very similar and performance differences between brands are mostly due to the composition of the hydrocarbon wax, rather than the nature of the PFAS additive.

Health concerns about C8 fluoros led to the development of C6 fluoros, which, as shown below, contain six perfluorocarbon building blocks instead of eight:

 

C6 PFAS:

Unfortunately, the C6 fluoros are not as effective water and oil repellents as the C8 fluoros.

The reason for the outstanding water and oil repellency demonstrated by C8 and longer PFAS is purely spatial. Think of them as umbrellas, upright and parallel, and spaced very closely to each other.

 

 

Because of the tight packing of the umbrellas, oil and water molecules cannot penetrate their network. C6 PFAS have a less tight and not as parallel packing configuration:

 

 

This looser umbrella network allows more water and oil through, and repellency is reduced. At DOMINATOR, we developed C6 PFAS with molecular “magnets” built into the umbrellas which caused them to pack more tightly and improve water repellency significantly, but oil repellency was still inferior to that of the C8 PFAS.

PFAS based waxes are extremely effective and very popular, but health and environmental concerns about C8 and longer PFAS triggered strict control of their use by several government agencies. C6 PFAS are not regulated by government agencies, but several snow sports governing bodies, fearing that C6 PFAS may also be proven hazardous in the future, decided to ban PFAS waxes of any type in their sanctioned competitions.

PFAS additives represent the pinnacle of water repellency for ski and snowboard waxes, but these bans left the wax industry with no option but to use lesser technologies which had been abandoned thirty years ago in favor of the PFAS. Some wax companies have saluted the ban as an opportunity to develop better performing products, but this is based more on marketing hype and fantasy than performance reality. There is no better water and oil repellent than a perfluorocarbon; this area has been researched exhaustively by chemical companies with significantly better resources than wax companies.

Polydimethylsiloxanes (PDMS), commonly known as silicones have been used in the past to enhance the water repellency of hydrocarbon waxes, but with the advent of PFAS their use diminished; now with the ban, they are making a comeback. Silicones are industrial chemicals produced in very large volumes because they are well suited to a variety of applications, lubrication and water repellency among them. Silicone oils are used to waterproof lumber for outdoor application, shoe leather and upholstery, and as general purpose lubricants. Both water repellency and good lubricating properties are desirable in wet snow waxes. The problem is that silicones adhere poorly to the bases and tend to absorb dirt, so waxes containing silicones are unsuitable for dirty snow. Another drawback of silicones is that they reduce the hardness of hydrocarbon waxes and this makes them unsuitable for colder snow. For the above reasons, silicone-containing waxes are only useful for wet, softer new snow. In spite of their numerous drawbacks, silicone-containing waxes are currently one of the few moist snow alternatives for competitions where the use of PFAS-containing waxes is prohibited. The challenge is to modify them to enhance the positives and reduce or eliminate the negatives.

Polydimethylsiloxanes (silicones) are typically viscous oily polymers comprised of connected dimethylsiloxane building blocks of the formula:

The dimethylsiloxane name is derived from the fact that the building block, which we will symbolize by:

contains methyl groups (which are hydrocarbons), silicon (the element, Si, easy to confuse with silicone, which is the polymer), and oxygen. These building blocks can be connected in a row to give linear polymers, which are typically thick oils. The - - - in the figure represent more building blocks that are not shown because of space limitations.

Because of the high hydrocarbon content of the molecule, silicone polymers are somewhat compatible with hydrocarbon waxes, as shown below:

 

 

 

Soft hydrocarbon waxes containing these silicones demonstrate good performance on soft, new wet snow, but for colder snow conditions or for dirty wet snow adding silicones to the wax formulation is detrimental.

 

In spite of the drawbacks of silicones, we at DOMINATOR felt that there was enough potential to molecularly engineer good performance into these polymers. There are some wax-compatible silicones on the market that are somewhat suitable, but it is nearly impossible to get good custom performance with off-the-shelf items. Key to success would be to match the properties of the silicones to the snow conditions and the hydrocarbon wax used for these conditions; this would mean a number of different polymers and the introduction of amphiphile groups to make the silicone fully compatible with the hydrocarbon wax. In polymer engineering one works with select buidling blocks, each having a desired property. The proportion of each building block, its position in the polymer, and the total number of building blocks determine the final properties of the polymer. The desired properties of each silicone vary depending on the snow conditions it is intended for. For soft wet snow, water repellency is very important. For cold, hard snow, water repellency is secondary to resistance to penetration by hard snow crystals. And then you have all the intermediate conditions. The silicone polymers must also have similar melting points with the hydrocarbon waxes they are blended with. Otherwise, they will melt before or after the hydrocarbon wax during ironing and will be distributed unevenly on the base, or perhaps stay on the surface and get scraped off after cooling. All in all, a very challenging task requiring expertise, equipment, and facilities, but one that was the clear choice for us. In developing our custom silicone polymers, three building blocks were used, shown below:

  

                                       

 

 

                                                         1.                                                         2.                                           3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Block 1 provides excellent water repellency but impairs wax hardness, block 2 provides moderate water repellency and resistance to penetration, and block 3 provides low water repellency and high resistance to penetration. At the conclusion of the project we had developed, under the family name HYDROPEL, seven unique silicones with varying proportions, positions, and total number of blocks 1, 2, and 3, with the general structure shown below:

Each of these polymers was molecularly designed to match the individual water repellency and hardness requirements of each of our seven ELITE competition waxes.

The reason for the excellent water repellency of silicones is that they too, have an upright umbrella configuration as shown below:

 

The spacing of the silicone umbrellas, however, is much wider than those of the C8 PFAS and oil passes through. As a result, silicones show poor oil repellence and most of the liquid ones tend to absorb oil and oily dirt.

