How Green Is Your Ski Wax?

Post by blogger | March 12, 2011      

So, how green is your ski wax?

I don’t mean whether you regularly backcountry ski in temperatures so cold and on snow so abrasive that you mainly use green- and blue-colored ski wax instead of the warmer hues associated with softer waxes. But rather, what is the environmental impact of your ski wax?

Wax for backcountry skiing.

Can you tell which wax is not synthetically derived?

I have to admit that I had never thought of this question previously, even during the most random mind wanderings during the most long tedious skintracks and backcountry skiing climbs. But Green Wax asks, “When your wax eventually wears off, where did that wax go?” I haven’t the slightest idea as to the answer, but I was drawn in by this question to the website’s informative and entertaining FAQ, which no doubt will delight my Pacific Northwest ski partners with confirmation of Sasquatch’s existence (though dodging the question of whether Green Wax will allow me to out run him — must be the lawyers overruling). Also, it has come to my attention that two of southern New England’s premier rando race training venues (i.e., the two nearby ski areas Berkshire East and Wachusett that tolerate my dawn-patrol skinning) are on board with Green Wax.

Green Wax is said by the maker to be “a proprietary blend of naturally sustainable ingredients” so who knows what’s really in this stuff, but the company seems trustworthy so I’ll believe their story. During hot waxing the Green Wax fumes were a bit odorous yet still in line with many other brands of synthetic waxes in my quiver. And when rubbed on skins it was a bit on the harder side compared to other universal-temperature waxes, but still okay for that purpose. As a test of sorts, I hot waxed one ski with Green Wax and another with some random traditional “universal” hydrocrabon wax. At the end of my outing (which entailed a couple skin laps), I didn’t notice any differences. So in other words, certainly seems fine to me, although I highly doubt it would be as fast as fluorinated temperature-specific waxes in difficult snow conditions.

Like pretty much all waxes, the Green Wax price is rather high when bought in small quantities, but I see no point in buying small quantities of a universal ski wax, so for 12 ounces (340 grams) the price is a reasonable $39 when ordered directly. So hey, by itself it won’t allow you to save the Earth (from whomever or whatever is threatening its existence) or win the Hahnenkamm, but might help your lungs in the ski room and might help reduce your environmental impact outside, and much cheaper than the products I typically review, so worth a try and certainly a nice little gift for a skier who already has (almost) everything.



30 Responses to “How Green Is Your Ski Wax?”

  1. Chris March 12th, 2011 9:10 am

    Also check out purl waxes from CO. Allow you to buy massive bricks and they have some varieties which are Eco friendly.
    Being less dependent on oil in everything you do is a big step.

  2. James March 12th, 2011 12:05 pm

    Jonathan, this is something I have always thought about. Call me a little paranoid, but everytime I see young ones on the slopes eating snow it makes me feel a little uncomfortable knowing that there are fluorocarbons in it. I am sure the amount is very minuscule but there is no solid proof saying that’s it’s not harmful. We’ve always been told to wear masks when waxing skis since the fumes are harmful to one’s lungs. On our last powder day here in Telluride I was getting face shots, eating snow and it crossed my mind. I know it was fresh fallen snow but it’s always in the back of my mind. I wonder if there has been any snow samples taken off the surface of groomers showing contamination?

  3. Zcott March 12th, 2011 1:41 pm

    I’ve often wondered if there is any difference between Glob Stopper and your everyday glide wax. You use regular glide wax on skins? Have you tried different temperature waxes? Do you find it works as well as Glob Stopper? Thanks!

