While at the National Masters Championships, I took time to attend Michael Dean's Toko wax demonstrations. Toko had recently released some new, advanced waxes and I was unsure how they fit into their line of products or if there were any secrets to using them. I'll go over most of what was covered in the clinic.
Caveats: I have not tested all his recommendations. Secondly, most of the recommendations are to give you maximum glide to the nth degree, where you're trying to take seconds off your time, not minutes.
Why is brushing so important? You don't ski on top of wax. Rather, waxing is used to change the hardness and water-repelling nature of the base. The colder the snow temperature, the harder the base should be. The wax goes into the pores of the skis - really, becomes part of the ski base. If you leave any wax on top of the skis, you'll have slow skis.
For cold waxes, Toko recommends starting with a copper brush, then a hard nylon brush, then a soft nylon brush. Brush out each layer of wax using these three brushes. The soft nylon brush puts a beautiful polish on the skis. If you don't have a soft nylon brush, a horsehair brush will do. Don't use a brass brush: brass is too stiff and can raise hairs on the bases. After you've brushed the last layer of wax, take the skis outside to cool some more. This will force additional wax out of the bases. Brush again with the soft nylon brush. Or go ski on them, then brush again just before you race. You can't brush too much.
For warmer waxes, skip the copper brush - just use the hard and soft nylon brushes.
When waxing a new pair of skis, alternate several layers of System 3 Yellow (soft) and Blue (hard) wax. Finish off with Low Fluoro Molybdenum, then wax for the day.
To clean skis, first copper brush the ski, then use System 3 Yellow, scrape, copper brush again.
Clean your brushes
The easiest way to clean your brushes is to keep them clean in the first place. Each time you finish brushing a layer, slap the brush against the flat of your scraper to knock the wax to the tips of the bristles, then scraper the edge of the over the bristle to fling the wax out of the brush.
Keep the Scraper Sharp!
Michael emphasized the need to keep plastic scrapers sharp. A dull scraper simply pushes the wax; a sharp scraper cuts into the wax. He recommended (of course) the use of a Toko Sharpening tool to get a nice edge. Regardless of the tool you have, periodically sharpen the scraper on a flat file or sandpaper on a flat surface to level the scraper - the sharpening tool over time can make the scraper concave (you tend to sharpen the center of the scraper more than the edges).
It was cold at National Masters: low single digits at best. You wanted hard bases. Everyday, Toko recommended the same wax strategy: Low Fluoro Blue mixed with Low Fluoro Molybdenum, then High Flouro Blue mixed 1:1 with X-Cold Powder. X-Cold Powder is a wax additive that increases the hardness of the base and durability of the wax.
To mix the High Fluoro Blue and X-Cold Powder, drip a heavy layer of the HF Blue on the ski, then sprinkle on a heavy coat of X-Cold. Dab the iron down the base to mix the waxes together and keep the X-Cold Powder from rolling off the ski. Then run the iron from tip to tail for 3 or 4 passes.
Michael recommended that the skis cool at least 20 minutes before scraping. After the last scraping and brushing, take them outside the cool, then brush again.
Tex or no tex? X-Cold comes with a small sheet of tex to put between the iron and the X-Cold to help protect the ski from the hot iron. Michael said most people toss the tex away. Simply make sure you have enough wax on the ski so the iron never touches the base. (That's the reason for putting the heavy layers of High Fluoro Blue and X-Cold above). Unless you have a Toko iron with a wax sheet clip on it, use the tex with your iron is near impossible, and likely to result in burnt fingers...
Helix is Toko's brand new spray on "wax" - their highest performing racing wax. Application is pretty straight forward:
Not sure whether Helix is faster then just High Fluoro? Here's what you can do beside the race course: Wax two sets of skis with the wax of the day, sans Helix. Test your skis and pick out the faster pair. Take the slower pair, dust with the yellow side of the Helix pad, spray on Helix, then use your nylon Roto brush to buff in the Helix. The Roto brush essentially warms the skis so the Helix "dries" and buffs the Helix into the base. The only way this works with cold skis is to use the Roto brush - hand brushing won't generate enough heat outside
For race of up to 30km, rubbing on JetStream is recommended over ironing. Why? The high heat required to iron JetStream will overheat the bases after 4 or 5 times no matter how careful you are. And that means you'll need to have your bases reground.
To apply JetStream,
The Secrets of Helix and JetStream
Now here's the secret of Helix: Ignore what it says on the label about temperature range. Here's when you should use Helix:
So when do you use JetStream New? Pretty much never: Helix Warm is almost always faster than JetStream New. Of course, if you have JetStream New, don't throw it out - use it up before buying Helix Warm.
I used Helix Cold over HF Blue at the White Pine Stampede this year. The temperature was around 18F, with high humidity. I was out gliding everybody, including someone use JetStream - until I hit a colder patch snow. In those cases, my glide was no better (but not worse) than everyone else's. According to Toko, If Helix doesn't make your skis glide faster, it at least won't hurt the glide of the underlying wax. Helix won't penalize you for making a mistake.
Here's another little secret: Helix supposedly lasts 85 kilometers or longer...