Monthly Archives: July 2012

Reason to Wax: New Skis

New skis need an initial tune up. Certain aspects of the ski need to be checked or modified before skiing. First, check to see if the polyethylene bases are square. A True-bar can aid in checking to see if the bases are concave or convex. Ideally, the bases should be completely flat. If not, you might need to scrape or file to get the bases flat. Next, you will need to tune the edges. Check with the manufacturer to determine the factory angle settings, and then tune to your desired angle if necessary.

Finally, the bases must be tuned (Reason to Wax: Base Construction). Typically, it is not necessary to alter the ski structure, as the manufactures apply structure to the base quite well. However, it is important to scrub the base with Fibertex (resembles a Scotch Brite pad) and stiff brass brush; alternate between rubbing the pad and brush for about 100 passes. Through this process, you will remove the microscopic polyethylene hairs, which could drag on the snow or melt into the ski base when applying hot wax.

Additionally prior to first use, the skis should already contain wax.  If wax already saturates the ski, you do not need to worry should the top layer wear off over the course of daily use. This embedded layer of wax provides extended protection for the base to prevent oxidizing, or turning chalky white, as well as damage from UV Light. This embedded layer also protects against dirt that tends to stick to the base over time.

So now it is time to wax. First, hot-scrape the base in order to clean any fibers and dirt left from brushing. Next, apply a hydrocarbon wax such as Green Ice Ski Wax GIHC warm. Soft waxes are recommended as they penetrate the base more easily (visit How to Hot Wax for an instructional video). Now, some experts prefer to have their skis placed in a hot box for 2-4 hours. Temperature for the hot box ranges from 50-55˚C depending on the wax’s melting point. During the process, the wax slowly and deeply penetrates the pores of the base, allowing it to become saturated with the molten wax. If a hot box is not available or desired, simply repeat the process of applying thin layers of GI HC warm, followed by a cold-scrape and brush. Repeating this process multiple times will better prepare the base for a final wax application of a performance wax such as GI-1000 or GI-2000 available at Green Ice Ski Wax.

Now go hit the slopes, have fun and enjoy your new skis!

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From Pine Tar to Advanced Chemical Additives

Pine Tar Waxes

Going way back to the late 1600’s, Scandinavians discovered the need to condition their wooden skis.  At that time, the main reason to condition or wax the skis was to prevent the wood from becoming soaked with water.  When wood is exposed to water over time, it becomes saturated. In order to prevent this process from occurring, skiers began to coat the ski bottoms with pine tar or pitch.  Distilling lumber produces pitch, turpentine and rosin.  It is the combination of the rosin and pitch that produced an ideal ski wax for the wooden bases.   The mixture was insoluble in water and thus would prevent the water from penetrating the ski’s base.  The mixture also formed tiny water beads under the ski when gliding of the snow.  It is this action that allows air to mix with the water and thus reduce the friction under the ski.  The down side of the mixture was that it was not entirely smooth and thus added resistance to the ski.  Later, athletes discovered that by boiling the pine tar it could be applied evenly to the ski, reducing the friction created by the pine tar itself.  This mixture of pine tar and rosin remained popular for many years, up until about the 1850s, when a few California athletes developed innovative mixtures of glycerin, whale oils, and candle waxes to increase glide and improve water repellency.

Varnish Based Waxes

Between 1920 and 1940, companies began experimenting with varnish waxes.  Some waxes were intended to last entire seasons, while others introduced by companies such as Holmenkol and Toko were rubbed directly onto the base and lasted about a day on the snow.  They were not applied by heat like the long-lasting waxes and were by-products of other industries, such a leather manufacturers.

Synthetic Waxes

In 1943 a Swedish firm, Astra AB, hired Martin Matsbo, a cross country Olympic bronze medal winner to develop a synthetic wax made from paraffin.  Then in 1946, Swix Wax Company took shape and began using this technology to manufacture wax with different hardness ratings intended for varying temperature snow.

Over the next 20-30 years, various additives were used to further reduce friction. Examples of additives include graphite, surfactants and plasticizers.  There was a time when ski manufacturers touted ski bases that never required waxing.  Athletes never bought into these claims, and continued to apply wax in order to protect their bases.   For this reason, the ski wax industry has grown into a $10MM market in the United States, and totals $25MM worldwide.

Fluorocarbon Wax

Not until the late 1980s did fluorocarbons enter the ski wax.  This additive helps to increase the level of water repellency.  Although the additive inflates prices significantly, many skiers and riders use it today.

As a response to the introduction of fluorocarbon ski wax, Green Ice Ski Wax has introduced an environmentally-friendly alternative, containing additives that are bio-degradable and very effective.  The wax maintains high levels of water repellency, without the harmful effects of fluorocarbons (See Effects of Fluorocarbons in Ski Wax on Humans and the Environment ) Green-Ice also sells a 100% biodegradable wax, made entirely from renewable resources.

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Reasons to Wax: Base Construction

In order to understand proper ski or snow board waxing techniques, it is important to understand the composition of the base.  High density polyethylene is a widely used polymer, typically referred to as “plastic”.  Polyethylene is inert to the majority of chemicals, but also considered to quite soft.  Polyethylene does not absorb moisture (hydrophobic) and can be shaped to form structure on the surface of the base, making it perfect for constructing ski and snowboard bases.  However, the softness also has a downside.  It can scratch, gouge or pick up dirt.  Ski shops may repair any damages incurred on a base with P-Tex or a weld, depending on the severity of the defect.

Ski manufacturers create bases with fine polyethylene powder, which is heated and pressed into shape through a process called sintering. A structure of fine grooves is then added to the base in order to channel the water from the tip to tail of the ski or board as it glides over the snow, a concept similar to that of the treads of a car’s tire.

Even though polyethylene is quite inert, it can still oxidize and form a white chalky layer when exposed to ultra-violet light.  This oxidation can cause the ski or board base to become brittle and crack.  Over-heating the base, such as during the waxing process, can also harm the polyethylene and structure of the base. A crystal structure in the polyethylene is formed during the manufacturing process, and adding too much heat can change this structure and make it amorphous (not crystalline).

Two physical properties of interest when considering the right polyethylene for a ski or snowboard base is the thermal glassy transition temperature (Tg) and the temperature at which the material melts (Tm).  Tg is the temperature at which the plastic is in a molten, or rubber-like, state.  Polyethylene’s Tg is -125°C.  Generally, lower Tg temperatures signify softer plastics.  Harder more brittle plastics will correspond with a higher Tg .  On the other hand, the melting point of polyethylene (T) dependents on the density.  High density polyethylene’s melting point ranges from 248°C to 266°C, while low density polyethylene Tm ranges from 221°C to 239°C. These two properties of the polyethylene will determine the flexibility and durability of the plastic.

Knowing the composition and properties of the ski or board’s base helps to understand the importance of waxing.  Waxing will prevent the board or ski from oxidizing.  The wax will provide a layer of protection on the base that will prevent the UV light from destroying the polyethylene.  Wax will also prevent dirt off from coming in direct contact with the base.  However, it is critical that wax is applied properly and frequently.  If the iron-on technique is used to wax the ski, one should closely monitor the temperature of the iron.  Too much heat can damage the base of the ski or board.  Although the melting temperature is generally much higher than the iron temperature, applying excessive amounts of heat for long periods of time (i.e. holding the iron in one place on the base) will cause the structure of the base to become amorphous and softer. Therefore, set the iron temperature to the wax’s specific melting point and keep the iron moving constantly when applying the wax to the base.