Metal stearates are molecules derived from metal ions, typically aluminum or zinc and stearic acid, an organic compound that contains approximately 17 hydrocarbon building blocks. The high number of hydrocarbon building blocks in stearic acid makes metal stearates compatible with hydrocarbon waxes. Metal stearates offer modest water repellency, and have been used as budget treatments for more than seventy years to waterproof concrete and textiles.

The spatial structure of zinc stearate is shown below:

 

 

 

 

 

The charged zinc atoms interact in a way that forms close packing clusters of four zinc stearate molecules, and the proximity of the hydrocarbon chains in the clusters is responsible for the water repellency. These clusters can be represented by the loose umbrella networks below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Metal stearates exhibit the lowest water repellency amongst the options discussed so far, and their high melting points are an added drawback to their use in ski and snowboard waxes. Their melting points require high ironing temperatures, typically 150OC to 175OC, and it has been well established that ironing temperatures of 145OC and higher are very detrimental to the base. Another drawback of metal stearates is their sensitivity to chemicals present in the snow. Salt, some types of clay, and snow hardening chemicals like urea, disrupt the metal interaction, so the umbrella packing becomes much looser and the barely adequate water repellency diminishes even further. A number of formulators have tried to overcome these problems by blending metal stearates with silicones, hoping to “average” the dirt absorption and the melting point of the two, but the reality is that once the mixture is melted onto the base, the components tend to separate and the original problems reappear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nanotechnology has been a very active area of research in the recent decades, as a method of imparting water repellency to a number of different surfaces, especially textiles. The basic premise is that a substrate is covered with a coating which generates a bumpy surface texture where the distance between bumps is in the nanometer scale. To offer some scale perspective, there are ten million nanometers in a centimeter (25 million nanometers in an inch). Air is trapped between the bumps and provides a springy cushion that prevents the water droplet from reaching the surface below the bumps. This effect is represented in the figure below:

 

 

 

There are a number of methods available to impart that nano-texture to a ski or snowboard base, and generally involves mixing graphite nanotubes, nano-sized grades of lubricants like molybdenum disulfide and tungsten disulfide, nanoceramics or colloidal metal oxides with the hydrocarbon waxes. These methods have been used with varying degrees of success, mostly because a significant increase in water repellency caused by the nanotechnology additive is often accompanied by an increase in the internal friction of the hydrocarbon wax caused by the same additive. Many metal oxide formulations, for example, show very good initial acceleration on wet snow at low speed, but their advantage disappears and eventually turns into a disadvantage at higher speeds.

It becomes quite evident from the above discussion that some very distinct technology options are available to reduce wet suction. At the time when all wax companies used C8 PFAS for that purpose, the performance differences between brands of fluorinated waxes were not very significant, and were based mostly on the hydrocarbon component of the wax. We expect that, depending on the water repellent technology each company uses, the performance gap between brands will widen significantly.

Image 11.jpg
Image 12.jpg
Image 13.jpg
Image 14.png
Image 15.jpg
Image 16.jpg
Image 17.jpg
Image 18.jpg
Image 19.jpg
Image 20.jpg
Image 20.1.jpg
Image 21.jpg
Image 22.jpg
Image 22.1.jpg
Image 23.jpg
Image 24.jpg
Image 25.jpg
Image 26.jpg
Image 27.jpg
Image 28.jpg
Image 29.png
Image 30.jpg
Image 31.jpg
Image 32.jpg
Image 33.jpg
Image34.jpg
Image 35.jpg
Image 36.jpg
Bild 37.jpg

ELECTROSTATIC FRICTION Research during the past thirty years has shown that every time a waxed base glides on snow, an electrostatic charge is generated on the base surface and the magnitude of this charge depends on speed; at downhill speeds nearly eight times as much charge is generated as does at slalom speeds. A way of visualizing electrostatic friction is by thinking of “static cling,” the static electricity causing items to cling together, like socks coming out of a dryer when you don’t use an antistatic dryer sheet. When the wax on the base is exposed to an electrostatic charge, its lubricating properties are reduced significantly. Electrostatic friction is the most overlooked and poorly understood component of snow friction. Contrary to the other three components, understanding it requires a firm grasp of complex, interdisciplinary science, access to instrumentation, and lots of on-snow testing. But learning how to deal with it is where the biggest gains in snow friction reduction can be realized.

 

Reducing electrostatic friction:

Mixing antistatic additives into the hydrocarbon waxes hinders the formation of electrostatic charges and preserves the lubricating properties of the wax. Typical antistatic additives include graphite, molybdenum disulfide and tungsten disulfide. The figure below shows static build-up as a function of skiing time in three situations: a base without wax (black line), waxed with a commercial hydrocarbon wax (blue line), and waxed with a DOMINATOR antistatic wax (red line). The skiing speed was approximately 25 km/h, at higher speeds the effects are much more pronounced. We see that static builds up very slowly, if at all, on the base without wax. Waxing the base with a hydrocarbon wax increases static build up significantly as glide time increases; after 30 seconds it starts to increase rapidly and at the minute mark static build-up is six times higher for the waxed base than it is for the base without wax. Using a wax with an antistatic additive prevents build-up of static, and the charging profile resembles that of the base without wax.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other tests have indicated that at downhill speeds nearly eight times as much charge is generated as does at slalom speeds.

