Tag Archives: fluorocarbon wax

Wax Technology

It is always good to start with the basics. Skis or snow boards do not ride on snow! They ride on water. As a ski slides over snow, friction melts a thin layer of the snow, turning it into water over which your ski/board glides.  The water then re-freezes after the ski/board has passed, leaving a fresh track on the trail.

Ski/board’s bases are made of plastic (usually polyethylene) with a specially-designed structure.  This structure helps channel the water from the tip to the tail of the ski as you ski/ride down the hill. The idea here is to reduce the friction causing the ski to glide more easily and with less friction.  Less friction means more speed.

Wax is used to reduce this friction even further, and preserve the integrity and structure of the ski. Over the years, typical waxes have been made from paraffin wax (a product derived from petroleum).  As skiers became more conscious of the benefits of wax, wax formulators introduced additives into their products, such as fluorocarbons. These chemicals are excellent in reducing friction having a very low coefficient of friction. Overall, fluorocarbon waxes are great; however, they are dangerous to your health if you happen to breathe in the fumes during application. They hurt the environment, introducing fluorine into the snow.  As for high fluorinated waxes, most skiers will not even experience the full benefit of the wax because they are designed specifically for high-humidity snow conditions. Additionally, these waxes are very costly.

To combat these shortcomings of highly-fluorinated and potentially dangerous waxes, we borrowed a technology from the cosmetic industry.

This additive is not hazardous to your health and is more eco-friendly. Its coefficient of friction is very close to fluorocarbon, making it an excellent replacement additive. Both GI1K and 2K utilize this technology. The GI2K contains a highly advanced polymer which makes it more durable and longer lasting.

If you were wondering why waxes are made to perform at different temperature snow conditions, the reason is simple: The colder the snow, the harder the crystals. It is most beneficial to use a wax with a hardness matching that of the snow. Therefore, all Green Ice ski waxes have been formulated with differing levels of hardness.  If however, the snow conditions will be unknown, choose the middle temperature wax (18-28 degrees F) as this wax will suffice for most conditions a rider/skier experiences.

Green Ice 1K and 2K waxes have been proven to be very durable. They last longer than average fluorocarbon waxes and tend not to whiten the base of the board or ski. They perform well in all humidity conditions. Green ice 2K has excellent static and dynamic properties. There is minimal stick upon take off and your skis will glide over any terrain the mountain throws at you.

Finally our Green Ice Ultimate ski wax is 100% safe for the environment. We borrowed the plant waxes used in the automobile industry to create an environmentally friendly wax with plant bi-products as the only raw materials. Green Ice Ultimate uses absolutely no chemicals, solvents or plasticizers, only pure natural materials made from plants. Green ice Ultimate also incorporates a natural friction reducing additive, making it an excellent race wax or everyday recreational formula.

In summary:  Green Ice ski waxes are more durable and longer lasting. They work over a wide range of snow temperatures and in all humidity conditions.  They are also eco-friendly and do not require a respirator to make the application process safe.  Finally you will find them a cost effective wax solution for all skiing and riding levels.

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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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Effects of Fluorocarbons in Ski Wax on Humans and the Environment

Stability Concerns of Fluorinated hydrocarbons

Fluorinated hydrocarbons (FOC’s) are molecules which contain carbon-fluorine (C-F) bonds. FOC’s have been used over several decades in a variety of industrial products. Some include pesticides, lubricants, refrigerants, paints, drugs and ski and snowboard waxes.

As with all larger polymeric molecules, it originally was believed that larger fluorinated hydrocarbons were inert and did not pose any threats.  New research suggests otherwise.  The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a report indicating “FOC’s are not biologically inert and exhibit toxic effects on humans and animals and impact the overall ecosystem health.” There is now evidence that microbes are capable of degrading and detoxifying fluorinated hydrocarbons, as well as the potential for enzyme systems to break carbon fluorine bonds exist in the molecules. As a result, the inert molecules, once described as harmless, can actually break down into smaller, toxic molecules through ordinary processes.

Not only do microbes and enzymes break down the fluorocarbons, but Ultraviolet (UV) Light and heat can do the same. Overheating a fluorinated ski or snowboard wax with a standard waxing iron will break down the larger molecules in a manner similar to the microbes. Since UV Light works the same, any wax left on the hill will break down over time.  These smaller particles remain in the snow, and as the snow melts they find their way to streams, lakes, and oceans.

Environmental Impact

To make fluorinated Hydrocarbons polymers used in ski wax, smaller molecules of FOC’s are used as precursors. Many studies found traces of these precursors in food, human blood,  and human milk. Surprisingly high concentrations were determined in fish, seals, sea birds and even in polar bears from the Arctic. It is not fully understood how the pollutants travel around the world, but the pattern suggests that waterways act as an excellent means of transportation.

Many manufacturers use these precursors in the production of fluorinated ski waxes, and therefore are susceptible to the degradation by UV Light, heat, and enzymes.  As a result, these ski and snowboard waxes might be considered a cause for pollution.

Effects on Humans and Animals

These smaller fluorinated hydrocarbons can also accumulate inside the human body.  High levels of the molecules can be toxic and have negative health effects.  Data from animal studies indicate that they can cause several types of tumors and neonatal death.  Traces of toxicity were also found in the immune, liver, and endocrine systems.

Additionally, the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for Teflon (PTFE), another fluorocarbon, requires that no smoking occur in areas where the material is stored or handled. Inhalation of fumes can cause the temporary condition of “Polymer Fume Fever”, with flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, and malaise.

There have been reports that ski wax technicians working for World Cup Race teams possessing median levels of one compound specific to fluorocarbons that were 45 times higher than the general population. Exposure could be risky, especially to thousands of junior ski racers and parents who wax with fluorinated ski waxes day after day without the proper precautions.

Alternative waxes

As a result of the possible environmental and health effects associated with fluorinated ski wax, some alternative ski and snowboard waxes have been formulated. Green Ice Ski Wax has a fluoro-free race wax, which has been proven to be equally as effective without any issues.  They also sell a 100% biodegradable wax available which eliminates the negative health and environmental impacts entirely.

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