While most people realize spring has arrived when the days get longer and the sun gets higher in the sky, it usually hits me when all of a sudden we're pulling red and yellow waxes out of the box instead of greens and blues. It might be a bit late since almost all of the races are over, but spring skiing can be the best of the year if you know the secrets, so hopefully we can prevent you from packing the skis away too early and missing out on some great snow and fantastic weather.
As the sun gets higher and the days get longer, the snow gets baked more during the day and since temperatures are warmer, any new snow is generally falling wet and with large flakes. Rain, freeze/thaw cycles and extremely dirty snow are also common in the spring. We also often see highly variable conditions such as newer, cold snow in the shade and completely transformed, wet snow in the sun. This requires special waxes and structure to manage moisture, ice and dirt, as well as some thought as to what will run best overall across a variety of conditions.
As always, the place to start is with skis. Sometimes it is a challenge because the variability of the snow conditions requires two (or more) competing ski characteristics. In general, hard, icy tracks require a stiffer ski with a relatively short pressure zone, while soupy, wet conditions require a softer ski than the ice, with a soft tip but focused pressure zone to manage moisture. For skating, the hard track skis need to have good edge bite, so if the pressure zone is too long or the skis are too soft, the skis may be a bit squirrely and not provide solid grip during the push. For classic skis, having the right kick wax pocket is the most important consideration, with klister, binder and warm, sticky hard waxes requiring a higher kick zone and a punchier ski that keeps those slow waxes off the snow while gliding and double-poling.
The next step is structure. Having the right stone grind for the day can often be challenging due to variability, and not very many people have the luxury of dedicated skis for icy and sloppy wet conditions. Hand structure can help in these conditions, but it generally works best on top of the appropriate stone grind. The two factors to consider when choosing structures are moisture management and dirt collection. Unfortunately, these often compete against each other, so ultimately the best structure choice will balance the two. To avoid collecting dirt, choose clean-cut structures that are duller, less complicated and shallower. Always make sure that you brush the ski well with a metal brush after applying hand structure to smooth out any inconsistencies and remove material that can collect dirt.
For moisture management, we find that three types of structures work well in different types of
Holmenkol Cross Structure Tool
conditions. At BNS, we use the Holmenkol Cross Structure tool with two rollers often in moist to wet conditions. We use it alone when the snow is wet, but not saturated with moisture. It can also be a good top layer on top of deeper structures when the snow gets really sloppy. The nice thing about it is that it is relatively temporary and usually pops out of the ski base with one or two iron cycles.
Finite Structure Box
As snow starts to get saturated with water, deeper, more complex structures are needed to break up moisture. This is where the V structures work well. From dryer to wetter, we really like the Finite Finish V05 alone or covered with L04, then the V10 covered with V05, and then the V03 alone. The V03 seems to do really well in new, wet snow or rainy new snow. Beware, these structures are fairly permanent and may take a stone grind to get out.
Once the snow starts to get super-saturated with free moisture everywhere such as when it's raining or super-slushy, deep linear structures seem to speed things up by providing actual drainage. We often use a Swix Riller 2.0mm or 3.0mm covered with 0.75mm or 1.0mm in combination with a V tool. Because the riller is so aggressive, it is wise to use it as little as possible to avoid collecting dirt, and we often run it only on the tail of the ski from the heel back.
Swix XC Super Riller
The key when applying structure is to keep it clean and organized and use a light touch. While layering one, two or maybe three structures can be good, avoid busy, disorganized structures, as these will generally be slow and collect dirt. If you are layering, the structures must complement each other and not interfere too much with what each is trying to accomplish. We see a lot of over-structured skis come in for stone grinding that have really sharp, deep structures that are overlaid and just basically a mess that is terribly slow.
With the right skis and structure, it's time to put on the magic waxes that make spring skiing delicious. We have some favorites that should be in every spring wax kit. Again, in spring conditions, we are always battling dirt and moisture. For dirt resistance, we usually lay down a hard glide wax underlayer such as a green, blue or Skigo LF Graphite, then apply the red or yellow wax of the day on top of that for maximum glide. On icy snow, it often works well to run one grade lower than temperature suggests. In wetter snow, a hard underlayer is ideal, but sometimes graphite can be a liability, so it is smart to test first to decide between a green wax and LF Graphite.
Our Favorite Spring Waxes
SkiGo Yellow wax used to be called C242 and it has been the magic formula for saturated, wet snow for two decades. It comes in three varying levels of fluoro - XC (no fluoro), LF and HF. The LF is a great training wax, and the HF Yellow is a definite must for every racing kit. The wax is relatively soft, but repels dirt well and therefore can be used in long-distance races. This wax wins spring wax tests a lot.