The above information indicates that the internal friction (FI) of a hydrocarbon wax increases substantially when it becomes electrically charged. The addition of an antistatic agent (shown below as a black card), decreases the electrostatic charge and the internal friction of the wax.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above phenomena have manifested themselves many times in ski racing, even though most times they went unnoticed. A number of downhill racers have reported that they must have run out of wax, or out of overlay partway through their run, as the skis slowed down significantly

  

by the time they reached the lower flats. When the technicians looked at the skis after the race, they observed that there was plenty of wax left in the base. The high speeds of downhill kept accumulating charges on the wax, increasing its internal friction and impairing lubrication, which meant slowing down over time. Had they glide tested the skis just on the lower flats after the race, they would have found them fast, because after the skis are no longer moving, the electrostatic charge slowly dissipates. This effect is generally missed during glide testing because of the shorter duration of the test runs and somewhat lower speeds. We often hear from cross country competitors that during long races the DOMINATOR antistatic waxes are getting faster over time. The reality is that the other waxes are getting slower because of electrostatic charging, and since competitors felt they were out-gliding the others more during the later stages of the race than they were in the early stages, they assumed that their skis were getting faster. It has been amply demonstrated by our research that any wax can be made faster by the addition of an antistatic agent. There is little doubt that if you are using a wax without an additive, you are leaving performance on the table.

So for optimum performance, an antistatic agent must be present in every wax or wax mixture. This clear objective presents a number of challenges:

  • Several antistatic agents are available, but the type and amount must be selected very

    carefully; many of these agents show very high internal friction when moving against the

    wax “cards.”

  • New snow and old snow crystals generate static charges differently. Charge is distributed on

    the surface of the crystal so the shape, especially symmetry and edges, determines how this charge is distributed. This, in turn, determines how it will discharge and the type of antistatic agent necessary to facilitate this discharge.

  • A number of antistatic agents show quite unpredictable performance in some snow conditions. Graphite is a case in point; wax companies discovered decades ago that under certain conditions graphite waxes were much faster than waxes without graphite, and nearly every company offered graphite waxes. Field use showed that the performance of graphite waxes was unpredictable, and at times graphite had a very negative effect on speed. Unable to understand the reasons for this unpredictability, most companies eliminated graphite waxes from their product lines. And then there was a parade of new and improved agents like moly, tungsten (wolfram), etc., only to be taken out when they too proved to be unpredictable and risky to use without testing.

    In spite of the above challenges we allocated significant resources to the research of antistatic

    additives, since we felt that their role could not be ignored. We focused on the ones that could also double as extreme pressure lubricants and resist hard dirt. The first objective was to get the job done with as little additive as possible, since we knew that high levels of these additives can increase the internal friction of the wax. Conceptually, this presented the simplest of the challenges: we should use the smallest particle size we could find or generate, and achieve maximum coverage of the base. This is illustrated in the figure below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the same weight of additive, when the particle diameter goes from one millimeter to one micrometer (also called micron), the area covered by the particles is a thousand times greater. If it goes to one nanometer, the area covered is a million times greater. So we ball mill our additives to sub-micron diameters, typically 0.2 to 0.6 microns and get sufficient coverage with low levels of additive.

We discovered very early on that graphite is most often a very effective antistatic additive for new snow, but in some cases it increased friction. We eventually correlated performance to snow crystal shape and to the way the electric charges were distributed on the surface of the crystal. The complexity of the situation with graphite is shown below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the molecular level, all graphite types are the same, they are layered structures as shown on the left. Think of these layers in terms of the deck of cards example we used before; this graphite deck is slippery, antistatic, and cannot be pierced by hard impurities, so it can double as an extreme pressure lubricant. These layers are not visible to the naked eye or even through a very strong microscope. The photo on the right is a photograph of graphite powder; to the naked eye all types of graphite appear the same. The center photo was taken using a microscope, and it shows how molecules of graphite pack together; this is the key to the puzzle. Depending on the method of manufacture, graphite molecules can pack together as rods, plates, spheres or needles. The sizes of each shape vary as well, from under a micron to tens of microns. Each shape interacts differently with each type of new snow crystal so it may reduce friction on one type of snow, but increase it on another. Snow temperature plays an important role as well, and the effect of the antistatic additive on snow friction may also depend on the temperature. A “universal” antistatic/extreme pressure additive for all our new snow waxes was finally developed after sophisticated computer-aided experimental design, research work in state-of-the-art laboratories, and extensive on-snow testing. It is a custom blend of two graphite shapes, each in its own specific sub-micron size; if we change any one of the above variables, the additive is no longer effective on all new snow crystals.

           

Using the same principles, we developed a unique antistatic package best suited to the electric charge distribution on the rounded and compressed crystals of transformed snow.

All competition waxes in the DOMINATOR line contain antistatic additives and are divided into waxes for new snow and waxes for old snow based on the antistatic additive package they contain. A small number of our consumer and training waxes don’t contain antistatic additives, but the main reason for that is that some consumers object to the temporary staining of the base graphics by the antistatic agent package.

In conclusion, to reduce electrostatic friction, a carefully selected antistatic additive must be present in every wax or wax mixture.

Snow friction summary: To reduce snow friction, all four of its components (dry friction, friction from contaminants, wet suction, and electrostatic friction) must be addressed:

The most critical parameter in waxing is that the wax must always be harder than the snow, and, additionally, must be able to resist penetration by any hard contaminants present in the snow. It is necessary to have extreme pressure lubricants if there are substantial levels of hard contaminants in the snow.

