Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sandpaper Snow and Icecream Headache Ski

Are we possibly getting too much of a good thing right now (if you are a skier)? The ski season is certainly off to a good start. Two years in a row now. We must be in a cycle of global cooling.

Dave and I headed back up to Waterville Valley this morning. It was a wee bit chilly in the single digits. There was barely a breeze though, so there wasn't the sting single digit temps normally bring.

The valley got 6-8" of new snow out of yesterday's storm. They finally brought out the big grooming equipment. The surface still hadn't set up well. The snow had very low moisture content. I could have waxed with green, but I hate putting that on my skis. It takes such a hot iron and is so hard to scrape if you let it cool too much. Then I can't help but wonder if subsequent warmer waxes even penetrate the base with cooler iron and all that green plugging things up. I used blue. When it is so cold, nothing really gives you good glide. The best you can do is minimize the suckiness. Many areas were sandpaper slow and a slog fest.

To our dismay, Tripoli was not groomed. That climb is half the reason to hit WV. A couple years ago when there was limited snow, that was all that was groomed. So what's up WV? Website said it would be groomed. Wicked Easy/Moose Run and Upper Osceola were groomed. While warming up on Wicked Easy, I was feeling quite smug in my V2 form. I got a little too close to the edge of the groomed surface when ski and boot disappeared into the base. I promptly face planted. There were some very soft spots.

The descents were a tear fest. How do you keep your eyes from tearing up at 25mph in +8F dry air? Even with a balaclava on, I was getting an icecream headache. No problem keeping the core warm, even though the inside of my wind shell would freeze up and make crackling sounds on the descents.

The groomer came back through Livermore Road just before we hit that. This firmed up the surface nicely, bringing up a little bit of older snow. It had a little better glide. This was groomed all the way over Upper Snows, a 600ft net gain climb. This will do. I did it twice, but on my second time up I went into a soft bonk. That's what one Gu over a three hour ski will do.

We were glad we braved questionable roads to ski. There were very few people there and the roads were decent. I logged 41.7km, 874m vertical in 3:14 hours. Wicked slow pace, but it was all work.

I had hopes of hitting the Cape on Sunday for some dirt trail riding. The Friday storm clobbered the Cape. The Bourne Rotary webcam shows me how much snow I can expect on the Otis trails. The Cape stayed bare all winter last year and I frequently enjoyed the best of both worlds: Ski in the Whites, ride on the Cape in the same weekend. I hope the global cooling trend we are in doesn't spoil this.

Hey, did you mountain bikers out there get one of these? There's still time before the end of the year to claim a tax benefit. Go to NEMBA to learn more. Looks nice on my Racer X.


And We Liked It said...

Hey Doug, Matt Kmiec writing. I too hate using green wax on the cold days; awful stuff to work with. But I have a solution for you, that maybe you haven't tried. Even on frigid days, I run blue wax, which I iron in as normal, but when it's still warm and soft, I sprinkle on some Swix CH3 or LF3. Toko Cold Powder also works great. I then iron this again, which blends the powder in the with blue glider very nicely. if you scrape while still slightly warm, this is a fantastic wax to harden up the base for the real cold, abrasive days, with minimal extra effort. I also fine a fine steel brush, followed by Toko's awesome copper brush, is the way to go getting this stuff off.

Also, counterintuitively, occasionally using a very hard wax INCREASES the absorption of softer waxes. the harder wax binds open the amorphous areas of a sintered base, and also bonds chemically with any softer wax on top of it. if you do ever have to use green glider, Start green is fantastic. fastest I've used, buffs out real nice, and melts a bit lower than many other greens. Rex blue is also great for low-humidity sharp stuff. if the snow is really crispy-dry, a wax with a graphite, or better yet, a molybdenum (toko makes a great Moly wax) additive is awfully nice; the graphite or moly act as a shear lubricant, similar to dry graphite lube for locks, etc.

I'm almost as big a nerd about ski wax as I am about hillclimbs... but then, at least in the winter, I make my living tuning and waxing XC skis.

Hill Junkie said...

Hey Matt, great advice. My waxing kit is still pretty basic. As I learn the subtleties of conditions and waxing, I'll have to expand my repertoire of brushes, waxes and shear lubricants. I'll have to dig out the latest Reliable Ski Racing catalog. Any other recommendations for waxing supplies?