Rex Olympico Yellow is also a great wet-snow HF Paraffin wax. It is harder than most other yellow waxes and therefore tends to be the wax of choice in dirty, icy, messy snow. Try it with RCF Pink as an underlayer. Rex Hydrex is also a good wax that can be used as a glide wax topcoat for shorter races in very wet conditions, and it can also be used as a kick-wax or hairies de-icer.
SkiGo C22 is unbelievable once the snow becomes saturated. The powder is very durable and will win tests 80% of the time if there is free moisture in the snow. It requires a very hot iron (175C+), so make sure that you have something capable of burning it that hot, and move the iron quickly. When C22 liquid runs well, it seems to run away from everything else. Some of the fastest skis I've made relative to other racers' skis have been C22 liquid over C22 powder. C22 liquid tends to run in wet snow that is transforming after a few freeze/thaw cycles.
SkiGo C44 is worth mentioning here because it runs very well in icy, transformed snow, and snow that is warming from mid-range and transforming into the wet range. It also requires a hot iron (175C-180C).
Gallium MaxFluor liquid is absurdly expensive but also absurdly fast in saturated, transformed snow. When this stuff runs, nothing else comes close.
Application of liquid glide waxes: liquids are relatively easy to apply. We usually apply them after fluoro powder and hand structure have been applied. For shorter races, the liquid can be applied directly after an HF Paraffin layer. Paint the liquid on the ski and let it dry for three to five minutes. Cork the liquid with a hand cork aggressively, then let it cool as long as possible as durability increases the longer it cools. Brush it with a horsehair or stiff white nylon brush. SkiGo liquids have very high durability and seem to work more consistently than a lot of other liquid fluoro waxes. With a good drying time, expect at least 20km from a liquid application, especially if it is applied on top of a fluoro powder.
The SkiGo HF kick waxes have amazing properties and they really shine in spring conditions. The HF Blue has fantastic grip, speed and durability in a very broad range of conditions (-1C to -20C) in everything except new snow. SkiGo HF Red hard wax is for all snow types and has very
good grip in tricky conditions from +1C to -3C. This stuff is amazing because it gets grip in such a wide range of conditions, when other red waxes are either slippery or icing in different sections of the track. SkiGo HF Yellow is for wet conditions above freezing right before the move to klister becomes necessary. It is also a great cover for klister. This stuff is amazing when it works because it will be much faster than klister when no other hard waxes are working.
Guru kick waxes are also incredible, but two of the stars in spring snow are Guru Red and Extreme Hallgeir. Guru Red (0C to -4C) works especially well in new snow and fine-grained snow and can be mixed in with Green for variable colder conditions. It provides excellent kick in a broad range of conditions where other kick waxes can't cut it. Extreme Hallgeir is very hard for a soft wax (yes we know that does not make sense, but try it) and is excellent in coarse-grained and man-made snow where grip and durability are needed. An excellent cover to klister in icy, aggressive conditions.
For klisters, the SkiGo HF Violet is excellent because it has a very broad range of grip and is quite free. It is softer than most other violet klisters, but holds on well and still glides fast. We often will mix in a few drops of Ski*go HF Yellow klister under the toe if extra grip is needed.
Guru Extreme 39 is an amazing Universal klister in the range of -2C to +7C that works very well in grainy or man-made snow as well as most snow types just below and above freezing. Great durability, speed and kick. Extreme 39 Hard is a tougher version of Extreme 39 for use in icy conditions +4C to -5C. Can be used as a binder as well. Guru Red is also excellent in fine- and coarse-grained old snow and corn +5C to +15C.
Rode klisters are a standby of many wax boxes and Chola is the best binder when you need extreme durability. It is very sticky stuff, so you want to be sure to cover it well, but when the tracks are bulletproof ice, Chola is the only solution as the binder layer. Keep it thin!!!
Rode Special Violet is one of the best klisters for icy tracks below freezing. Rode Violet is for icy to variable tracks, Rode Rossa for old, wet snow.
Start Universal Wide is amazing stuff and tends to work well in newer snow relative to a lot of the other klisters. It has unique properties that give it amazing grip and glide in the right snow. Definitely a must have in the kit.
Swix K22n is a warm universal klister that works well above freezing when the snow is wet and icy.
Enjoy the spring snow and have fun playing with these waxes. They make easy work of very challenging conditions