  4. Jonathan Shefftz March 12th, 2011 7:45 pm

    Ingesting freshies must be like drinking rain water – gotta be good for you, right? But manmade snow that’s been groomed every day, and gone through thaw-refreeze cycles, stay away! (You should see how dirty our skins get out east when skinning closed ski areas in the spring.)
    BD Glop Stopper has to be the world’s most needlessly expensive non-fluoro hydrocarbon bar wax. Just use whatever universal-type wax you’ve already stocked up on for your regular ski waxing needs. Although keep your bars separate, because some dirt from the plush will end up on the bar you use for the skins. Like I wrote in the review, the Green Wax works okay, although I prefer something a bit softer. Something around Swix CH8 in hardness seems to be about what BD sources. My personal favorite is Toko Backshop Blocwax 2.5 kg Warm (#4050-00170-1013 ). The big box contains a zillion bars sized absolutely perfectly for putting in your Schoeller pants thigh patch pocket. Even if you’re not all that concerned with the plush glopping up, pressing down with a bar that size applies better pressure than you can with your hands to ensure that the glue is sticking well.

  5. Sean March 12th, 2011 8:26 pm

    “Being less dependent on oil in everything you do is a big step.”

    I agree, Chris.

    I agree with Jonathan about softer waxes, where they remain useful. I dread the cold days of January & early Feb when I have to use hard wax for the abrasive snow. It’s hard to melt into the base, hard to scrape off, hard to clean up. Makes me want to use a respirator because it seems to be friable when scraped, powdering into the air. Seems to invisibly coat the floor and render it slippery too!

  6. Matt March 12th, 2011 11:21 pm

    I’m new to this an still trying to gather all I can in terms of knowledge. When I first got my setup, a friend told me not to have the skis waxed because skins won’t stick to them as well. I’m guessing this isn’t the case since there’s an article on a backcountry ski blog about waxing your skis…. anyplace you can point me for some wisdom on this topic (certain waxes or techniques that differ from regular alpine)?

  7. Jonathan Shefftz March 13th, 2011 7:44 am

    Other way around with skin adhesion: a well-waxed (and scraped, and brushed) base is better for skins. I always suspected that this was the case from trips out west when the first day my bases were perfectly prepped, and then by the end when they were entirely wax free. By Climbing Skins Direct provided the scientific explanation a few years ago (unfortunately in a ttips post, not on their website faq). However, like with ideal base prep for racing, the wax can’t just be sitting there on the surface, so proper scraping and brushing (then more scraping and brushing) is essential.
    Still lots of rumors out there about how fluorinated waxes will hurt skin adhesion. I’ve seen a few reports from people who have tried LF wax and not had any problems. Then again, why bother using fancy waxes for backcountry skiing?
    Okay, time for some HF to prep for xc skate skiing today!

  8. Lou March 13th, 2011 8:45 am

    Matt, LOL, amazing the weird mythology out there. Just wax your skis, do a good scrape job, and skins will work great.

  9. Lou March 13th, 2011 8:48 am

    As for Glop Stopper, as far as we can tell regular alpine wax or even paraffin works just as well. Any temperature wax seems to work. The reason, in my estimation, is that all you’re doing with skin wax is waterproofing the skin. Not the same thing as waxing a ski. Thus, whatever will rub into the skin and waterproof it works fine. By the same token, if you want to save money on warm weather ski wax, just buy solid paraffin at the hardware store and use it. But beware of the paraffin option on cold snow — it’ll feel like your skis have velcro on the bases.

  10. Njord March 13th, 2011 10:58 am

    Is this post an early 1st of April joke or a piece of Charlie Sheen performance art? Considering the garbage (glues, VOC, plastics, shipping) that it takes to make a pair of skis, using “green wax” is a complete farce!


  11. Brian March 13th, 2011 2:04 pm

    I’m with Njord
    You cannot be green and be a BC skier. Snomo’s, TAVs, gas (including BD) to get to the TH, skis, packs and all of the gear and clothing. While an interesting thought, I think wax is the least of our worries.

    I guess we could be riding the lifts, or the bird, though…..

  12. Jonathan Shefftz March 13th, 2011 2:08 pm

    A major part of my consulting practice area used to be environmental economics, but I don’t want to get into life cycle calculations and footprint analysis here.
    Instead, all I want to say is that some skiers are really into all these “green” products so I thought many readers might be interested in a natural-based wax.

