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Glide

The glide characteristics of ski bases can be modified chemically by waxing. In general terms there are two categories of glide wax that perform different functions.

Paraffins are what we consider bulk-waxes - they go into solution in the base material and modify the bulk properties of the base (hardness, elasticity) as well as providing a measure of lubrication and hydrophobicity. Paraffins can be either straight hydrocarbon, or fluorinated hydrocarbon molecules, where some of the hydrogen on the carbon chain is replaced with fluorine to enhance hydrophobicity. According to the amount of fluorination they have, paraffins can be either synthetic (hydrocarbon), low-fluoro, or high fluoro. These designations are not precise - in general the amount of fluoro additive varies from brand to brand, and even between waxes in a line from a given brand. What matters most is not the absolute amount of fluorine in the wax, but the overall composition of the wax and its performance on the snow!

Paraffin waxes can also be used to carry various additives into the base, like the graphite or molybdenum in the various "black" waxes that are available. In general, graphite provides good electrical conductivity and stability to wax, while molybdenum provides good shear-lubrication. Both are most appropriate in abrasive or dirty snow, and can be a liability in new snow conditions.

Fluorocarbon waxes are the other category, and general serve as surface coatings. Fluorocarbons are often refered to as "pure fluoros" or "100% fluorocarbon". In fact, they are neither. Their main ingredient is a per-fluorinated compound - a carbon chain where 100% of the hydrogen has been replaced by fluorine. These perfluoros are processed with other additives - to get more precise you should ask a wax chemist! Fluorocarbons provide the final layer of race wax in almost all conditions. In addition to providing speed, fluoros provide considerably enhanced durability as compared to un-coated paraffin applications.