The wax must be hydrophobic enough to inhibit the formation of a continuous water film. The most effective water repellents (PFAS) have been banned by some governing bodies, and hot waxes bases based on custom silicones have been developed that are just as effective as PFAS-containing waxes on warmer snow and significantly better on colder, more aggressive snow. The zone where perfluorocarbon overlays generally shine is snow temperatures of -7OC and warmer, or whenever a glaze appears on the course. While we now have fluoro-free overlays that come close, it is doubtful than anything will match the perfluorocarbons in initial acceleration, as they combine outstanding water and oil repellency and an extremely low friction coefficient. The next front in improving initial acceleration on wet snow will come from structure research, and the gap left by the perfluorocarbon ban will most likely be filled by structure profiles that break water into tiny droplets at very low speeds.

The most overlooked effect is that of static electricity on speed at all snow conditions. Significant gains are realized when an antistatic agent is added to the wax. Antistatic waxes with reliable performance and precise use guidelines will always outperform clear waxes.

Image 38.jpg
Image 39.png
xx_particle size.PNG
Image 41.jpg

DELIVERING WAX TO THE BASE

To get good insight as to how the wax is delivered to the base, it is very important to understand the interaction between the wax and polyethylene, the base material. As mentioned in the previous section, polyethylene is a hydrocarbon but with a far greater number of building blocks than the waxes, and this converts it into a plastic. In the schematic below, the lines represent polyethylene chains made of hydrocarbon building blocks with the general structure

and each chain contains anywhere from 40,000 to several hundred thousand building blocks.

The rule of thumb in chemistry is “like-likes-like”, which means that substances of similar chemical structures mix well together, so polyethylene is very compatible with hydrocarbon waxes.

 

Polyethylene contains two distinct regions called crystalline (circled in purple in the above schematic) and amorphous (circled in green). In the crystalline region the chains pack very closely and there is no room for wax. In the amorphous regions the chains are packed loosely and there is some room between them for wax to be absorbed. It is important to understand that these empty spaces where wax is absorbed are at the molecular level, they are not physical spaces or “holes” as they are often referred to, and they cannot be seen even with a very powerful microscope. A way to visualize the two regions is to think of the crystalline polyethylene as uncooked spaghetti that packs very closely, and the amorphous polyethylene as cooked spaghetti that has these empty spaces where wax can fit. Both crystalline and amorphous regions are present in a base, around 50-50 in a sintered, competition grade base; extruded bases have a lower amorphous content and absorb much less wax. A single chain of polyethylene can be part of both a crystalline and an amorphous region, as shown in the section circled in red. Amorphous regions can be transformed to crystalline regions when heated, it is believed that the curvy parts of the chains partially situated in amorphous regions start becoming straight and packing more closely. So with excessive heat, regions like the one circled in red are converted to regions like the one circled in purple. This increases the proportion of crystalline regions in the base and reduces wax absorption and speed. The depth of this transformation typically extends to more than 100 microns from the surface of the polyethylene, so stone grinding will not give a fresh surface and repair the damage. The rate of this amorphous-to-crystalline transformation becomes very significant at around 145OC, so it is important to keep ironing temperatures below that; otherwise, the ability of the base to absorb wax will decrease over time and the base will be slower. We have seen fast bases slowly lose their speed through the season when they are frequently exposed to high iron temperatures.

Hot waxing is the most common and effective form of delivering wax into the base. In this type of application, the wax is melted and applied onto the base by ironing. The heat from the iron serves two purposes: it melts the wax and it heats up the polyethylene. The melted wax is now free to move, and the hot polyethylene has the ability to absorb wax in its amorphous regions. This absorption of wax into the amorphous polyethylene is a reversible process and depends on temperature. When the base is heated up, wax is absorbed; when it cools down, wax is “squeezed” out. Below are the key events regarding the absorption of wax by the base:

  • Melted wax is absorbed by dissolving in the amorphous polyethylene regions as sugar dissolves in coffee. It does not go into holes in the base as is stated in some manuals, simply because holes do not exist. This dissolving is done at the molecular level.

  • More heat and more time mean that more wax is absorbed by the polyethylene. Optimum conditions for absorption are an ironing temperature of 20OC above the melting temperature of the wax (as long as the iron temperature is below 145OC), and ironing time between one and two minutes.

  • When the base heats up it absorbs wax; when it cools down it expels wax.

  • Softer waxes have lower melting points and their chains are shorter than the chains of

    harder waxes, so they are absorbed more easily and penetrate deeper than harder waxes.

  • Microcrystalline waxes penetrate deeper and hang on to the polyethylene better than

    paraffin waxes because of their shorter side chains.

The sequence below describes what happens when wax is ironed into the base. The black part represents the crystalline regions and the white part the amorphous regions; we will refer to the amorphous regions as “channels”. The amorphous regions do not expand on heating, the increased size while ironing in the schematics below is meant to indicate that more hydrocarbon wax dissolves in them when they are warm. The ruler marks between the two bases show the thickness of the wax layer on the base:

  1. Cold base without wax;

  2. The wax is ironed in and gets absorbed;

  3. The base cools to room temperature and some wax comes out. At this point the base is

    scraped and brushed, leaving only a very thin layer of wax and exposing the base structure;

  4. The base cools on snow and more wax comes out, and this process replenishes the surface

    wax layer during gliding; that’s why it is not unusual to be brushing wax out after a competition run, even though the base was brushed thoroughly before the competition run.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The thickness of the wax layer on the surface of the base is largely a function of how well wax is removed by brushing. The depth to which wax penetrates into the base is variable, and depends on the type of wax used to prepare the base and the number of waxing cycles, but in all cases this depth it is much smaller than the diameter of a human hair. This may sound insignificant, but it important to realize that friction happens at the interface between the base and the snow, so what is below the surface is important only as far as it influences the properties of the surface.

