Several times in the past week I've been asked:
- "Why Vauhti?"
- "Is Vauhti better than (Swix/Toko/Rex/Start/Star/Rhode)?"
- "You guys test all wax brands right?"
- "Can you tell me why the team uses Vauhti?"
- "You recommended Vauhti HF Green, I used another brand's HF Green and it was really slow. Why? Aren't they all the same?".
- "What's Vauhti Carrot in Swix?"
I'll try to answer all these questions, and provide some practical suggestions as to which Vauhti waxes you should stock for skiing in Ottawa.
The team's relationship with Vauhti started when John Suuronen took the reigns as our new head coach. He had only two stipulations upon taking the job: we had to cover all his expenses, and that he be allowed to wax exclusively with Vauhti. He postulated that as the only waxer on race days using the one brand which he knew best would both make his life simpler and give us the best results.
Skeptical, but having used and appreciated various Vauhti waxes over the years I didn't see a problem to trying this approach. At the time I reserved judgment as to whether it was the best option, but I'm now convinced.
Difference in Waxing Approaches
When it comes to ski waxing there are two different approaches: "Brand Loyal" (BL) or "Old Favourites" (OF).
The BL approach is obvious - you stick to using one brand's line of waxes. Pick a brand, learn it's secrets and stick to it.
Major wax brands (Briko, Start, Rex, Swix, Toko, Solda, Ski-Go, Rhode, Star, Vauhti) all offer multiple waxes that attempt to cover the snow/temperature spectrum.
The OF system is a multi-brand approach. Based on experience and testing waxers come to prefer specific waxes/brands for each snow type, temperature, venue, etc.. In this system waxers generally travel with multiple wax boxes filled with 2,3,4 or even up to 8 complete wax lines from different brands! Over time and with plenty of testing and experience a preferred list of waxes in each condition is achieved and what needs to be stocked can be whittled down to just the favourites.
Which Method Works?
The drawbacks to the OF approach are thus - you need to stock a lot of waxes until you find the favourites ($$), you need to know the details about a lot more waxes, you need to test a lot of waxes all the time and finally there are always more waxes and combinations available. With an army of waxers, a fleet of matched test skis and a very structured, systematic approach OF works well.
But for individuals, small teams and people with jobs OF can be difficult to execute effectively. There's also the problem that wax brands often change their lines and formulas. You might go into your local ski store and discover that your entire set of favourites have been "reformulated" - gasp! At this point you might need to source a lifetime supply of your favourites. (Don't laugh we know coaches who have basements full of X, because "You can't get it anymore!")
At the same time as a favourite disappears from the market new waxes are appearing. You might need to retest everything because someone tells you "this new stuff is fast!".
The flaw in the BL system is that the brand you pick might not have competitive waxes over the entire temperature and snow type range. One brand can't cover the entire spectrum can it?
So which method works? What it all boils down to is how complicated you are willing to make your waxing. If you can find a brand that suits your typical range of snow and temperature conditions then waxing is simplified.
Note: Waxes aren't interchangeable! There's really no translating from one brand to another! One brand's blue wax isn't the same as another brand's blue wax. Why? Each company uses different additives to make its waxes and the result is that
each brand's blue wax works differently.
The Vauhti Experience...
Ski racers are fickle; they like their skis both grippy and glidy at the same time. Too grippy and they get grumpy, not glidy enough and they pout. Tough crowd. So the fact that John Suuronen hears a lot more compliments than complaints after races is a good indicator that the Vauhti waxes he's using are working.
Since starting with Vauhti I've been impressed with many aspects of the brand, but primarily how well the glide waxes work in Ottawa. Hands down Vauhti has the best cold dry snow wax for Ottawa. While I test it out locally most often, it works really well in other places too - Canmore, Quebec, Silver Star to name a few. Not surprising since Vauhti wax is a product of Finland, which like Canada has primarily cold dry winters.The Vauhti "Brand Loyal" approach was something I had never tried. I was used to coaches using the "Old Favourites" system with the general belief that by testing various brands you came up with the absolute fastest wax for the day. I've realized that Vauhti uses a layering system, LF/HF/powder for glide which gives it a very wide array of combinations to cover all conditions.
One of Vauhti's strengths is that they do an excellent job of publishing these recipes in a yearly booklet, the Vauhti Tech Manual. It's targeted at both a recreational and racing audience - both grip and glide. It includes descriptions of the waxes, highlighting the new products. Even guru John refers to this manual often, and he hands them out every season to all XC Ottawa athletes with simple instructions - "Read it!". (We're pretty sure that John's feedback is also incorporated into new products which appear in these manuals.)
I've always had a few favourite Vauhti waxes. In the late 90s while racing in Thunder Bay I discovered Vauhti LF Green glider was the best for dry, old, very cold snow. Later I discovered a Vauhti fluoro blue grip wax that worked in an almost unbelievable temperature range! Vauhti would later change the colour from blue to orange and it is now affectionately known as 'Carrot'. Others love Vauhti Teho Green.
Ok, I hope that explains why we use Vauhti without sounding like a salesman or fanboy. Next article will detail which of the Vauhti grip and glide waxes XC Ottawa skiers stock in their wax boxes at all times.