For 60 years Swix Sport has been instrumental in the development of ski wax and base preparation methods. Based upon research, feedback from our World Cup Service Teams, and race results, the following is our latest and most up to date information on base structure and the use of our world renowned imprint tools, the new T405 and the industry benchmark, the T401.
Structure is a term used to describe patterns cut into the ski base to reduce base contact on the snow and to release surface tension from water films caused by base friction. These structure patterns are most often produced by stone grinding machines at the factory during production or by shops that specialize in the stone grinding process. It is also possible to produce structures using hand tools. Swix Sport makes two hand tools or “imprinting” tools, the T401 and the T405. Almost all the nations competing in the World Cup are frequently using these two tools. The purpose of this discussion is to properly explain structure and when to use the T401 and the T405. Our goal is for you to have fast skis!
Structures made by hand on top of structures produced by machine have proven to give outstanding results. Manually set structures in combination with stone grinding can match the day’s conditions more accurately and therefore enhance the effectiveness of a basic stone ground base. There is an important difference between structures produced by machine and those produced by hand. Stone ground structures are cut into the base, and are more permanent in nature. Hand structures use “imprint” tools that press the structure into the base, and consequently are temporary.
Swix imprint tools have the advantage of being easy and quick to use while at the same time offer the most adaptability of adjusting the structure to match the snow type. During the process of hot waxing the heat from the iron will cause the pattern to leave the base while keeping the stone ground pattern intact. In this way the base is ready once again for the next hand-produced structure treatment and it is possible to apply the perfectly matching structure according to the conditions of the day. Today’s tendency is to see athletes carrying their favourite skis with a few “universal” stone ground patterns that are then manipulated by manual imprint tools. This provides the athletes greater flexibility with their favourite skis as they can be used in wider temperature ranges and snow conditions.
In most cases during World Cup competition, perhaps 80-90% of the time, manual imprint tools are used as the last step in ski preparation before the athlete enters the start gate, usually with some light brushing by a nylon brush. The main reason for this is that (except in very cold, dry temperatures) the structure performs best when it is sharp and fresh. Also, as previously mentioned, the heat of the iron during waxing will cause the pattern to leave the base. The Swix Imprint Tool T405 and Rilling Tool T401 can be used independently of stone grinding. One advantage of the Swix Hand Structure Tools is that with one or two pairs of skis, you can easily adjust the structure to the conditions of the day. This is rational for young and older racers as well as for top racing athletes.
This is part 1 of a series on Hand Structure. Part 2: Using the T401 & T405