It is, however, abundantly clear that some wax is needed below the surface, because new bases that have not been waxed enough are slow, even if they have wax on the surface. Experienced technicians know that the base is not ready for competition until it looks shiny and the grind pops visually. The shine is attributed to the fact that since wax has been absorbed by the polyethylene, there is no air between the wax layer and the base, as trapped air makes the wax layer look cloudy.

We mentioned earlier that all hydrocarbon waxes are blends containing various chain lengths and that harder waxes have higher average chain lengths than softer waxes. This means that when a wax is ironed into the base you end up with the shorter chains deeper in the core and the longer chains closer to the surface. Taking that a step further, if the longer chains stay closer to the surface and on the surface, after scraping and brushing you end up with a somewhat softer wax in and on the base than the bar of wax ironed in. Conversely, the wax scraped off will be harder than the bar of wax ironed in. This will be important to remember when we discuss wax application by rubbing. It also has a number of implications regarding iron temperature. Using the same base and wax but a higher iron temperature means that more of the longer chains will be absorbed by the amorphous region than would when using a lower iron temperature. In turn, this means that a higher iron temperature will result in a base containing a harder wax. The general rule for consistent wax absorption when ironing is that you want a trail of liquid wax no less than 5 cm (two inches) long following your iron. This is less critical when hard synthetic waxes are used, because they stay near the surface anyway. The function of the heat when ironing hard synthetic waxes is to bond the hard wax with the softer wax which is on the surface and acts as a primer. So for the very hard waxes, assuming that the wax is fully melted under the iron, a 5 cm liquid wax trail is not necessary, especially if it necessitates base- damaging iron temperatures higher than 145°C.

At this point it would be instructive to look at the reverse of the wax absorption process, wax removal. Once the base is saturated with wax, scraped and brushed, it has wax dissolved in its core, and a thin coat of wax on its surface. Gliding eventually removes most of the wax from the surface, but the wax dissolved in the core is retained.

                                             

 

 

                                                                 Before gliding                                                                    After gliding

The wax that remains in the core can be removed or replaced if desired. We mentioned earlier that:

  • As the number of the hydrocarbon building blocks increases, hydrocarbons change from gases, to liquids, to solids and finally to plastics.

  • Hydrocarbons dissolve in each other (like-likes-like), and the shorter chains are more soluble into other hydrocarbons than longer chains.

  • Hydrocarbons with a smaller number of building blocks penetrate deeper into the base.

Base cleaners are typically blends of liquid hydrocarbons with an average of twelve building blocks, and when applied on the base they penetrate into the amorphous regions more deeply than the wax, and dissolve the wax. Even when you have a thin layer of base cleaner on the base, you have thousands more times base cleaner than you have wax dissolved in the base. As a result, after the base cleaner has been on the base for a period of time, what you have in the channels and on the surface is an extremely dilute solution of wax in base cleaner. After the base is wiped and whatever base cleaner/wax solution that could not be wiped off is allowed time to evaporate, both the channels and the surface will contain only traces of wax and no base cleaner, virtually returning the base in its pre-waxed state. Because of this deep cleaning process, it is known that base cleaners have a base drying effect. This is generally not desirable, unless of course the objective is to replace the wax dissolved in the base with another wax. A base that has been cleaned using a base cleaner will have to be reconditioned with penetrating hydrocarbon waxes before it can be fast again.

 

Removing a wax from the base without the use of a base cleaner requires hot scraping using a wax softer than the one to be removed. The softer wax will penetrate deeper, dissolve the harder wax, and after a number of hot scrape cycles, eventually replace it. Generally, the softer the wax to be removed, the deeper it will have penetrated, and the more hot scrape cycles will be needed to remove it.

 

As we go deeper into the subject, it will help to think of the amorphous regions of the base filled with wax as the tank, and the area of the tank at and just below the surface as the primer (mixing apples and oranges, here, but it works). Since softer waxes penetrate deeper and eventually replace harder waxes, the lower parts of the tank will contain the shorter chains used during the life of the base. As you get to the upper parts of the tank the average chain lengths will be gradually increasing; this is called a gradient. After a certain chain length the waxes can no longer penetrate into the amorphous regions, and the super hard synthetic waxes stay at or very near the surface. They are anchored on the base by the softer waxes because there is an interface between the softer wax and the harder wax where some of the softer wax chains dissolve partially in the harder wax. Repeated applications of harder waxes tend to dry the base, because when they are removed by abrasion, they pull some of the softer waxes out of the tank. In order for a hard wax to have good adhesion and durability, it is important that the base is reconditioned and the tank refilled after a number of hard wax applications; otherwise there will be no softer wax primer on the base for the hard wax to adhere to.

 

 

Sufficient time must be allowed between ironing and scraping. When the wax is melted (liquid), the cards are in random positions, away from each other. As the wax cools and solidifies, the cards are on top of each other but are not stacked well and internal friction is high. After some time, the cards organize themselves to a tight deck with minimum internal friction.

 

The cooling must be slow; if it happens too quickly (like taking a warm ski outside) the cards freeze in a position that has higher internal friction. Typical cooling times between ironing and scraping range from hours, for very soft waxes, to around 15 minutes for extreme cold waxes. If sufficient waiting time is not available for the wax to cool properly, paste or rub-on waxes are the best options.

If ironing is not an option, a surface layer of wax can be applied to the base by rubbing a solid bar, followed by polishing. In this surface treatment the wax only adheres to the base; there is no penetration into the amorphous regions. The durability of the wax layer applied by rubbing is limited, and depends on a number of factors:

  • Snow conditions, because colder and more aggressive snow crystals strip wax faster.

