When the snow is very cold it can also be very slow. This makes understanding how to wax for cold conditions critical if you are a racer or want your equipment to perform well.
Most people just wax with a really hard wax for cold conditions and figure that they have it covered. At face value this makes sense because when you harden the base you minimize the dry friction that exists between the base of the ski and the snow which is devoid of free moisture. However, all cold snow is not the same. I think the best way to look at cold snow from a practical or usable point of view is to break cold snow down into cold and slow, cold, and cold and fast. Each wax has its “sweet spot” and there is no one wax that performs at the highest level in each of these conditions.
These three conditions that I have described, cold and slow, cold, and cold and fast, are not purely temperature related. There are other factors that affect this for example what was the moisture content of the snow when it snowed and then got cold, has the snow been heavily machined, how old is the snow, has the snow gone through many melt and refreeze cycles to the point where it is now corn snow or transformed? These factors play a big role. If the snow is cold what that really means is that there is no free moisture in the snow such that dry friction will play a major role in slowing the skis down. To make it easy and effective for you though, my experience tells me that instead of focusing on these examples that can affect the properties of the snow, best is to simply focus on how fast or slow the cold snow is. This determination will help you to select the best wax for the conditions.
Cold and slow snow is the most difficult condition because it can yield extremely slow skis especially in terms of acceleration. There is a wax called Toko XCold Powder. XCold powder is not just a very hard wax made up of mostly synthetic hardener but it serves to greatly improve a skis breakaway speed. In other words, in cold slow snow when skis take a long time to break free and start to accelerate, XCold makes a huge difference. In such cold slow snow, at slower speeds such as when climbing skis can feel super slow because much of the skiing when climbing is at a speed slower than when the skis start to break free and accelerate. For this reason, waxing with XCold can make a massive difference in these conditions especially on the climbs which are so critical.
XCold Powder is usually mixed with High Performance Blue 1:1 in these conditions. The best way to apply it is to drip the Blue on and then shake the XCold Powder on and then iron them in together. If the Blue is dripped on and then ironed flat before applying the XCold, the tendency is for the XCold to stay on top of the ski and not make it into the base. In especially slow cold snow, XCold Powder can be used straight (no mix) with exceptional results.
For average speed cold snow, the recommendation is to simply use High Performance Blue because these are the conditions that it was formulated for. This is its sweet spot.
In cold fast snow (such as icy refrozen snow) acceleration is not an issue. The snow is fast! If the High Performance Blue hot wax is mixed with High Performance Yellow hot wax 3:1 the skis will have an even better high end speed. Clearly there are other factors that will determine how fast the skis will glide at the highest speeds such as how clean the skier is skiing and how aerodynamic the position is, but this will be the fastest wax for those conditions.
I hope these guidelines help you wax and ski with confidence the next time you compete in cold conditions. (Photo credit @nordicfocus)