  13. Zcott March 13th, 2011 2:55 pm

    I fail to see the harm in reducing one’s impacts regardless of the scale.

  14. Lou March 13th, 2011 9:30 pm

    We report, you decide…

  15. JQ March 13th, 2011 9:50 pm

    I love having super slick backcountry skis (any ski for that matter). My 3 cents worth are:
    •clean the ski with a brass brush, no or minimal base cleaner
    •use the least amount of wax possible. Touch the wax to the iron and rub it on the ski, repeat. Iron smooth, scrape and nylon brush.
    •a nordic friend gave me some TOKO Moly LF (it’s black) $25 / bar. Mix it 1:3 or 1:4 with your regular wax of the day. It stays on really well. Totally worth it.

    I agree -skin wax is generic but worth it this time of year.

  16. Lou March 14th, 2011 8:08 am

    JQ, agree that a well waxed ski is a good way to enhance the backcountry skiing. I get lazy about this, and am always amazed at how much easier it is to ski a slick ski once I get around to doing a tune!

  17. Brian March 14th, 2011 8:34 am

    I’m a big fan of Purl, but I stay away from their verde wax as it is quite gummy on the skis, and a pain to scrape off even in a cold garage.

  18. Chris March 14th, 2011 9:11 am

    I’m just saying there are things you can do that consume less oil every day. May as well try one, and if we all do it, it will make a difference. carpool to the hill, buy skis that are locally made, encourage your ski area to offset their fuel consumption by buying hydro or wind power credits, large recycling/compost efforts. there is a ton of things that can be done and aren’t because the market doesn’t drive the ski areas to care. I want my kids to ski powder, not man-made crap, so I’ll make the choices to do everything I can.

  19. Lou March 14th, 2011 10:06 am

    Not against saving oil, but how much difference some of these things make are in my opinion questionable. It’s like when your mom used to say “clean your plate, there are kids starving in Africa.” Nice idea, but the kids in Africa still starved. Indeed, much of this stuff, such as resorts using wind power, is in my opinion more about guilt reduction and PR than it is about actually making a difference. Ditto for recycling. From what I understand, most recycling when practiced in rural areas actually uses more energy than just burying the stuff and making it again from raw materials. Not sure about composting, but why would composting save energy over just burying the stuff in a landfill? The composting operations around here seem to be very energy intensive, what with machinery, diesel equipment, trucking, etc. Perhaps we’re talking about small scale composting, as in for your own garden? In that case, I can see how it saves a bit of energy as opposed to trucking the stuff off to a landfill. But I fail to see how that minuscule amount of energy savings would make a difference.

  20. Kent March 14th, 2011 10:08 am

    I agree with Chris. “Considering the garbage (glues, VOC, plastics, shipping) that it takes to make a pair of skis…” – all the more reason to make up for it in as many other places as possible.

  21. Wick March 14th, 2011 10:37 am

    Jonathan – I can confirm (unfortunately through multiple lessons…ugh!) that HF wax doesn’t jive with skin adhesion. My recommendation is to stick with cheap (no fluro) wax for bases and save the HF for rubbing on your skins in the “wetter conditions”. Also a grind/structure can go a long way towards giving you glide for “Spring conditions”.. .

  22. Maki March 14th, 2011 2:17 pm

    Lou, recycling just saves raw material, even when it costs more, which is a big thing. We live on a finite planet, there’s no hope for infinite raw material. And of course reuse would be even better than recycle.

  23. Chris March 14th, 2011 2:17 pm

    I agree Lou, you have to look at the entire picture as to where you energy gets used. Recycling IS very costly for rural communities. But consumers could choose to purchase products with less packaging, stop buying bottled soda and water, and to buy all beer in growlers from your local brewmaster :mrgreen:

  24. Chris March 14th, 2011 2:18 pm

    We all vote with our dollars, however we choose.