  • Hardness of the wax rubbed on, because it is difficult to rub appreciable amounts of very

    hard waxes on the base.

  • The condition of the base, because if there is some wax already on the surface, it provides a

    form of primer for the rub-on wax to adhere to.

  • The method used to buff the wax on the base, because pressure, buffing time, and heat

    have a significant impact on the adhesion to the base.
    A variety of methods are available to buff the wax on the base:

  • Hand corks, natural or synthetic;

  • White fibertex;

  • Proglide, which is our preferred method https://skimd.com/pro-glide ;

  • Roto cork;

  • Roto fleece

 

Roto tools generally require less effort, and generate more heat which promotes better adhesion.

 

Only soft and medium waxes give appreciable durability when applied by rubbing, because it is very difficult to apply an appreciable amount of a very hard wax on the base. Some recommend holding a bar of very hard wax to the roto fleece while it is spinning to get some on it and then transfer it to the base. While this saves some effort, it does not deposit appreciable amounts of wax on the base. If you weigh the bar of wax and the fleece roller together, before and after wax application, the amount missing after application will equal what was deposited on the base; this ends up being thousandths of a gram, barely enough to last through a short run. For medium- hard and hard waxes the Proglide delivers far better results than the roto options. The cylindrical design and textured surface result in extremely high pressures on the rubbed wax, fixing it very well onto the base and resulting in far better durability. But this method requires much higher effort, typically three to four rub-and-buff cycles taking 15 minutes or so.

 

Although the durability of rubbed-on waxes is typically limited to a couple of runs, the ease of application in terms of effort and time required, the fact that the snow conditions are known at the time of application, and the enhanced speed they offer make them very useful.

 

Liquid waxes and paste waxes, which are produced by dissolving the solid wax in solvents, are applied without heat. The solvent improves the ability of the wax to penetrate into the base compared to rubbing a solid bar of wax. Pastes typically contain 25-50% wax (the remainder being solvent) and liquids contain 3-10% wax. Because of the extra solvent, the liquids generally penetrate a little better than pastes. This is the sole advantage of liquids compared to pastes, and there are many significant disadvantages:

  • Most of the product in a liquid wax is solvent, which evaporates after application, so as much as 95% of what you apply (and pay for) disappears into the atmosphere. This has a significant impact on the carbon footprint; there is a lot of solvent and packaging that are released to the environment every time wax is applied.

  • The excessive levels of solvent may have, contrary to marketing claims, a base drying effect because the solvent pulls wax from the core of the base to the surface, and this wax is removed from there as the base glides on snow.

  • The solvents are flammable, which makes the liquid wax unsuitable for air travel.

  • In the cases of aerosols, respiratory protection is required; the tiny droplets of liquid that

    formed stay suspended in the air for significant periods and can pose a very serious

    inhalation hazard.

  • The very hard synthetic waxes are generally not soluble in the solvents used to make liquid

    waxes, so their temperature range is typically limited to snow temperatures of -10°C or warmer

 

 

Pastes are a far more sensible and environmentally responsible method of wax application compared to liquid pump and aerosol products:

  • Contrary to liquids, pastes can be formulated using extremely hard waxes and antistatic additives;

  • They do not pose an inhalation hazard;

  • They release at least five times less solvent into the environment;

  • They can be made safe for air travel;They offer better value for money.

 

Comparing paste waxes and hot waxes:

  • At least three times as much wax is absorbed by the base by ironing as compared to paste application.

  • Paste waxes are less durable than hot waxes. This can be somewhat mitigated by using a heat producing application method like a roto-cork to polish in the paste wax as it is drying.

  • Repeated use of paste waxes without hot waxing between applications may lead to dry and dirty bases. After repeated applications of paste, a base prep wax must be used to clean and condition the base.

  • Paste waxes can be applied on site when the snow conditions are known; with hot waxes there is usually guessing involved as it is generally done off-site, many hours before the base touches the snow.

  • Depending on the solvent system, use of paste waxes requires 15-60 minutes between application and brushing; depending on the hot wax used, the waiting time between ironing and scraping may be a few hours. This is very important when time is limited.

  • Most of the wax applied during hot waxing ends up being scraped and discarded; with paste waxing there is far less waste.

  • Excessive heat from ironing (a risk when using very hard, high melting waxes) can compromise the base by increasing crystallinity, flattening the structure and, for some high metal content ski constructions, damage the core of the ski.

  • Hot waxing requires a lot of equipment (bench, vise, iron, scraper, brush), and is generally seen as a workshop process. Paste waxing requires only a buffing pad and a brush, so it is convenient for travel and start areas.

 

 

Depending upon the situation, both hot waxes and paste waxes are useful, and they augment, rather than replace each other.

In summary:

  • Unless a new base is hot waxed and saturated with a softer wax, it will not attain its optimum speed and waxes will not be as durable.

  • The most effective way of delivering wax to the base is by hot waxing because wax is deposited in the core of the base material; using liquids and pastes “paints” the surface of the base.

  • Rubbing a bar of wax instead of ironing is effective for at least one run, and the process requires very little time. The rubbed-on wax runs a little colder than the same wax ironed in.

  • Pastes are preferable to liquids because they are more economical and environmentally friendly. Additionally, hard waxes can be formulated into pastes but not into liquid waxes.

  • Hot waxing requires time and equipment, paste application requires a buffing pad and a brush, and can be done one hour or less before going on snow.

  • Pastes are preferred for less experienced tuners, especially if hard waxes are used, because careless use of the iron can damage the base. But occasional base cleaning and conditioning with an ironed-in base prep wax will be needed.

