Tag Archives: ski

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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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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