The most reliably awesome venue in the east has delivered again, but unlike the past few years, Craftsbury had some help from mother nature this time around. Today was cold, snowy, and downright wintery for the first Eastern Cup of the year; a 5 & 10KM classic individual start.
Our testing for this event got started yesterday, in the frigid (near zero F) cold on hard mostly manmade snow. Not exactly a great preview for today’s snowstorm with temps in the high teens F, but good background. Steve drove up Friday morning to get our paraffin fleet on the snow. But before he did that, he managed to get in a test session on the small fleet of dedicated cold grind test skis that we’ll send out to Jeff Tumbleson for testing on the Birkie Trail for the remainder of the winter. In the cold single digits, two versions of our prototype G5 grind came out on top. Same result as last weekend, on a different fleet of cold test skis. So that seems to be a pattern… Jeff ran that grind as part of our fleet last year – I promise he has more time on that structure than anybody in the world, and it was a runaway favorite for him all year. We’re working with it more aggressively this year.
In our underlayer testing we had Red Creek LF Hard Base come out on top. This is the first time we’ve had that wax win our underlayer testing, but in truth we only had a chance to run it a couple of times last year. Rex RCF pink and RCF black were surprisingly close – often the graphite breaks hard better or worse than the pink. The Vauhti LF base was the worst of the four we testing, which isn’t terribly surprising given the bitter cold. All the underlayers were tested under Vauhti LF green.
In Friday’s Paraffin test the clear winner with Star VF6 with a layer of C2 cold powder on top. But that was the only wax job that had C2 involved. Of the straight bulk paraffins (all run on top of LF Base), the winner was the same mix of Red Creek Green and LF Hard Base that we had winning our trap testing last weekend at our Craftsbury demo. Rex HF31 was also quite good, and the Star VF8 was a small step behind those. The biggest surprise was that the Vauhti LF Green was notably not competitive with the others. LF Green has been a very reliable performer for us in cold conditions, and we’re accustomed to seeing it very near the top of the test results in bitter cold. But this time it didn’t make the grade. The “blue” range waxes we tested were quite bad in Friday – clearly behind the colder stuff.
With a forecast for rising temps and falling snow, we didn’t have a lot to go with. However, we did had the results from last weekend’s testing, where that Red Creek Green Mix was a clear winner in the speed trap in temps starting at about 15F and climbing. That test was run in quite new natural snow. With that data-point in mind, we decided to go ahead and run the Red Creek Hard Base and the Red Creek Green mix as our race paraffin for today’s races. We did run confirmation testing again today, and again it was clear that the C2 cold powder was dominant. However, the Red Creek Green Mix remained the best regular paraffin, and so we went ahead and put a shell of C2 over the Green mix on race skis.
Powder testing was next, and included application testing, as normal. Today our favorite “slurry” applications were not as good as straight ironed powder, and of the 14 products we had in the testing (made up on matched pairs, and testing by Steve and Pat O’Brien in paired glide-outs), Vauhti LDR powder was best. That wasn’t a shock – we’ve seen that powder do really well here in cold falling snow in the past. Rex TK-29 was a close second. I don’t really remember the rest of the order – I’ll have to consult Steve’s book for more information later.
On top coats, the blocks felt significantly better than the liquids, and we ended up on Vauhti LDR block in the morning, moving toward Vauhti Mid (15.1) block as the day went on. We tried to make it more complicated, but didn’t find better solutions. At one point the LDR liquid was running better than the block, but the Mid block was already better. The LDR liquid is really a stand-out product, and it’s not a surprise that it can creep toward the front of the pack even on a non-liquid day.
Hand structure… nope. We ran seven different hand structures against a blank (grind only) ski. One or two of the structure seemed to lighten the feel of the (skate) test skis in climbing, but none of them improved the running speed. It’s worth noting that the test skis had an LX1 grind – something we’ve made for years (it’s a simple one-pass structure so we like to use it for test skis because it’s fast to make). We changed it a little bit last year, and it started winning a lot of our grind tests in colder new snow. It was outstanding today.
Kick wax was quite easy, in spite of a lot of work to try to make it complicated. As usual, we tested base wax first, and found the best feeling from a straight ironed blue-range hard wax (Vauhti Carrot in this case). Vauhti AT base felt a bit lean – less kick than the carrot. We also tested Vauhti Super Base, and a Super base leaned down with some cold hardwax. But both of those were quite slow. I was concerned about the durability of the ironed kick-wax base because of the hard manmade base, but it started snowing harder, and the test skis were holding up fine, so we ended up staying with that ironed carrot base.
Our basewax test was run with Rode -3/-10 National Team wax, which is just what I pulled out to test on a hunch. Once the guys got going on the normal kick testing, the -3/-10 got beat out by -1/-7. I know some other people had the opposite result, but our testers liked the -1/-7 and didn’t feel that it was significantly slower. For what it’s worth, we were testing on two thin layers of kick wax – when base waxes aren’t helping the kick, you usually want to be on a thin kick job for speed (good rule of thumb). I’m sure the warmer stuff, like -1/-7, would have been much slower with thicker or more layers.
We stayed on that Rode -1/-7 all day, in spite of testing a LOT of different stuff. Nothing really came close to it.
Tomorrow we’re supposed to wake up to temps rising above freezing, and some rain. We’ve got a new test of 12 powders ready to go first thing in the morning. We went ahead and put Red Creek Hard Base and Star VF4 on the skis for tomorrow. I don’t like waxing race paraffin without testing, but we really want to give those skis a chance to rest overnight. The Red Creek has been consistently good here for the past couple of weeks, and today’s snow will stay sharp for most of the day tomorrow. And the Star VF4 is one of the very few products that we’ve got the confidence to use without testing. I guess never losing a test in the temperature range sort of does that for a product. I guess we’ll see how it goes!