An article from forskning.se
Better skiing without wax
Skiing is a popular sport in the Nordic countries. Research now shows that you get better glide without wax. This is a controversial finding.
Why shouldn’t we use glide wax?
"For two reasons. You’ll get better glide, and it’s better for your health and the environment", says Leonid Kuzmin at Mid Sweden University, who is the man behind this controversial finding.
On old wooden skis they used to use stearin or tar to obtain better glide. Wood is a porous material that absorbs water, so you had to apply glide wax. But since the 1970s virtually all skis have a surface of so-called ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE). It’s a non-porous and water repellent material with good wear characteristics, a low coefficient of friction, and the capacity to self-lubricate. Applying paraffin on a UHMWPE surfaceis like tarring a plastic boat.
"All you need to do is scrape the surface with a steel scraper once in a while. This takes only a couple of minutes, compared with standing for an hour in the waxing shed, applying glide wax and breathing in unhealthful odours."
How is glide wax dangerous?
"The problem arises when you prepare the skis. When the wax is melted onto the skis, you breathe in different vapours that are released into the air. If you use glide wax with fluorocarbons, the health risks increase considerably, among other things in the form of too much fluorine in the blood", says Kuzmin.
"When paraffin waste, with its fluorocarbons, then winds up in the rubbish and is burnt, gases are produced that are ten times more dangerous than the phosgene battle gas used in the First World War."
Why don’t more people just skip the glide wax?
"That’s a good question. The established wax industry says I’m wrong, but they haven’t put forward any arguments why, even though my first findings were published as early as 2006 in a licentiate thesis", says Kuzmin, who himself had a great deal of experience both as a skier and as a waxing technician before he turned to research.
"People can do as they like. Skiing is something you do in your leisure time, after all, but why mess around with wax when it’s cheaper, quicker, and more healthful to use the original surface?"
What should you do if you already have glide wax on your skis?
"Just scrape it off of the original surface using a steel scraper. It just takes a couple of minutes to uncover a fresh new surface with good glide, and you can do this over and over again for many years without wearing out the surface.2
Does this hold true for both cross-country skis and slalom skis?
"Yes, the principle is the same", says Leonid Kuzmin.