Is Ski Wax Obsolete?

Post by blogger | December 28, 2005      

If you’ve ever let your bases go raw and endured the drag, then showed up for a day of cranking with fresh gloss on your P-tex, you know intuitively that wax works.

Not so fast (even if your waxed skis do slide like they’re based with atomic slime mold). Nate over at Backbone Media handed me a fascinating clipping today; a synopsis (in The Economist) of an interesting ski wax study being done by Leonid Kuzmin, a Swedish waxing scientist who appears at first glance to have breathed too much fluorocarbon vapor — but perhaps not.

Kuzmin, a former nordic championship coach, did a detailed study comparing sintered P-tex with glide wax on nordic skis. He claims his study shows that in many cases (if not most) the P-tex ended up with better glide after about 200 meters of testing, since the wax picks up dirt and the P-tex stays clean.

Unfortunately the Economist makes an ignorant leap of logic from nordic skiing to alpine, stating that “Skiers…can forget about long hours ironing was on to their skis and devote more time to the slopes.” Perhaps Kuzmin’s theory is an evolution of nordic waxing tech, but any performance alpine skier can tell you that wax is almost always faster than raw P-tex — after hours of ironing or just a quick rub-on.

But the conclusion of the Economist article might help out a few lunchtime nordies in a hurry to ramp up their BPM doing classic style kick-and-glide: kick wax is still important, but perhaps you don’t have to spend time tweaking your glide layer.

Evolution of ideas for ski touring? Fantasy? Perhaps going with raw P-tex works for skate skiing?


3 Responses to “Is Ski Wax Obsolete?”

  1. Penn December 28th, 2005 11:29 pm

    Finally, scientific research that supports my laziness in prepping my backcountry skis. This is perfect as it supports my long held belief that the more simple the fun is – the better.

  2. Jim December 29th, 2005 1:31 am

    Interesting but both articles cited didn’t give enough information to understand the setting in which a non-wax ski out performs a wax ski. As with any scientific finding, an extrapolation of the conclusion beyond the limited study objective can many times are wrong. Without further testing, they are nothing more than speculation or an educated guess.

    Some questions that the limited information provoked in me were:
    1. How much dirt was on the snow that was tested?
    2. Temperature ranges tested?
    3. How does pressure on a skate ski compare to downhill boards?
    4. How does pressure relate to accumulation of dirt?

    I could see how his theory may hold true for backcountry skiing during very late spring/early summer when there is a ton of dirt on a slope. But during the majority of the season, I’m skeptical without seeing more of the study.

    Thanks for posting this Lou, keep us informed!

  3. Sky December 29th, 2005 1:32 am

    I don’t think wax is obsolete at all, but as far as backcountry skiing I often find going without wax is better. It helps for long descending exits from valleys with lots of flats and rolls. It’s easy to glide the flats and small uphills with no wax nordic style, whereas with wax it becomes necessary to do painful things like sidestep and herringbone.

Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here, and tons of telemark info.

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