Testing Machine

For the fourth weekend in the last five, Erik Mundahl spent his Saturday testing wax at Hatcher Pass. This would make him the “testing machine” of the title of the post. Very sorry if you were hoping for some new piece of technology.
Our big hope for this test was that colder conditions would prevail, and that we would have the first really meaningful test of some of our colder waxes, including a couple of new race service Code powders from Vauhti. As it happened, the powder test this time around was won by Star FM Super, and to nobody’s great surprise the hfC15 liquid was once again straight-up the fastest thing we had on the snow. In these conditions I have my personal doubts whether it would be the best thing if we included a handful of other products – like maybe Vauhti black liquid, HP05 liquid, Maplus Super Med, among others. But we’re not in a position where we have to apologize for only testing a handful of products for the fourth out of competition test of the season to date. So, no apologies!

Without further ado, here is Mundahl’s unedited report. I’m starting to enjoy his stilted engineer’s prose style.

Hatcher Pass, Alaska – Yet again, another day of testing on the only groomed skiing in the State of Alaska.  Skier traffic is increasing weekly as well.

Forecasts had indicated that temperatures were to be significantly colder than previous testing which hoped to provide some new and exciting info.  With these new conditions, the objective was to test some colder paraffins and fluoro powders.

A forecasted storm front moved into the area earlier than expected, resulting in higher air temperatures than hoped for at -4°C but snow temperatures remained cold at -7°C.  Snow was heavily transformed, granular sugar.  Trail conditions softened significantly and the sugar deepened with skier traffic.

The paraffin test included Star HF Mid Nano-Ceramic, Star HA4, Vauhti HF Violet, Vauhti HF Blue, and a 50/50 mix of Vauhti HF Blue and Vauhti HF Yellow (Blellow).  Both the Star nano-ceramics and the Vauhti HF Violets are waxes developed to work primarily in transformed, older snow, exactly like the conditions of the day (actually, the Vauhti is not specific to old snow – zc).  The Vauhti Blellow was mixed with this same intent (that’s the truth!- zc).

Testing by feel throughout the groomed trails found that the Vauhti HF Violet was fastest on the day followed by Vauhti HF Blellow.  The Star HF Mid Nano-Ceramic was third, significantly back from the two Vauhti products.   I found this interesting as historically the Star HF Nano-Ceramics had been a “go-to” wax for me in old, transformed snow.  It began to snow heavily at the end of session, as snow accumulated, the Vauhti HF Violet did begin to slow compared to the Star Nano-Ceramic, suggesting that the Violet is a wax geared very specifically to extremely transformed, older snow (news to me! – zc).

The second test of the day was for fluoro powders.  All previous tests tended to focus on the warmer powders.  Conditions allowed for testing of mid-range powders.  The test included Star FM, Star FM Super, Vauhti hfc15, Vauhti C11, and Vauhti 330C.

Star FM is specifically geared towards new snow, while the Star FM Super is for older transformed snows.  The Vauhti C11 is similar to the old Vauhti hfc15 (purple label as opposed to red and purple new label) and tended to run better in older snow.

Star FM Super was significantly faster than all other waxes on the day.  Vauhti C11 was a distant second, followed by Vauhit 330C.  Both the Star FM and the Vauhti hfc15 ran poorly in these conditions.  This was expected of the Star FM, but I had hoped the Vauhti hfc15 to perform slightly better.

"The Happy Loser" - Lars Flora
“The Happy Loser” – Lars Flora

In addition to the powders, my continued infatuation with Vauhti hfc15 Liquid led to another test against the powders.  A single, cold application of the liquid was tested against the top powders.  The liquid was found to be marginally better than the Star FM Super, though there were some locations on the trail where there was no appreciable difference.   Interestingly, the liquid never felt to be a liability compared to the powders.

Coincidentally, the Mat-Su Ski Club was hosting a 5km Skate race, “The Race to the Outhouse.”  The previous evening, former Olympian Lars Flora had request some skis to use. I waxed a very good pair of test fleet skis that had been kicked out of the fleet due to a factory defect with Star HF Mid Nano-Ceramic and then Vauhti hfc15 liquid cold application on a guess that those two waxes would prevail in the test.  Due to the short distance of the race and last week’s durability testing I felt that the liquid application would be more than enough for a 5km race.

Despite very fast skis, Lars fell victim to a local skier with a CH4 equivalent on his skis.  It just goes to show that while skis have the potential to make or break a race,  even former Olympians need to train every now and then if they don’t want to get badly beaten.