  • Selective use of hot waxes, either ironed in or rubbed on, and pastes, can cover all waxing situations and needs.

 

Image 42.jpg
Image 43.jpg
Image 44.png
Image 45.png
Image 46.jpg

THE THREE STEPS OF COMPETITION WAXING

Snow sports disciplines are unique and most require different strategies, tactics, and techniques, but there are three main steps that are common to all snow sports disciplines:

  1. Base preparation, which is done in the waxroom to clean and condition the base, and wax choice for this step is independent of the snow conditions.

  2. Application of glide wax, which is done to increase glide speed, and wax choice depends on expected snow conditions.

  3. On-site application of waxes and overlays, which done at the competition site to increase glide speed, refresh the wax, or adapt the base to changing snow conditions, and choice depends on known snow conditions.

Base preparation

Base prep is done in the waxroom, and the process and choice of wax are independent of the snow conditions. There are three aspects to base prep:

New base conditioning -- As discussed earlier, the base material contains amorphous regions and it has been well established that the bases are fastest when these amorphous regions are filled with wax. When the base is new, or freshly stone ground, or cleaned using a base cleaner, a few applications of a base prep wax are needed to introduce sufficient wax in these amorphous regions.

Removal of old wax and dirt by hot-scrape cleaning -- The base prep wax dissolves old wax and lifts dirt from the base during the ironing phase; scraping the base prep wax while it is melted will remove old wax and dirt along with the base prep wax. How often this step is needed depends on the situation. If the base is clean and the wax to be used is the same as the last used, there is no need for hot scrape cleaning. If, however, the base is dirty or if a different wax is to be used, the base should be hot scraped. Otherwise, the new wax will mix with the old wax to give a wax of unknown composition; this is clearly not the best plan for friction reduction. And, leaving dirt on the base before applying the glide wax will give a dirty, and therefore slow, wax layer.

 

Base conditioning –This is intended to lay the groundwork for the glide wax: The amorphous regions must be filled and the surface of the base must have a composition that will not interfere with the properties of the glide wax.

The DOMINATOR base prep waxes are formulated to address all three phases of base prep. They are based on a unique blend of very hard waxes (represented by the gray box), and very soft, deeply penetrating waxes (represented by the orange box). The blend of the two waxes that is the base prep is represented by the orange and gray checkerboard.

When the wax is melted on the base, the hard and soft waxes gradually separate and start penetrating into the base material at different rates, as shown in the figure below:

 

 

 

The softer (orange) wax penetrates deeply into the amorphous regions. Some of the hard (gray) wax gets carried by the soft wax below the surface, but most of the hard wax stays at or near the surface. The filling of the amorphous regions addresses the first aspect of base preparation, new base conditioning.

 

If the amorphous regions are already filled with old wax, the melted soft wax will penetrate into the amorphous regions and dissolve the old wax. Scraping while the wax is melted and the base is warm will remove nearly all the melted base prep wax and the old wax that is dissolved in it. If there is dirt on the surface of the base, it will be suspended in the melted base prep wax and scraping the melted wax will remove the dirt. These actions address the second phase of base preparation, the removal of old wax and dirt by hot scrape cleaning.

Once the base is clean, a layer of base prep wax is ironed in and allowed to harden. After scraping and brushing the amorphous regions remain filled with soft wax and the surface will have a wax composition that will not interfere with the properties of the glide wax that will be subsequently applied. This is because the type and proportion of the soft and hard waxes have been carefully selected to have this property. These steps address the third phase of base prep, base conditioning before glide wax application.

In summary, base prep waxes are used for new base conditioning, removal of old wax and dirt from the base, and as a base layer/primer for the glide wax.

Application of Glide Wax

 

Glide waxing maximizes speed by reducing snow friction. Application of the glide wax can take place in the waxroom or at the competition site, and the choice of wax depends on snow conditions.

 

Hot waxing is typically done in the waxroom the day before the competition, due to the time and equipment needed. This requires some guesswork regarding the snow conditions at the time of competition. Wax choice depends on snow temperature, snow crystal type, and in the case of DOMINATOR competition waxes, on the age of the snow (new or old). Falling snow (natural or man-made) is considered new for about two days after it stops snowing.

 

If there is great uncertainty regarding the expected snow conditions, go with the coldest possible hot wax choice and take paste and/or rub-on glide waxes to the competition site. Once you know the actual snow conditions and if the hot wax chosen the previous day is too cold, select and apply the appropriate paste or rub-on wax on top of the hot wax. Paste waxes require 30 to

  

60 minutes to dry, and using a roto-cork and a roto-brush shortens the application time and improves the durability of the wax because of the added heat. If sufficient time for the application of a paste wax is not available, a rub-on can be used to match the wax to the snow conditions.

Paste and rub-on glide waxes are used on site to refresh the hot wax or to deal with changing snow conditions. For example, in multi-run events like skiercross or halfpipe, the hot wax may be depleted after a number of runs. In slalom or giant slalom the snow conditions may change between the first and the second run.

On-hill application of overlays

This is done a bit before start time, and choice depends on actual snow conditions. The purpose of overlays is to work together with the glide wax to increase speed. Until now, the most commonly used overlays have been fluorocarbon powders as they offer excellent acceleration on wet snow, but with some governing bodies banning fluoros, fluoro-free overlays are appearing at start areas. Other common overlays are rub-on waxes that cover a variety of snow conditions, from very cold to very wet, and can be formulated in both fluoro and fluoro-free versions. The durability of overlays is generally limited; they last from a few hundred meters to a couple of runs. But application is easy and they offer a significant speed advantage, so their use in competition is widespread.