  25. Lou March 14th, 2011 3:25 pm

    I’ve always been a fan of the actual recycling motto, which starts with reduce, goes to reuse, then finally ends up a recycle. It always interests me why the last and least important part of that gets so much emphasis. Probably some sort of puritanical uncomfortableness with producing icky garbage, or some other deep seated psychological thing buried in the white middle class psyche.

    As for the finite planet deal, sure, but that’s sophomoric. Take gravel that’s used for concrete. We’ll run out eventually, but we’ve got a lot of rock to chew through first. Petroleum, on the other hand…

  26. Bobby March 15th, 2011 11:06 pm

    There’s plenty of petroleum and gas. Hydrocarbons will continue to play an expanding role in our energy mix for the next 50-100 or more years. The problem is the hypocritical, greedy, hidden-agenda-driven enviro-wackos that stand in the way of producing this energy which allows people’s lives to be better than they would be without it. (while it literally supports the culture that is capable of developing the eventual alternative)

  27. DMR March 16th, 2011 1:59 am

    Here’s another eco-friendly wax option:

    HQ in the French Alps, available in NA for the last year or two.

    I’ve used it as a one descent spring wax for gloppy conditions and find it works well.

    It’s hard to see tongue and cheek on the Internet, are you serious about environmentalists being greedy or having a hidden agenda?

    Some acts may seem insignificant, but I consider western society to be in a transitional period where first an individual’s behavior changes, then society at large changes before we will see the real environmental and resource impact planet wide. Regarding cost, you’re only addressing the direct costs to extract / produce, but not the indirect costs to society – say medical costs, for example, when it comes to pollution (air or water).

    You’re absolutely right with regards to packaging, I would have no problem brining Tupperware containers or glass containers to the supermarket to get cereal, beer, milk, etc. There’s certainly a safety aspect to packaging but also the packaging industry is a multi-billion dollar industry.

  28. Bobby March 16th, 2011 6:51 am

    Actually, I’m not being tonge in cheek. While many people want to do “right” by the environment, including myself, I see the hypocrisy in the organized anti-oil movement with my own eyes. The majority of the funding and organization for the opposition to domestic oil & gas production production comes from off-shore oil and gas interests that need higher prices in the US to make it ecomical to import their product. They use dishonest fear tactics, such as Gasland et. al., to round up a bunch of ignorant sheep to accomplish their FINANCIAL objectives. To lay it on the table, I’m in the industry (environmental services). North America & Western Europe actually have the cleanest running programs in the world. Not that there aren’t problems. I’m glad there is pressure to do it right, it’s why it’s being done “right” in the US now. Just be careful where you get the info to form your opinons. If everyone was as skeptical of the enviro-movements as they are the oil companies (which is GOOD), we’d be having a more honest and effective policy debate.

  29. Chris March 17th, 2011 8:48 am

    Hey Bobby,
    I think the same statement you wrote could have environmentalist replaced with petrol hungry economists. This tragedy in japan has shown that petroleum derived energy is “relatively” safe compared to “cleaner” alternatives but it is finite. 50-100 years is within my life expectancy so why not be a stronger country by seeking out alternatives that will put us on top of the world. It bums me out that our economy slumps when OPEC brings supply down or prices up for oil and our legislators suggest we exploit more at home. I suppose we should be exploiting more at someone roses home then.

    I think we as a country need to reevaluate what becoming a better more successful country is. It’s not consuming more junk, eating worse food, and being a leader in pollution in the world. If we’re so smart then we should be able to engineer a better way to live our awesome lives.

  30. Bobby March 18th, 2011 4:38 pm

    I’m 100% with you. My beef is with people that are driven (and manipulated) by their emotions while having their heads in the sand. There’s a lot of room for improvement in our system. It’s going to take intelligent and honest debate to get there.

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