State of Wax
Ski racing has always been a battle to get any advantage possible on the competition. This can be done in two ways. The first, and definitely more difficult, is by training. It takes a lot of time, dedication, and hard work. When done correctly, you will be faster with some quality training. The second method is by improving ski speed and efficiency. Over the past 20 years there have been major improvements in terms of equipment. This is going to account for the single largest increase in performance as human physiology has not evolved anywhere near the same rate as technology has. The main discussion point that this article talks about is the improvements in waxing and the steps that are being taken to ensure that it is done safely.
In the past couple of years everyone has been looking closer at the health of our sport. This comes from both environmental and financial standpoints. When focusing on waxing, the hot topic has been regarding fluorocarbons. It has become common knowledge that fluoros of any type are not great for the environment and the human body. Steps have been taken by international organizations (European Union), FIS, and other national and regional governing bodies to limit or eliminate usage of fluoros. In the absence of fluoros, ski wax manufacturing companies have been developing and investing into research into alternative raw materials (additives) to create new race level waxes. As these new waxes have begun to pop up, many are wondering what is in these waxes and assume that they are at the same level as fluoros in terms of health or environmental risks.
Many of these ski manufacturing companies have been developing waxes with the future in mind. These waxes have been made with raw additives that are safer for the environment than previous versions. These new waxes are just as safe as the original “gliders” that have been around for ages (Rex Blue, Swix CH6, Start Green etc.). Recently there has been some comparisons to candle wax and ski wax. The truth is, there are additives placed in all ski waxes that make them vastly different to candle wax and perform better as a gliding agent on skis. These old waxes have the same health risks as new waxes which is why wax manufacturers have always recommended taking the proper safety precautions such as wearing masks, using gloves, and working in a well ventilated space.
There has been talk about taking away all additive based waxes, which would be difficult to implement because all waxes have additives. Before attempting to implement this on the basis of health/environmental reasons, one should do more research into these new waxes before making any rash decisions. The new waxes will have no significant changes in health/environmental impacts compared to the original glider waxes, and in some cases may even be better for the environment with new eco friendly lines. If implementing from a financial standpoint, this is where it becomes more muddied. Yes, by limiting the waxes to only the very basic ingredients, prices will be lower. But those that want to do the pay-to-win strategy will be able to find places to spend that money elsewhere. Bigger gains can be made with both skis and structures/grinds. Now instead of spending a couple hundred dollars trying to win the wax race, athletes will be spending thousands of dollars on new skis to make sure they have the right grinds for the right conditions.
CXC has released a new wax protocol for the 20/21 ski season. The goal of this protocol is to limit the amount of testing being done on site at the different JNQ races this year and is one of the many changes in racing this season to help ensure that we can race safely in the current COVID situation. The restrictions on additives was the simplest way for CXC to reduce the number of waxes without enforcing a wax standard like some other regions have adopted. The CXC waxing protocol is a one year policy and will be looked at again once the season has completed.
The bottom line is that if we are trying to make skiing more fair or equal for all racers, as well as safe, then limiting waxes to only “non-additives” is not the solution. Waxing can be done in a safe manner and most of these new products are biodegradable and environmentally friendly. Having adequate ventilation, wearing a mask and gloves will continue to be the most effective steps you can take to ensure you are waxing safely.
Hope to see you out on the trails!
About the author...
Jeremy Hecker is the current racing service manager at Pioneer Midwest and Rex Ski Wax technical representative for the US. He has been skiing for his entire lifetime, racing competitively in college for St. Scholastica. Since graduating in 2013 he has coached for numerous teams including Endurance United, Stratton Mountain School, and the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. In addition to his coaching experience, Jeremy has a Masters degree in the Biology of Physical Activity which he obtained from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland.