Tag Archives: environmentally-friendly wax

Preparing for the Snowboard Season

With the first snowfall in many places around the country, a lot of people are getting really excited to break out their snowboards and head to the mountains. A lot of people who snowboard will bring their board into the shop for a pre-season tune-up, in anticipation of the lifts starting to turn. It’s similar in the spring when people bring their bike to the shop for their annual tune-up, or every 2000 miles when they change the oil in their car. However, unlike when the gears are skipping on your bike or the odometer has added 2,000 miles, there isn’t exactly a super clear indicator of when a snowboard needs to be waxed. A quick look at the bottom of your board after a few days of riding it will reveal that is has changed color a little bit. A lot of snowboards have almost a straight black base, and the best indicator of when it’s time to wax is when it is getting a fuzzy white to them. Usually, this will start on the edges and work inwards. This is due to simply spending more time with weight on the edges, and can be thought of as how your tires might wear out on your car. Once this fuzziness starts to appear, it’s time to put some more wax on your snowboard to keep it happy. George, who is a very accomplished backcountry snowboarder, let us ask him a few questions. Here are his responses.

Do you wax your snowboard? How often?

“Yeah, I wax my board once every three or four times I go out or whenever the snow temperature or type changes dramatically. Fresh fallen snow is far different than snow that has been sitting on the ground for a few days. It makes a big difference.”

What’s the biggest and most important difference that you find after you wax your board?

“Consistency of speed and knowing what to expect while riding. The value here depends on what you are riding. If you’re riding park with a dry base on either really cold or really warm snow, you’re going to case jumps and knee yourself in the face. Sadness will ensue. Likewise, if you’re making a big traverse or trying to ride out flats at a resort in the wrong type of snow, you’re going to get stuck and have to unstrap and push. Once again, sadness will ensue. Basically, keep your board well-maintained and you’ll enjoy yourself a lot more.”

Do most of your friends who snowboard regularly wax their snowboards? Do you think they should?

“It’s about a 50/50 split, and I’m always telling the ones who don’t maintain their stuff that they should. It really isn’t that hard.”

You’ve snowboarded on a freestyle team and down some really impressive mountains like Mt. Rainier. Do you think that beginners should wax their snowboards?

“Once I started tuning my own equipment, I definitely saw in improvement an my ability. It just made things way easier, and instead of fighting the board, I was more with the board and could focus more on getting better. Happiness ensued after that, and every time one of my friends starts getting into snowboarding or skiing, I offer to help teach them to maintain their own equipment.”

George really sums it up well. By maintaining your equipment, you can access more terrain, go bigger in the park, and overall have more fun and be a better rider. Whether you bring your stuff to a shop or do it at home, it’s really important to keep your equipment well-maintained.

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Preparing for the Season

The leaves are changing, the air is cooling off, and girls are switching from shorts to yoga pants, but most importantly, snow is on its way. With the snow comes the most important time of the year, ski season. A lot of people who enjoy skiing or snowboarding will bring their gear to a shop to get ready in the beginning of the season. It’s similar in the spring when people bring their bike to the shop for their annual tune-up, or every 2000 miles when they change the oil in their car. However, unlike when the gears are skipping on your bike or the odometer has added 2000 miles, there isn’t exactly a super clear indicator of when skis need to be waxed. When your skis are inside, they are usually stored base to base, and when they’re on the snow, they are base side down. A quick look at the bases after a few days of skiing on them will reveal that they have changed color a little bit. A lot of skis have almost straight black bases, and the best indicator of when it’s time to wax is when they are getting a fuzzy white to them. Usually, this will start on the edges and work inwards. This is due to simply spending more time with weight on the edges, and can be thought of as how your tires might wear out on your car. Once this fuzziness starts to appear, it’s time to put some more wax on your skis to keep them happy.

A question that may arise if you take a look at your bases and they’re starting to look fuzzy might be “They don’t feel like they need wax, why do I need to wax them? I already had them waxed this year.” Well, the answer to that is because it’s a more gradual transition than the odometer hitting another 2000 or the gears on your bike starting to suddenly skip everywhere. In this case, the snow is like sand paper and the wax in your skis is the wood. One swipe of sand paper won’t make much of a difference, but after a few days of sanding, there will be a noticeable difference. The piece of wood will be smaller and smoother, and that translates to fuzzy looking and slower for skis.

Not everybody is a speed demon. If you enjoy skiing for the shear pleasure of spending time outdoors or with friends or family and have no need to go fast, then you might need a little bit extra energy at the end of the day to toast to a great day of skiing. Waxing your skis or board will give you that extra bit. Speed on skis is usually interpreted as how fast somebody is moving forwards. However, it also applies to sideway motion. While turning or stopping, there is sideways motion, and if your skis have no wax, then there will me more energy spent trying to get your skis or board to move sideways. Gravity pulls you down the hill, your legs move you from side to side on the hill. By keeping your skis or board waxed, you spend less energy. Less time spent telling your buddies that you’re “going to the bathroom” as an excuse for a break and more time spent actually skiing.

Another reason to wax your skis or board is the simple fact that it keeps your gear happy. If you run your car with nasty oil or ride your bike with skipping gears for a while without doing a simple maintenance routine, your car will break down on the free way or your bike chain will snap in the middle of nowhere. Skis won’t fail you should you decide to not wax them, but there won’t be nearly as much joy garnered from the use of unwaxed skis. Also, they will look much cleaner. The fuzziness will go away and small scratches will be very temporarily filled. Larger scratches should be repaired properly.

Waxing your skis or snowboard more often than once a year may seem expensive if you bring them to a shop every time or a hassle if you are more inclined to do it yourself. When going to a shop, don’t ask for a “tune up”, see if they offer a “wax only” or similar option. If doing it yourself is more appealing, try and find a friend to show you the basics. Either way, regularly waxed skis and snowboards are much more fun and easier to use than annually or never maintained gear.

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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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