For those technicians that feel the direct heat from the iron to the ski or board’s base is detrimental to the structure, an alternative technique exists.  Once the wax is melted and dripped to the base, a piece of parchment paper (available from the grocery store in the isle near the aluminum foil) can be placed over the base. Then, place the iron on top of the parchment paper and melt the wax further, while spreading the wax across the entirety of the ski or board.  When finished ironing in the wax, leave the paper in place until the wax hardens completely.  It can then be removed easily, as wax will not stick to parchment paper.  In addition to the protection feature of the parchment paper, it also hold in the heat longer and forces the wax to cool at a slower rate.  This increases the wax’s penetration into the pores of the base.  This is a similar theory to using a “hot box” to keep the wax softer for longer, while it penetrates the pores and cracks in the polyethylene.

Green Ice Ski Wax is available in various grades of waxes to suit the needs of any skier or rider. These waxes apply easily and safely using either iron-on or rub-on techniques with no threat to the health of the athlete.

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Reasons to Wax Skis and Snowboards

Most ski and snowboard racers understand the importance of prepping their equipment; however, some recreational skiers feel that this process is not critical.  All skis and snowboards require some sort of waxing after a few days of skiing or riding.  In the current market, there are a variety of options available when it comes to tuning and waxing products.  You can spend the time and money required to take your equipment to the local ski shop, or you can prep the equipment yourself.   Waxing yourself is less time-consuming, self-gratifying and simple. Basically, there are two types of waxing techniques: iron-on and rub-on. Most racers and serious skiers prefer ironing the wax onto the base as it tends to penetrate into the ski base, providing longer lasting performance and protection.  This process requires the purchase more equipment such as irons, scrapers and a series of brushes. Another technique is rub-on.  This process is less expensive and simple to do.  The wax is applied directly to the base of the ski or board without adding heat, then rubbed in with a cork, and finally buffed smooth with a rag.  The downside is that the base does not get penetrated with wax and it does not usually last as long, but the simplicity of the process allows for the wax to be applied as many times as desired throughout the course of the day.

Now, why should you wax your ski or board?  First, as most racers know, wax reduces friction between the base of the ski or board and the snow. Reducing friction allows for your skis or board to glide faster, which in a competitive event could mean the difference between a win and a loss.  As mentioned before, most racers prefer ironing the wax on the ski base over the rub-on procedure.  Green Ice Ski Wax manufactures two non-fluorocarbon race waxes in addition to the traditional hydrocarbon wax. These waxes have proven to be fast and long-lasting, reducing friction between the skis and the snow without the negative health and environmental effects of waxing with fluorocarbon waxes.

Second, ski and board bases are constructed of plastics.  All plastics can dry out as plasticizers (chemicals that keep plastics soft and flexible) can leach out over time.  As the plasticizers dry out, the base can turn white and chalk.  If this happens, the base becomes more brittle and can eventually crack under the constant pressure of carving turns while skiing and riding.  Waxing periodically can prevent the drying out of the ski base, helping to give the equipment a longer life.

Additionally, wax penetrates and protects the base, keeping it coated and lubricated so the friction of riding does not wear the base, but instead wears the wax.  Wax can be replaced easily while the ski or board base can only be replaced with the purchase of new equipment.

Snow can acquire dirt as particles from trees or chemicals in man-made snow accumulate on the trails.  After riding or skiing a day in dirty snow, the bases become dirty themselves.  Waxing helps clean the base and prevent sticking.  The dirt particles in the snow also rub harshly on the base, speeding up the wear process.

Finally, before putting skis or boards away for the off-season, the equipment should be properly prepared.  Applying a good coat of wax helps prevent the bases from drying out during the period of storage.  Wax coating the edges can also help prevent rust from forming on the metal, and thus providing overall protection for your equipment.

Green Ice Ski Wax manufactures and sells both rub-on and iron-on waxes at a variety of performance levels.  All Green Ice Ski Wax products are environmentally-friendly.  The iron-on waxes are safe to apply and long-lasting. The rub-on wax is made from organic, renewable raw materials, making it 100% biodegradable.

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