Paraffin Test Results from West Yellowstone

IMG_7592After taking a couple of days to log some k’s on the perfect tracks in West Yellowstone, Amy and Austin got to work today. Amy is coaching at some of the masters camps; a great opportunity for her to have direct contact with a different population from the normal Nor-Am crowd. And Austin got dumped right into the deep end with a bunch of speed-trap testing of Vauhti paraffins and underlayers to help lay the groundwork for race waxing on Friday and Saturday.

As usual, we set-up the paraffin test to test two different variables. We ran a common race paraffin on top of several different underlayers, and a common underlayer under a bunch of different race paraffins. To make things  extra tricky, Austin ran the same tests twice! Once in the morning, at 17 degrees F. And once in the afternoon at 30 degrees F.

The underlayers tested (all under the LF green race paraffin) were:

LF Base (a reliable neutral base that often gives us good results)
LF Green (one of our best race paraffins, and often a good base)
LF Graphite (seldom a winner for us, but always worth testing)
10F Cold powder (fluorinated synthetic paraffin hardener that has been good for us in the past as an underlayer)

In the morning test the results looked like this (all percents are percent behind overall test winner).

1 LF Base 0.27%
2 LF Green 0.74%
3 LF Graphite 0.77%
4 10F 1.73%

The LF Base was best, and the 10F was by far the worst. But in the afternoon, with temps up to 30F, things flip-flopped, and it looked like this:

1 10F 0%
2 LF Green 0.47%
3 LF Graphite 0.72%
4 LF Base 1.49%

On the face of it this seems strange. The “hardener” underlayer is best when it’s warmer, while the softest underlayer with the most neutral base properties is best when it’s colder, and quite bad when it’s warmer. However, this is consistent with observations from West Yellowstone last year, and with other tests we’ve seen.

The race paraffin test was a little more straight forward.  The waxes tested (all on top of the LF base) were:
LF Green
LF Blue
HF Blue
HF Violet

Morning results looked like this:

1 HF Blue 0.02%
2 LF Green 0.27%
3 HF Violet 0.42%
4 LF Blue 0.65%

And afternoon results, like this:

1 HF Violet 0.04%
2 HF Blue 0.11%
3 LF Blue 0.37%
4 LF Green 1.49%

So the violet got good as it got warmer, and the LF green went from OK to quite bad. Fair enough.

So, in the morning, we’re looking at LF base with HF blue. And in the afternoon (warmer), 10F under HF Violet. For the record, that 10F/HF Violet was our race paraffin pick for last year’s races in relatively warm conditions, and it seemed to run very well.

There was one more wild-card, which was subject to a bit of a typographical error on my part as I suggested the waxes. I wanted to run the 10F as both an underlayer and a race paraffin. We successfully got it into the underlayer test, as you’ve seen above. But I wrote it into the race paraffin test over LF green instead of LF base. Whoops! So how did it play? Well, in the morning it won the test by a narrow (and insignificant) margin over the HF blue. This makes a certain amount of sense in the context of the other testing – we have every reason to believe it may have been handicapped by the LF green underlayer, and so I tend to give this result some credence. But by the afternoon the combo was not as good; more middle of the pack at a significant 0.4% behind the afternoon winner. And that winner? Yup – the same two waxes in the opposite order. 10F base with LF green on top.

That afternoon test winner really cooks my noodle. 10F base with LF green on top, as a combination, just doesn’t make all that much sense. And it was enough better than the opposite layering to have a significance of 73% (over time I’ve come to interpret anything that high as “almost certainly worth paying attention to”).

So – what’s the wax? If I needed to make a call based on this testing alone, I would run a neutral base (LF Base) with HF Blue, and then a 10F-style hardener on top. That’s assuming a morning race with colder conditions. If I were waxing for an afternoon race, after tracks had gotten greasy, I’d run the 10F base and the HF violet race paraffin, like we did in similar conditions last year. I think there’s very little evidence to support an extremely hard base. The 10F and other synthetic paraffin hardeners don’t saturate the base deeply and fundamentally alter the bulk properties of the material; they create a shell of hardened material that modifies top layers, or makes a shell when used as a top layer. So I don’t read the use of a hardener as an underlayer to be a hardening process analogous to running a green paraffin in that slot. I think there is good evidence that the higher fluoro waxes are making a significant difference (see HF blue versus LF blue in both morning and afternoon tests). The 10F  has a fair amount of fluoro in it (I melted a bottle down once, and the stuff formed quite a recignizable blob in the pool of molten wax), and I think this is contributing to the beneficial results. In the morning the hard shell on the surface is clearly beneficial, and in the afternoon I think we’re basically using that underlayer to boost the fluoro performance of the top layer.

Some of the SMS T2 skiers appear to have been skiing today. Hey you guys - stop bothering Austin while he's working!

Some of the SMS T2 skiers appear to have been skiing today. Hey you guys – stop bothering Austin while he’s working!

We’re starting in with some powder testing tomorrow, but will run a couple more paraffin tests as well. Tomorrow will be snowy and potentially windy, based on the current forecast. So we may not get too much really useful information or highly valid test results. Still, and opportunity to learn is not something to pass up, and Austin needs to stay busy somehow! The forecast is trending considerably colder, and we’ll try to keep on top of that trend as things get closer as well. It looks like Thanksgiving day might be a pretty big testing day for Austin. We’ll want to at least touch base with top coats and and hand structure…

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