The Rocky Mountains are known for their cold snow. Alpine skiers get the famous Rocky Mountain Super Powder that creates the images of blower pow. For nordic skiers, the snow type often translates into slow and squeaky glide, especially in December and January. High altitude, low humidity, and an intercontinental location add up to sharp snow crystals that grab, abrade, and slow a gliding ski base that is in contact with the groomed snow surface.
The way to deal with this while waxing and choosing glide paraffins is to flip the problem on its head and make the conditions into a good thing. Most days, from December into March, the snow is going to be a variation of typical Rocky Mountain snow. So simplify waxing and focus on using as few as one glide paraffin for all ski days for the majority of the season.
As they say in the Rockies, “wax cold.” If it warms up a little, the snow crystal type will still reward a skier on a colder paraffin. If it’s really cold, it’s slow skiing no matter what and a cold paraffin will at least be in the right neighborhood without being a chore to apply. Below is a list of glide paraffins on the colder end of the scale that should render decent glide and simpler ski management for much of the CB nordic season.
One Glide Paraffin for Everything (any one of the below)
- Swix CH 6 or LF 6.
- The CH is more affordable and hydrocarbon based.
- The LF has a low amount of fluorocarbons in it which are hydrophobic and, thus, cause the ski to microscopically glide over the snow/water surface a little better. In the dry snow of the Rockies, fluorocarbons often do not work as well as they do in more humid snow.
- Vauhti LF Blue.
- Vauhti LF Green. This is a curious paraffin because on one hand it belongs to the colder and harder green category paraffins intended for colder conditions. But, on the other, it seems to have a very wide range all the way up to and even slightly above freezing. Green category paraffins are a little more difficult to apply because of their hardness. (Author’s note, this is one of my favorites in Colorado.)
- Holmenkol Matrix Blue. This is a HF or high fluorocarbon paraffin and is really popular with folks who use it. It costs more but is worth the price.
Another Paraffin Or Two (prepare for the cold side)
- Start Green. This paraffin is very popular in cold conditions. It comes in different levels of hydro- or fluorocarbon content. When it’s this cold outside, fluorocarbon content matters less or, sometimes, can even have negative returns.
- Swix CH 4 or LF 4. This is Swix’s cold conditions paraffin and seems to have improved over the past several years. Swix sells a hardener powder called CH 3 or LF 3 which works great when it’s really cold.
When applying green category paraffins that require higher iron temperatures, keep a few things in mind.
- Use a good iron and set it to the recommended temperature for the paraffin.
- Keep the iron moving over the ski base.
- Let the ski base cool off some between iron passes.
When waxing is kept simple, it leaves more time for enjoying skiing and not fretting over the “perfect wax.” More times than not, the “perfect wax” is a distraction.
Later, I’ll try to come back and cover glide paraffins for warmer conditions. Until then, pick a paraffin or two, establish a manageable waxing routine, and enjoy the Butte!