FEATURE ARTICLES

Evaluating Weather and Snow Conditions for Waxing
By Jim Galanes
From the 1996 Early Winter issue of New England Nordic News [This is the second part in a series of waxing information Jim has written for Star wax, and generously shared with NENN.


ATMOSPHERIC CONDITIONS

Evaluating the atmospheric condition is very important for proper wax selection. The atmospheric conditions have a direct impact on the metamorphosis of the snow and its current conditions. The conditions we monitor for ski waxing are: Air Temperature, Snow Temperature, and Air Humidity. Air Temperature should be taken five to six feet off the ground in an area not exposed to the sun. Snow Temperature should be taken one to two inches below the surface of the snow. In very cold conditions snow temperatures are similar to the air temperature. At air temperature below zero centigrade, the snow will lag behind rising or falling air temperatures. In the northern climates, shady areas or northern exposure snow temperatures may remain stable even as the air temperature rises. This is because the snow continues to lose its heat into space. At air temperatures above zero centigrade, and once snow temperatures reach zero centigrade, the snow temperature will rise no further. At this point the air temperature and humidity are most important to follow. Air Humidity is a very important factor for wax selection. The humidity can be measured with a simple hygrometer. For wax selection purposes, air humidity can be classified three ways:
Low humidity 60%or less: Wax 2-4 degrees centigrade colder.
Normal humidity 60-80%: Wax according to the charts.
High humidity 80-100%: Wax 2-4 degrees centigrade warmer.

At high air humidity, moisture in the air is deposited in the snow. This higher
snow moisture content requires a warmer, softer wax. In new snow conditions
this may mean using a soft violet or special red hard wax even if the
temperature is below zero centigrade. Conversely, at low air humidity, the heat
and moisture from the snow are returned to the atmosphere. At low humidity,
even as temperatures rise to four or five degrees centigrade, little or no
change in the snow conditions occurs. In new snow conditions this may mean
using a violet hard wax even at temperatures of plus two to three degrees
centigrade or more. In older spring snow, typically encountered in the spring
in the western U.S., a hard klister blue and violet, perhaps with a little
silver mixed in, may be used well above the freezing point.
SNOW CONDITIONS
Snow goes through continual metamorphosis as it falls and sits on the ground.
This metamorphosis is caused by the atmospheric conditions as the snow falls,
and atmospheric conditions and pressure as it sits on the ground.
New Fallen Snow: New fallen snow is the condition of the snow as it falls and
that is generally less than 24 hours old. The snow crystals of new fallen snow
are very sharp, but once new snow is groomed a couple of times, it quickly
changes to fine- grained, packed powder.
Fine-Grained Snow: Fine-grained snow is fresh-fallen and has not been through
the melt-freeze metamorphosis. The snow crystals are more rounded due to
pressure and mechanical grooming.
Coarse-Grained Snow: Coarse-grained snow is snow that has been through the
melt- freeze metamorphosis, and the snow crystals are very round, ball-bearing
like. In most cases this snow is quite abrasive and requires the use of
klister.
Man-Made Snow: Man-made snow is very similar to coarse grained snow, except
that it can contain much higher water content. The snow crystals are very round
due to the water and the pressure used in blowing the snow. We are dealing with
the abrasiveness of the snow, which calls for harder wax, but also with a
moisture content that calls for a softer wax. What we are trying to do in these
conditions is use a softer base layer, then a harder wax over it. Clearly we
need the water repellency, but we also need the durability.

Snow Type Snow Condition Type of Wax
New Fallen Fresh Hard Wax
Glazintg Hard Wax or Hairies
Wet Hard Wax or Klister
Fine Grained Packed Powder Hard Wax
Wind Blown Hard Wax
Coarse Grained Hard Pack - Heavily Tilled (below -3 C) Binder Hard Wax
Hard Pack (0 to -3 C) Klister covered with Hard Wax
Moist (around 0 degrees C) Lister or Klister covered with Hard Wax
Ice Klister
Saturated Klister
Man-Made Hard Packed-Heavily Tilled (below 0 degrees C) Binder Hard Wax
Hard Packed (below 0 degrees) Klister covered with Hard Wax
Moist (around 0 degrees C) Klister covered with Hard Wax
Ice Klister
Saturated Klister

Jim Galanes is now living in Anchorage, Alaska, where he has started up the GOLD
2002 program, with the goal of winning medals in the 2002 Olympics, as well as
ensuring long term success in cross country ski racing. His program has already
attracted a broad range of athletes ranging from juniors to masters skiers.
Check the website http://www.arctic.net/~d3system/xc/ for more info. on Jim's
program.


Coaches: We invite you to send in your favorite waxing decision-making stories,
particularly in difficult snow conditions or in high pressure situations. We
may need to edit them for space considerations, or for legal reasons!