Most of us who live in regions where the weather can be extremely cold know the slow glide feeling on that day when the nose hairs want to freeze together and the snow crunches under foot. It feels more like skiing on frozen beach sand than it does snow. The snow crystals when it is cold (below 10 F or -12 C) are sharp and hard and not subject to transformation. They create a dry friction and drag on the polyethylene base material.
It is nice to have a pair of skis that cope with these conditions. One way would be base material that is harder than bases for warmer snow. All the major ski companies make some version of the cold base skis. Another characteristic of good skis for cold snow is a flex pattern that spreads the skier weight out over a large surface area without concentrating force in any one spot. The ski should have a little tip splay and very gradual and long contact pressure in the front 1/2 and another long and gradual pressure zone to a tail with some splay. Then the grind on the base should be fine and shallow so the sharp snow cannot grab the structure easily.
But if you have only one good pair of skis and want to get out and play when the day is chilly, wax is the only way to modify the base and get gliding. The wax that works on cold snow is harder than the wax for warm snow. The actual hydrogen and carbon molecular bonds are altered to produce a long-chain hydrocarbon wax. It makes it harder. All the major companies make waxes for cold snow, each with a slightly different chemical formula. But all are basically long-chain hydrocarbons that when melted onto a ski base will penetrate the base and make it harder, temporarily. These waxes usually require higher iron temperatures to apply and so care must be used so the bases are not burned in application. I have seen some people use a cheese grater and make a powder of the wax (usually green in color like Solda F15 Green) and then spread the powdered wax evenly on the base and then iron. I like to use the method I call “touch and rub” . With a hot iron in one hand and the bar of cold wax in the other, it touch the wax to the iron for a second and while it is thus warmed and softened, rub it on the ski base. Then repeat until the whole base has a layer of wax rubbed on. Then iron as always. I like to let the ski cool and then iron a couple more passes. This enables the wax to penetrate more deeply into the base. When the wax is almost cool to room temperature scrape it. Brush when it is completely cool.
Solda ski wax is well know internationally to produce some waxes that are extraordinary in cold conditions. I will begin by taking a look at three additives made specifically for extremely cold snow and take a look at when to use them.
First is the Solda S30 cold powder. It looks like tiny styrofoam balls. It acts as a hardener and can be used with any wax to add durability to the wax job. The S30 really hardens the base, sticks well to the base and can serve as a base for other waxes. On really cold, dry snow it can also be a top coat powder as a finish coat over a hard paraffin. I like to use the S30 as a top coat in very cold manmade snow or snow that is often icy and super abrasive. I have had great skis with Solda F15 Green (hard paraffin) topped with S30 when it was 0 F (-17 C) and snowing at West Yellowstone, MT.
Solda also makes an anti-static additive called S20. It is a greenish powder that is applied like the S30. Often when there are cold dry conditions a static charge can be generated. The S20 is designed to help discharge this static charge. We have found S20 used as a finish coat over Solda F15 green to be a great wax in natural, wind-blown snow conditions. If your trails are out in the open and the snow is wind blown, the S20 is the ticket.
A combination of S30 and S20 is sold as Solda S32. The appropriate snow for S32 is humid, cold, manmade snow; snow with a high moisture content and fine, hard crystals.
There are also fluorocarbon powders that are designed for cold snow. Now, fluorocarbons are hydrophobic, meaning that they prevent water from adhering to the base. But in super cold weather there is no free (unfrozen) water available between the ski and the snow. But fluorocarbons can be beneficial in cold conditions, especially when the race is long (over 15km). Not only are fluoros hydrophobic, they are also durable, and because of the negative charge of the electrons in fluorine, they repel the dirt that can be in the snow. A clean ski base will always glide better than a dirty base. The durability of the fluoro top coat is achieve in the high temperatures needed to apply the powder. When ironed carefully over a base of mid-fluoro paraffin the top coat will last a long time. Solda HP05 is such a cold snow powder. When the conditions are cold, transformed and changing it is time for HP05. Think cold, old snow on a sunny day. Solda HP06 is a different animal. It is best applied on days of newish, very cold snow in high humidity and stable temperature. Think newish, humid, cold snow on a cloudy windless day. If it is snowing in this weather the HP06 will run in warmer temps, up to about 14 F. Then there is the cold powder made specifically for cold North American snow. It is a mix of the Solda cold powder S30 and the HP05 fluoro additive. Here think about snow in Colorado or Idaho on a day when it is cold and the day is sunny. HP05/S30 combines the hardening properties of the S30 (durability) and the fluoro benefit of the negative charge, clean base and some moisture with the changing conditions.
As a base (first layer) in almost all cold conditions I like to use the Solda HC28 carbon wax. It is a black, graphite type wax that saturates well, has a broad temperature range and holds waxes that applied over it. It also has the negative charge advantage need in many cold or dirty snow conditions.
Now that you know how to use the cold Solda waxes, go out and glide past all your friends. If you ever have questions about using cold weather Solda waxes, just call us at Webskis, 541-318-8809.