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Enjoying Klister Skiing
By:  Arno Turk   (2005/04/01)

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Some skiers may think that the words 'enjoy' and 'klister' do not go together. I once had a coach who, at this time of the year, would often joke: "Do you want to classic ski, or have fun?" Now, more than 15 years after my coach joked about klister skiing, I'm more than confident when I respond that klister skiing IS fun. Like skiing in other types of snow conditions, making some adjustments specific to the snow will magnify your enjoyment.

I'll start with the skis. This year our ski sponsor, Karhu, made available to us their wet snow classic ski. Now some of you may be thinking, "How much difference does the ski make in these warm wet conditions?" I always assumed it was negligible, as the wax/powder was where the glide was gained. I thought this way until I was able to borrow a pair of true klister specific racing skis from a friend on the Canadian National team, while I was racing in the world university games in Poprad, Slovakia. What a difference! Wet snow classic skis have a wax pocket that sits a bit higher off the ground than traditional classic skis. This allows you to carry a thicker layer of klister with out dragging it, thus slowing you down. Yet at the same time, this wax pocket will still close (and grip) under the usual amount of your weight. The added benefit of this higher wax pocket is your klister actually stays on longer. I routinely ski 2-3 times before re-applying klister nowadays

In addition to this, the areas where the tip and tail contact the snow have a very short contact area in relation to a dry snow ski. This prevents the ski from being "trapped" against the snow/water/slush in the track. In wet conditions, the limiting factor to glide is the surface tension created by the water in the track. The shorter the contact with the snow, the less the ski will "suck" against the water in the track. Often racers will complain in these conditions that their skis "sucked" in the wet conditions. This term now has two meanings! Good klister skis don't "suck".

As a footnote to this, klister skis aren't often stocked at most ski shops. It's not something that's just for the XC Ottawa racer types. Most shops will order something like this in for you if you give them enough notice. Karhu Volcan Wet Snow Classic skis can be ordered from Kiwi Mikes Ski Service, located in the Cyclery on Bank St in Ottawa. Ordering now for next year, can guarantee the best selection.

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Using the right klister is obviously critical. When it's this warm out, I prep my skis at home, using a heat gun or torch to warm up the klister and smooth it out with my thumb. I let it cool for a while before putting it in the car. As a general rule when it's slushy out, I pull out the red and violet klisters as well as the universals. If the snow is dirty, I often blend into the mix some silver additive (Vauhti Silver Plus), this stuff is awesome, it prevents the grip zone from looking like some woodsy art work when I'm done. Some manufacturers also blend some tars into their klisters, these ones also help with the durability.

Technique-wise, the grip is generally so good with klister that you may feel there's nothing special to do. However, I feel it's worth pointing out that when you bring your gliding leg forward, it's more critical than ever not to slap or bring down your foot as you drive it forward. I focus on planting my heel more than my whole foot when using klister. This accomplishes two goals, it avoids dragging the klister against the track, and it acts to put more weight on the tail of the ski, shortening the gliding (contact) area, and avoiding some suction on the front of the ski. Similarly, when double poling, I tend to lean a bit more on the heels, lifting the klister pocket.

Lastly, don't always expect to get the same speed you did a month ago. You're going to have to shift gears a bit and allow the speed that the snow will give you. If not you'll quickly fatigue from the slower speed.

All of these tips I've offered, in my opinion, will add up to more than their total sum, if followed. Then you'll see that klister skiing is indeed fun!

 
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