Bild 48.png
Bild 47.jpg

COMPETITION STRATEGY

The most successful technicians, in addition to possessing experience, drive, and good analytical ability, are very adept in strategy and tactical execution. Before moving on, let’s look at the definitions:

Strategy is the overall plan, and involves operational patterns, activities, and decision making that govern tactical execution

Tactics are much more concrete smaller steps in a shorter time frame along the way of executing the strategy.

Techniques are operations developed to effectively utilize the tactical resources available.

To increase the chances of success, one has to have a clear understanding of how to conceive and execute all three of the above. Here is a case history: A ski cross competitor with a good chance of winning the event, favors one pair of skis because they have the fastest base and the best flex for the course and snow conditions. His technician’s strategy is to use the same pair of skis for all four heats, as these skis present the best chance of victory. The challenges are that the wax may not last for all four heats and that the snow conditions will most likely be changing through the day, so even if the wax lasts it will not be optimum for the snow conditions of the individual heats. The tactics will be to keep refreshing the wax for each heat, matching the wax to the snow conditions at that time. The available techniques involve the application of no iron-wax in the form of rub-on, liquid or paste. The choice between rub-on, liquid or paste will depend on the time available for replenishing the wax between heats. The plan was executed perfectly and the skier won the Word Championships.

In my years of competition service that included four Olympics and many World Cups and World Championships, in disciplines ranging from snowboarding to ski cross and ski jumping, I followed this method for every event and every athlete. I kept a log with snow conditions, waxes used, results and comments. After a while the process became automatic, and the log book became a valuable resource of past experiences. The human memory can only retain so much, and nothing solidifies a plan more than seeing, and often reworking it in writing. So the first part of competition strategy is to write down the strategy before the competition, and an evaluation of it after the competition.

Snow sports disciplines are unique, and most require different strategies, tactics and techniques. For example, waxing for a single Downhill run is very different than waxing for multiple runs during a day of ski or snowboard halfpipe. Some strategies are common to all disciplines, but each discipline also has its own variations:

Strategy common to all disciplines

  • Get a good weather forecast (WINDY is a great app) for the times the competitor will be on course. Snow temperatures can very significantly with athlete start number.

  • Ask if they are making snow in the competition area, or treating the course with chemicals.

  • Assume that the snow will be colder than the air, especially before noon; there is a lag

    between the air and the snow warming up between morning and noon.

  • When in doubt, wax colder, you never want the wax to be softer than the snow.

  • When in doubt, wax for new snow. New snow antistatic waxes are more universal than old snow antistatic waxes.

  • Allow enough time to correct the wax, if needed, with paste or rub-on once you get to the hill.

  • For multi-run events, figure out the time interval available to make wax adjustments between runs.

     

 

Strategy for single run speed events (DH & SG)

• Long runs mean significant snow temperature and pitch variations.
• Separate the course into snow temperature sections, noting the wax-critical sections (flats). 

• Focus on having excellent acceleration early on. There is no point having the perfect wax for the bottom flats if you enter them with low speed because of a poor wax choice for the top sections. Top speed is critical, so wax choice it typically the softer safe option.

 

 

Common World Cup tactics for DH and SG
• Use the suitable Legacy paste over the FFC2b travel wax for competitive training.
• Hot wax the suitable Legacy for the competition run, adjust with a Legacy paste as needed on race day. Use Butter, Q6 or Race Rocket overlay.
• Clean base by hot-scraping with FFC1 base prep or clean with FFC P1 paste base prep, then travel wax with FFC2b.

 

 

Strategy for higher speed multi-run events (GS, SX, SBX & SS)

• Course length makes for moderate snow temperature variation through the course, wax for the colder part of the course.
• Both low end acceleration and top speed are important, although low end acceleration is more important in SX and SBX than in GS.

• Time available between runs determines rub-on vs. paste. Typically, pastes are used between runs for GS, rub-ons for SX, SBX and SS.

 

 

Common World Cup tactics for GS, SX, SBX & SS
• Wax a bit harder for SX than you would for GS.
• Wax a bit harder for SBX than you would for SX.
• Use a colder wax near the edge. For example, if the conditions call for Legacy Q2, apply Legacy Q1 near the edge and Legacy Q2 on the entire base.

• For GS competition use the suitable Legacy paste for each of the two runs over the day wax (you may not need that for the first run if you had made the right wax call). Use Butter, Q6 or Race Rocket overlay.
• For SX and SBX competitions rub the appropriate Legacy hot wax between runs.

• Clean base by hot-scraping with FFC1 base prep or clean with FFC P1 paste base prep, then travel wax with FFC2b.

Strategy for moderate speed multi-run events (SL & HP)

• Short runs mean little snow temperature variation through the course.
• Low end acceleration is more important than top speed, so waxes are typically harder than for higher speed events.

 

• Time available between runs determines rub-on vs. paste. Typically pastes are used between runs for SL, rub-ons for HP.

Common World Cup tactics for SL and HP
• Apply a 2.5cm (one inch) strip of Psycho paste near each edge, iron (or apply with a hot roller) FFC 2c on the entire base. You can also use FFC P2c paste instead of the hot wax.
• For SL competition use the suitable Legacy paste for each of the two runs over the FFC2c. Use Butter, Q6 or Race Rocket overlay.
• For HP competition rub the appropriate Legacy hot wax between runs. Use Butter, Q6 or Race Rocket overlay.
• Clean base by hot-scraping with FFC1 base prep or clean with FFC P1 paste base prep.

In summary, using the right strategy, execution and available techniques and products, ensures that you will always have the right wax for the conditions, in spite of the uncertainty surrounding snow conditions at the time of the competition.

bottom of page