Today it is all about temperature and snow consistency. As you can see, facts that are quite important for your skiing can also be important for the preparation of your skis.
The preparation of alpine skis consists of two stages, sharpening and waxing. We still focus on waxing today. There are different waxes to support your skis gliding skills under different conditions.
The three main parameters for this decision are:
- The Temperature
- The Humidity
- The Snow Structure
The temperature is the easiest to determine. Racers usually measure temperatures and humidity along the course at various points including the start and finish areas. A tenth of a degree can alter not only the air temperature but also the snow temperature. The readings given are a percentage of the humidity in the air. Low humidity is shown when the reading is below 25%, normal 25% to 50%, and high is greater than 50%. For recreational use it is usually enough to have a look at the weather forecast for the day you want to go skiing. Most waxes have the air temperatures indicated on the packaging. Same is true for powders or finishers.
The snow structure is more complex to determine and requires more experience. This is to identify the grain structure of the snow. To make things simple, we can determine four different types of snow grain:
- “Fresh or new snow” crystals have pointed ends to the snowflake so the use of a hard wax is used to help prevent penetration.
- “Aged snow” crystals become dull and less sharp as the action of time and mechanical stress take their toll. However, this type of snow is the most common and is not normally exposed to temperatures above 0 degrees centigrade.
- “Transformed snow” has been subjected to higher temperatures and the flake has almost lost its ideal crystal shape and has become more hexagonal. This form of snow grain surface provides greater contact with base of the ski and thus increases friction and abrasion. This snow type requires a wax with a molybdenum additive.
- “Artificial snow” resembles a converted snowflake which consists of a drop of water surrounded by ice. This snow has a much higher density and therefore increased friction content. As soon as the snow undergoes change the friction decreases. To take advantage of this, a softer less abrasive wax can be used. Wax with a molybdenum additive is recommended.
So, how are the different types of waxes varying according to snow conditions? Solid waxes are produced from a subtle blend of different waxes and paraffins. Compounds used are not the same between the different ranges of wax, ( MX, LF, HF, Bases... ). The quality of a wax, not only depends on the refining of waxes and paraffins, but also on the proportions within the product.
So far the general, our next post will be about which waxes to actually choose for the different conditions.
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