Midwest Citizen Basic Wax Protocol Proposal
Midwest Basic: And no I don’t mean white canvas mukluks
During the last year we have seen some dramatic changes happening across our sport as the move to phase out PFOA forever chemicals begins to take effect. While it may be some time before a fluoro ban trickles down to local citizen races, all participants in the sport will inevitably be faced with a fluoro ban in the not too distant future.
Though blanket bans on fluoros address the immediate concerns regarding environmental and health impacts of PFOAs, we should ask ourselves if this is really the most effective way to ensure that waxing is safe and that citizen races are fair and accessible to the average racer. In the absence of fluoros, wax companies are scrambling to find something that can replace them. There is no guarantee that whatever products come out of this arms race will be any safer than the fluoros they replace. These new waxes will be just as expensive as fluoros and will perpetuate a race field of the haves and have-nots.
Rather than a ban on just fluoros, I propose something else: the Midwest Basic Wax Protocol. Instead of outlining those waxes that are banned, the protocol specifies which waxes are allowed. The premise is simple: basic hydrocarbon paraffins only. A good rule of thumb is that if you aren’t comfortable making a scented candle out of it, if an 80 gram block costs more than $20, or if it didn’t exist in 2018, you probably shouldn’t use it. Limiting waxing to these products will create a cost effective, even playing field while minimizing any health and environmental risks. The only way ski wax should harm you is when you slip down the stairs to the wax room or drip start green on your bare feet.
While waxing is part of the sport, and someone who has developed these skills should have an advantage, there are still plenty of variables that go into making skis fast. Learning more about kickwax, hand-structure, grinds, and ski flex can allow the best waxers to excel without having to chase the latest wonder juice that has just been cooked up.
But what about kickwax? Honestly there are so many good basic fluoro free options for kickwax that I’m not worried about it. There isn’t going to be a huge revolution in kickwax caused by the push to go fluoro free. Knowing one’s skis and how to properly apply kick wax has always been more important than which particular wax to choose.
Naturally this basic protocol will be based solely on the honor system. There still isn’t an effective means of testing for fluoros. Determining between basic waxes and the new fluoro free options will be even more difficult. Despite these challenges, I have faith in the citizen ski community to abide by the rules.
It is possible that in the future we will have a new series of waxes that are faster and just as safe as basic paraffins. That would be great for the sport, but until these have been evaluated for their safety and environmental impact, I believe they do not have a place in citizen races. Only after they are proven safe should the basic protocol be amended to include them. Even then, consideration should be made to their cost and the impact it will have on the fairness of the sport at a local level.
So how can we make this happen? Race organizers should consider if a basic wax protocol fits with their goal of providing a safe, fair, and accessible race to everyone. For the races pledging to go fluoro free, ask yourself if you can go one step further, and implement the basic protocol. If restricting the entire field to the basic protocol seems too drastic, allow skiers to select basic waxing as a category and record it in the overall results. If a basic waxer wins the overall they are entitled...nay, encouraged to mercilessly heckle all the skiers in the open division.
At the end of the day, I want to compete on an even playing field. Nobody should have to wreck their lungs waxing with chemical XYZ or spend a small fortune on wax just to be competitive. If we can all agree to do the right thing our sport will be all the better for it.
See you on the start line,
Master Blaster Andy Brown
The CXC cup just released a wax policy for races on their schedule. The overall aim is similar and they raise a good point that it is important for citizen racers to be able to competitively wax at home the night before without needing to use a test fleet to choose wax. The problem with testing is that once one group starts doing it, everyone needs to do it to remain competitive. This is too large of a time commitment for many racers without the direct support of a team or local ski shop. A smart waxer should be able to look at the forecast and prepare competitive skis the night before. Obviously kickwax is another story, but for glide, being able to forecast wax is important for races at the citizen level.
One issue that is lacking from their argument is the possible health and environmental impacts of new fluoro free waxes in development. Though they implicitly address this in only allowing paraffins, it should be explicitly stated as a reason why we as a community are deciding to hold off adopting unproven waxes.
Proposed list (alphabetical, sorry if I missed a brand or two):
- Briko-Maplus: BP
- Fastwax: HS
- Holmenkol: Non-fluoro Ultra-Beta-Alpha mix
- Masterwax: NF
- Optiwax: NF
- Rex: G
- Rode: Racing Gliders
- Skigo: XC
- Star: NF
- Start: SG
- Swix: CH
- Toko: NF
- Vahuti: GW
- Yes ski wax: Work series
- Holmenkol Mid08 and old Toko moly bloc (Ha, I wish!)
- Liquid waxes such as Rex G series (I understand how nice these are for racers traveling or coaches having to do a number of skis)
- Non-fluoro graphites and molys (probably okay, apply the 2018 rule)