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What we did, why, and how it worked out

Birkie waxing

Tue, Feb  24, 2009 - By Ian Harvey, Toko

The American Birkebeiner race was this past Saturday 21 February. The race was very successful. The conditions were excellent, the organization and communication from the Birkie organization was great, registration was the second highest ever, and the new classic trail was very enthusiastically received.

We posted a wax tip for the Birkie on Tuesday morning. The wax tip was LF Moly/LF Blue 1:1 mixed, HF Blue, and JetStream Blue and fine structure. For grip, we said to wait and visit us on site as it was clearly too early to call especially given the uncertain forecast. Our tip stayed consistent as it usually does. It is really great to work with waxes such as HF Blue and JetStream Blue that have such wide ranges of conditions that they excel in. Keep in mind that the JetStream Blue won US Nationals, the Mora Vasaloppet, the City of Lakes Loppet, the Boulder MT Tour, and the midwest SuperTour events in very cold conditions and also tested the best on before the Birkie and the Boulder in warmer conditions (mid to high 20s). This is a wax that performs in everything under freezing - a "go to" product similar to HF Blue - and especially well in the cold.

As the race got nearer, the forecast first got colder, and then changed to warmer last minute. From the glide perspective, nothing changed on our end.

On Wednesday, the area got about 2 inches of new snow that dried out over night. Due to the Birkie sprints and the Barnebirkie events, the groomers were not able to get out and till the new snow into the dirty icy snow underneath. We did not want to change our wax tip until we were able to test in snow that might resemble race day. So we kept things the same on glide and told people to come back the next day regarding kick.

On Friday morning, we tested glide and kick on different parts of the course (that had been tilled by this point). Having XCold powder mixed in sped things up. This was not a surprise. XCold powder is not just a hardener. The practical effect of XCold is that it makes the skis slipperier at slow speeds. This means that when the snow is cold and slow, it is really useful. But when the snow is fast, it doesn't provide any real positive effect. The new snow that had been mixed in was enough to ensure that the XCold was beneficial. That said, once a thousand or so people skied over the trail, it would have a minimal effect and we didn't want to recommend something to someone that wouldn't be better than what they already might have had. So, we did a verbal recommendation to add XCold to the HF Blue for the elite and first waves. We anticipated that these waves would have more powder to contend with and it would make more of a difference for them.

On kick, we tested green klister thick covered by white, green klister thin covered by white, green binder covered by white, and a thick layer of green binder straight. The straight thick green binder provided the best kick by far. Straight thick green binder is draggy, but if you keep it off the snow, it can provide great kick and be durable. Generally the best condition for this odd sounding solution is an icy track that has powder mixed in, a track that has conditions where you are unsure whether or not to use klister or hard wax, or a track containing multiple or varying conditions (slush, ice, powder, etc). Again, it is draggy, but if put on short and kept off the snow, it can be really excellent. We have been doing this since the 2002 Olympics, but haven't included it in any written wax tips as people think it must be a typo. It clearly requires a verbal explanation which we were able to give at the Birkie. Every time it was recommended, we were supposed to have said to apply it on a klister zone only of the ski and that it was draggy (keep it off the snow), but offered bomber kick and was durable. If it were to snow, it would not ice and would still kick well, but would be especially draggy. Were it to snow, it could effectively be covered by white or blue grip wax which would speed it up.

So, this is what we went with and things went really great. On the Men's skate race, skiers waxed exclusively with Toko wax took 4 out of the top 5 including the win (1, 2, 4, and 5). Way to go Matt Liebsch, Bryan Cook, Brian Gregg, and Duncan Douglas. We didn't have any contenders at all in the women's race, which we knew going in, so we didn't have any results there. Skiers waxed exclusively with Toko wax also won both the women's and men's classic races, so we clearly had a superb wax tip and results. Great job Martina Stursova and Gus Kaeding. Furthermore, very many age group winners went on our wax tip as well as a ton of people who have communicated "best days ever". It was a very successful event for us that gave us the opportunity for us to demonstrate our willingness to help, our expertise, and the effectiveness of our products. It was a great Birkie in many respects and we are grateful for so many people in our sport that share our love for skiing and also expend so much energy on our behalf.

Ian Harvey
Toko USA