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That's an excellent question: Preventing debris build up on grip wax.
By:  Craig Storey   (2012/02/13)


Attached is a photo of the bottom of my skis after doing a run on Trail #15 this morning. I had on Toko viola klister covered by Vauhti carrot. Actually, the grip remained superb, but the glide began to drag badly as the load of leaves increased. If it stays like this for Saturday (Gatineau Loppet), the centre of the track might be the best place to ski.

Best regards,

Yeah, wax picking up leaves is a real drag.. ba-da-boom!  Worse yet if you also loose grip.

You can never totally wax to avoid picking up leaves, but you can try these tricks to help reduce the odds..

1) Applying a very, very thin layer of klister. Thin means <1mm thick and smooth as glass. Even cold klisters are somewhat tacky and can pick up debris if they get mixed with the grip wax or because uncovered.

To achieve a very thin layer of klister binder start by lightly sanding the kick zone with 150-200 grit sand paper from tip-tail. Clean the kick zone with base cleaner. Allow that to dry completely. Then add a very small amount of klister - about 1/4 what you would normally use for klister grip. Heat, spread smooth, re-heat so it melts evenly, allow to cool and then freeze. Once frozen, cork it very smooth. Then add very thin even layers of grip.

2) Mix a bit of silver klister in with the binder. Silver klister was primarily invented to prevent dirt from building up on warmer (purple and red) klisters, but I've found it helps in colder conditions too. Vauhti Silver Minus can be used as a binder and it seems to pick up less than the blue. In really icy and dirty situations I use a 1:1 mix of blue and silver minus.

3) Use a very thin layer of "cover" wax. Cover was is a layer of the harder grip wax that protects the grip softer wax by making it more resistant to dirt and debris. We use a Vauhti Fluoro Green (-10..-20C) as a cover.

4) Use grip powder instead of cover wax. While cover wax reduces some of the grip, grip powder does not. This is because grip waxing is about textures, not about the wax surface being sticky. Wax grips the snow by deforming around the snow crystals it comes into contact with, wax does not adhere to the snow crystals. If grip was due to wax actually adhering to snow crystals then there would always be build up you couldn't wipe away. (If wax does adhere to the snow, you get ice build up.) This is why waxing is about finding a suitably malleable wax for the snow type than anything to do with temperature - air or snow!

Warmer snows have rounder crystals and thus require more pliable, softer waxes which when applied are often stickier to the touch. Cold snow has sharper crystals, and requires harder, more durable less malleable wax.

Grip powder was designed to prevents drier snow or dirt from easily poking into the grip wax and causing drag.  Grip powder acts as a thin repellant crust.  Using the crust analogy think of it as flour preventing pizza dough from sticking to the pan. If you poke your finger through the flour, dough will stick to your finger.  Likewise sharp bits of stem and twig will get into the wax, but hopefully fewer of those large leaves that reduce grip and can really drag will adhere. 

What's the catch?  Why doesn't everyone use grip powder?  Two reasons; it costs a few more bucks, and you need to apply it after your sure the grip is good - hard to put powder on trail side if there's any kind of breeze.  So #3 is the usual solution, with #4 the exotic technique used by racers and waxing enthusiasts looking for perfect skis.

Unavoidable leave, nuts and berries in the tracks by Jo-Ann Holden.

Pine tar is good, pine needles not so much. Photo by Ken Trischuk.

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