Get Outside: Choose the right wax for snow conditions

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Vermont winters are notorious for their variable conditions, with cycles of rain and subzero temperatures consuming most of November through March. For the many cross country skiers in the area, this can make it especially difficult to choose the optimal wax and technique for those hard-to-predict snow conditions.

With our State's' strong Nordic skiing heritage, it's no surprise that a Vermonter literally wrote the book on cross country ski equipment, technique, and waxing.

Following the 1952 Winter Olympics John H. Caldwell of Putney dedicated much of his time to coaching and writing about Nordic skiing, eventually publishing "The Cross Country Ski Book" in 1964. Caldwell has since been pioneer of cross country skiing in North America, and his legacy lives on through his children and grandchildren, including 2014 Winter Olympian Sophie Caldwell.

Training in the unpredictable cycles of slush and ice, Caldwell understood the importance of proper waxing for optimal performance and enjoyment. While the technical details of waxing may seem overwhelming, the process is simpler than it initially appears and well worth the effort.

Taking a little time to prepare your skis before an outing will allow you to kick and glide with ease and prevent snow from clumping to the base of your skis.

The first step is understanding the type of ski you have and how it functions.

Most common is the waxless classic touring ski, which does require some waxing though its name implies otherwise. Waxless skis generally have textured bases that allow your ski to grip to the snow and kick off. Because of this integrated feature it is not necessary to apply a harder kick wax.

The liquid F4 wax made by Swix is most commonly used for waxless skis, which can be quickly applied to the entire base of the ski on the go. Just apply a thin coat and allow it to dry before setting out (you can also choose to work the wax in with a felt cork to increase longevity).

For waxable classic touring skis, which do not have a built-in kick zone, begin by measuring your kick zone and mark it with a line of hard wax (starting at the heel of the boot and reaching to at least 75 millimeters in front of the toe.) Next, check the weather forecast or employ a thermometer to estimate the temperature of the snow and choose the proper hard wax (separated into temperature ranges marked by colors, i.e. V20 Green for snow that is between 18 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit.) Apply the hard kick wax in four or five thin layers within the kick zone and cork the wax into the base of the ski in between layers before gliding off.

Finally, skate skis undoubtedly require the most intensive and complex waxing process requiring a work area, bench, ski vises, and a waxing profile to stabilize the ski. Prepare the base of your ski by brushing it from end to end with a specialized bronze brush.

Next, drip on your temperature appropriate wax and iron it into the base using circular motions. Allow your skis to cool for approximately ten minutes before scraping off excess wax, and setting out onto the snow!

Cherise Madigan is a frequent Journal contributor.


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