Mookie said...

I'm glad you added "if you are a skier", although I did do an hour and a half snowshoe yesterday. We got about 10" yesterday and another 6-8 is on its way down in CT. I still managed 12 miles on the road on the mtb- with the help of the Nokians of course. Incredible tires by the way!

And We Liked It said...

Here's my brush kit:

Swix fine steel
Toko copper
Swix black nylon
Swix horsehair
Swix fine blue nylon

I use the steel before each waxing, to refresh the base and clear out any gunk. The steel and/or the copper are great first brushes for the green and blue waxes, the black nylon for the softer waxes, and the blue fine nylon is an awesome final polishing brush. When using flouro waxes, I also like to use the horsehair as a FINAL final brush, as flouros are more prone to static buildup and the horsehair eliminates this. Jenex Omni Prep makes a great last polishing step after brushing, and can help remove the very tiniest of micro hairs. I also like to set my skis out in the cold after I've brushed them, wait til they get real cold, then bring them in and immediately brush them one more time. the cold contracts the pores in the ski base, and extrudes out a tiny bit more wax. every little bit helps, right!

if you regularly ski on dry snow, it's a good idea to wax with a graphite or, preferably, a moly wax once in a while, even if you won't be skiing on it on that given day. it also makes the base less static-buildup-prone, in addition to acting as a shear lubricant as I mentioned before. Toko's moly wax and Swix's flourinated Moly are great for coarse fine snow; I use the LF3 or Cold Powder to harden them up for colder days. shear lubricant type waxes are also great for dirty snow days, such as in the spring.

every couple of times I ski, after the steel brushing but before the waxing, I like to use some mild Swix Fibertex on my bases. these abrasive pads (use the purple, or the new orange) help knock down sharp ridges in the structure, and also chop off microhairs that can slow you down. keeping a super-sharp scraper also helps with hairs; I find scraper sharpeners to be junk, and just use a flat ski file.

one of the best investments you can make is a structure/rilling tool. Toko makes a good one, but Jenex makes the absolute best. they allow you to press a custom structure into the base for the day's conditions, and since it's only pressed in, and not cut or ground, it's not permanent. a couple of wax/ski cycles will bring it out. I have the Jenex tool myself; their broken structures are nice for the lower humidity days, and I do a fine or coarse linear structure over the top of this, gently, for wetter days. speed trap testing among competitive skiers has shown up to a 10% increase in speed through proper use of rilling and hand-set structure, so that's a heck of a lot of extra speed.

my best suggestion for the wax box is to pick one company's wax line (go for Swix or Toko; they're very complete, and available everywhere) and learn it inside and out. real-world experience will always trump $100 flouros every time.

feel free to email at me if you need any more waxing/tuning advice; like I said, I do this for a living, so I'm more than happy to help! and if you ever need a race waxing or hotbox treatment done, my shop does everything up to world-cup level flouro overlays and 3-part compound structures.

Luke S said...

I would recommend TOKO for glide waxing. Its the simplest, and the cheapest. There are only four colors to invest in (Blue, Red, Yellow, Moly). I was up at Trapp Family Lodge racing this weekend, and it was similarly cold, yet Toko LF Moly/Blue mixed, with LF blue on top was running quite fast in the new snow we were getting all weekend.

Hill Junkie said...

Thanks for the generous tips. I'll be placing an order as soon as I get back from holiday break. I've been using a mix of Swix CH and basic Fastwax (cheap). I have some HF Fastwax for warm wet conditions. I have three brushes, but really only use two most of the time. They are a stiff brass, stiff nylon, and a fine/soft brass brush.

Luke, how were conditions Sunday? We got a good foot of snow in 10 hours at my house in southern NH.

Luke S said...

Sunday stayed pretty good. They had made sure to groom the previous snow into a firm base, so the 6 or so inches of snow that fell during the morning and early afternoon of racing didn't slow things down TOO much. The course was heavily traveled and stayed relatively well packed and the climbs were free from the totally mushy, "sandy" sugary deathtraps that suck down bigger guys like me.

A lot more snow fell after we stopped skiing though...the drive home was certainly interesting.