.: Ski XCOttawa.ca :: Skiing in Ottawa and Gatineau Park

That's an Excellent Question: Do Waxless Skis Work in Slush?
By:  Craig Storey   (2006/03/30)


I just took up XC skiing this winter so I'm unfamiliar with "ideal" ski conditions. I just bought a pair of waxless classic skis and due to a wrist sprain this spring have been unable to use them as much as I would like. Are the current trail conditions suitable for waxless skis, or is it more likely I'll be sliding everywhere without much grip?


In general I would say YES waxless skis are good in spring skiing conditions, but here are the caveats:

  1. There are lots of brands and varieties of waxless skis. Some with fish scales some with fuzzy bases. Generally the fish scale ones are good in wetter snow, but not on ice.
  2. The snow conditions change fast in the spring! This morning at 7:30 it was hard and almost too crusty to ski on. By 8:30 it was warming and it was perfect in most spots except the shade. By 9:30 it was slushy some places but generally really good. By say 1pm it will be like skiing in mashed potatoes.
  3. Classic tracks need to freeze to maintain their shape once groomed. If it doesn't get below 0C overnight, they won't re-groom the classic tracks adn you get what other people skied-in the day before.

So with that in mind here's my suggestion for you. Ski either after work, say from 5-7pm on a day when it warms up to at least +5C in the city. Alternately, try a ski at 9:30am or later when it's warming up from an overnight freeze and it's expected to be a warm day. The snow should get wet and "transform" (from ice or crust to corn or slush) at around these times and waxless skis should work well.

But there are no 100% guarantees. Pick a nice sunny day and in the worst case if your skis don't work and you have to give up after 10 minutes, you can hang out in the park and get a tan.

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