Grip Wax

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General

Grip wax or kick wax has been around for many, many years. The formulas used to create kick have been as varied, wierd and ingenious as the people coming up with the ideas. The two conflicting goals that grip creators attempt to balance are grip and glide. Enough grip should be attained to help propel the skier forward while allowing as much forward glide as possible. If the balance is achieved then the skier will use less energy and ski faster at the same time. Too much grip can bring the glide to an exhausting halt. Too much glide can bring frustration with little forward movement.

Some of the earliest grip waxes were based on what Mother Nature with good abundance in the evergreen forests of Northern Europe: pine tar. It has proved over the years to work well enough that it's still in use. Other things are mixed in to balance the grip of tar such as various types of waxes, oils, and rubber (for durability). Technology has played a role as synthetic waxes, fluorocarbons and molybdenum have been introduced over the years to refine and improve the grip/glide balance. Of course there are many other things that have been tried and are still in use.

What Does Grip Wax do?

Grip wax allows the snow flakes or crystals to penetrate into it. Since the grip wax adheres to the ski base you can now kick. But the grip wax also has a glide component so that the snow is released when you want the ski to slide. At different temperatures the hardness of the snow is different. Colder snow is harder and thus pentrates the grip wax more easily. Warmer snow is softer and doesn't penetrate as easily as colder snow. Fresher snow with well defined shape also has an easier time penetrating the wax than aged snow which has a less well defined shape (lumpy). The hardness of the grip wax is designed to work with the penetratability of the snow.

Simple Grip Wax Techniques

For the recreational and regular skier looking to enjoy a couple of hours on the weekend skiing through the woods applying grip can be an easy and straightforward process. Indeed these guidelines can be used by racers for training sessions. Note that grip/kick wax is not applied to cross country skating skis or downhill/alpine skis.

You should start by ensuring that you have prepared your skis for the season. This means that if you have wooden skis you should have tarred the skis to help keep them from absorbing water (see: tarring wooden skis and pine tar). For P-tex (plastic) based skis the glide areas of the skis should be clean of dirt and other sticky substances (see: glide waxing).

Start by selecting the grip wax of day that you will use (see: selecting grip wax). When you go to ski the trails remember to bring this wax with you along with a cork in case you need to rewax. It's also a good idea to bring the grip wax for the temperature above and below the wax of the day; the snow can warm and cool throughout the day.

It is easiest to work on skis that are at room temperature (20C/70F). The wax will adhere better making your ski more enjoyable. Plus your fingers won't get frozen :-)

In the kick zone (see: kick zone) lightly apply the kick wax in diagonal stripes on the base on each side of the groove. Now pressing the cork onto the ski move the cork back and forth along the ski staying in the kick zone. This will spread the grip wax across the kick zone. At the same time the friction from the cork will warm the wax so that it adheres to the ski base. This helps keep the grip wax on the ski longer. Repeat the light application of grip wax and corking 4 to 5 more times. This will give you a smooth, even application. The smoother the grip wax looks the better your grip and glide will be. Applying a single thick layer of grip wax will result in poorer grip, poorer glide and the grip wax will comes off of the ski base faster.

Let the skis cool outside for 15 minutes so that the skis and the grip wax adjust to the temperature you will be skiing. Using the skis immediately will make things difficult as the snow will tend to either clump in the kick zone or you will have no grip for several minutes. Once cooled the skis are ready for a great day on the trails.

Once on the trails if you find that you do not have enough grip first try adding the same grip wax to the three centimeters ahead of your kick zone as described above. If there is still not enough grip apply a layer of the next warmest wax, again, as described above. If this is still not enough it's possible that the temperature has warmed up much more than you expected or you may need to be using klister (see: selecting klister).

On the other have if you have too much grip (the snow is clumping under your skis) apply a layer of the next coldest wax as described above. You may need to add a second or third layer. If things are not improved it's possible you may have missed selecting the right wax for the conditions. Refer to selecting the wax for more information.

   

Apply wax in a hatching...

...in a thin layer

Cork the entire kick zone...

...back and forth until smooth

Crayon on more layers and cork

Advanced Grip Wax Techniques

The basics of advanced grip wax technique are an extension of the Simple Grip Wax Technique. The more complex and complicated your grip wax application becomes, the more of a red flag it is that you should be trying something simpler!

More advanced grip wax application techniques tend to be used in snow conditions where getting good grip seems to eliminate good glide. Often these techniques are used to avoid moving to klister and maximize glide.

Advanced techniques can be divided into the following sub-categories: mixing grip waxes, cold grip over warm grip, grip wax over klister.

Mixing Grip Waxes

Mixing grip waxes usually is needed when a particular grip wax provides enough grip but the glide needs some improvement, or the glide is good but the grip needs to be stronger. These two are really just variations of the same problem: one particular grip wax doesn't seem to be satisfying your needs.

With the simple application only one wax is used when making the diagonal stripes on the ski base. With mixing two waxes are used to make the diagonal stripes. The waxes alternate the stripes as shown in the diagram below. The amount of wax applied with each set of stripes using two waxes is no more than when one wax is used. Remember that we are looking to apply thin layers. Thin layers are better.

Once a set of wax stripes is made cork very well. You are trying to blend the waxes together. Repeat the waxing/corking cycle three or four times. try alternating where you place the stripes to help blend the waxes. A good corking is not an option -- it is a must! The kick zone should appear glossy and the wax evenly spread across the length and width.

Be sure to let the skis and wax cool outside before using them.

Cold Grip Over Warm Grip

This techniques is used typically when snow has become much older. That is the snow has transformed from sharp, new snowflakes to older, pellet-like snow due to aging or machine grooming. A warmer wax is need to get a better grip, but the warmer wax is not releasing the snow making the glide difficult.

Here the skis need to be worked on cold so that the warmer and colder waxest do not mix. The goal is to have a thin layer of the colder wax over the warmer wax. Maintaining the ski cold keeps the warmer wax stiff and less likely to mix with the colder wax.

Lightly crayon the colder grip wax over the existing warmer grip wax. Then cork lightly to evenly spread the colder wax over the warmer wax. Do not cork with a lot of pressure. Corking with pressure will mix the two waxes which is not the intent. Now let the skis cool before given them a try. If too much clumping of the snow still occurs in the kick zone try adding a second or third layer of the colder wax as described.

Tips:

Grip Wax Over Klister

Klister tends to be used when snow conditions are either very warm or the track has become glazed with an icy coating. However, if a bit of fresh snow is on the surface of the track, klister can provide great grip but can continue to hold onto the fresh snow too long. The tricky solution is to overwax the klister with a hard grip wax of about the same temperature range as the klister (this is just a guideline). The tricky part is that if you try to apply grip wax directly to the klister, often more klister will adhere to the grip wax tube than grip wax to the klister on the ski.

The solution is to have the grip wax be softer than it would be in a normal grip wax application and the klister be harder. There are two ways of doing this. The first way is easiest and in most cases provides good results. The second way requires more finesse and experience.

The first way is to have the skis with the klister on them cold. This may mean working on the skis outside. The grip wax should be very warm (but not melting). This can be done by warming the top with a hot-air gun or hair-dryer or placing the tube near a heater (not on it!). Lightly spread the grip over the cold klister. Then lightly cork the grip to spread it evenly over the klister. The goal is not to mix the grip and klister; it is to cover the klister. You may need to repeat this two or three times. Cooling the ski and klister between each layer of grip wax may be needed if you bring the skis inside to be worked on. Remember to try and keep snow and water off of the kick zone when doing this layering of grip wax over klister; a water or snow layer will make it difficult of the grip to adhere properly.

The second method, as mention earlier, requires more finesse. If you are going to attempt to do this on a race day you should practice days before the race. Learning to do this under a tight time constraint is very nerve wracking. Melt a small amount of the kick wax you are going to use in a clean tray. You do not want to mix with another wax. While the wax is liquid use a small brush and paint the kick wax over the klister. Paint in very thin layers. Allow each layer to cool thoroughly before the next layer is applied. Then get the skis cold. When the wax is cold polish it smooth with a light touch. Variations to using a brush include a clean lint-free cloth and clean "popsicle" sticks.

Improving Kick Wax Glide

Kick wax as you know has both grip and a glide characteristics. Occationally the grip is near perfect but you would like the glide to be better. A technique that has developed in recent years with the advent of newer glide waxes is to use liquid, fluid or gel glide waxes in a thin layer over the kick wax. This technique has been used successfully at the World Cup level for several years now.

You should practice this before you attempt this for a race to gain experience.

Prepare the kick wax as you normally would. After the kick wax has cooled from corking apply a thin layer of the fluid or gel glide over the kick wax. Your selection of fluid or gel should be appropriate for the snow conditions and temperature. Let the fluid or gel set or dry as appropriate. Remember that some fluid or gel waxes will take a while to "dry" before they can be used.

Glide waxes that we are aware of that have been used successfully with this technique include the Ski*go Fluid Series.



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