Conditions at Soldier Hollow over the past two days have run the gamut from rain yesterday afternoon to a cold morning of temps at about -18F when our testing started. The course preparation has been… well, call it late. The distance courses were finalized yesterday afternoon, and this morning the snow-guns were still blowing when we arrived for testing. So the conditions were highly variable, including established manmade base, relatively new natural snow, and blowing manmade. Under the circumstances it won’t surprise me if there is a huge amount of conflicting information floating around.
There are over 600 racers in town, and tomorrow’s races start at 9 AM with women, and men following at “12-ish”. Yup – “ish” is now an official time unit as far as pre-race meetings in the USA are concerned.
The forecast overnight is for a low of 0F with race time temps running from high single digits into the upper twenties during the men’s race. There will be no access to the natural snow for testing once the race starts. There will be a lot of racers and waxers making the best of things tomorrow!
We did learn some interesting things today in our testing. But the most important lesson was that the course is very difficult, with very little recovery, and an extremely long climb on the slowest natural snow on the course. Here are our observations from the ground up:
Grinds – In general people have had good luck on green-stone structures, including G5, LS0B, TG1-1, TG1-2, and 258B. Yes, that list includes some warm structures, which is odd on a day with high temps topping out at about 10F. But we saw the same thing here four years ago when it was cold at Nationals. Some athletes selected blue-stone grinds, but mostly on the basis of the ski characteristics. It’s important to remember at this stage that you’re not selecting grinds – you’re selecting ski/grind solutions, and you’ve got to use the fastest solution without too much concern for what the labels say!
Base Paraffin – We ran 8 different base paraffins and had the Red Creek LF Hard Base come out narrowly on top of Rex RCF Pink. Yesterday we had really good luck from stronger graphites (best were Star Map Black and Rex RCF Graphite) but today was quite different.
Race Paraffin – This is where we start to see a wide range of variability. Our morning glide-out test had our Red Creek Green/Base mix winning pretty handily, overRex HF31 and Star VF4 with a Star C2 cold powder shell on top. Interestingly that VF4 is quite a warm wax, but we’ve had super luck with the VF4/C2 combination previously, and it was good in bot glide-out and feeling on the cold natural snow.
However – after assessing our early testing, we felt that we were set-up too warm for the natural snow, which was really slow. So we made a new test including some more LF products looking for more slippery feelings. In that test the Red Creek green mix was still best for speed in the stadium on the manmade base, but in the slowest and driest snow the Vauhti LF green and Swix LF4 provided easier low-speed release. Star LF8 was perhaps the best all-around – running close for speed in the stadium, and operating well on the new snow.
Our plan for race paraffin is to prepare skis tonight, using Vauhti LF Green (Polar in the new packaging) on the colder skis for women, Red Creek green mix on the warm skis for women, and colder skis for men, and Star VF4 on the warmer skis for men. We’ll have eight individual test skis prepared with each of these paraffins so that we can test cold powders and top coats on appropriate base layers in the morning.
Fluoro Powders and Slurries – We ran a pretty big powder and application test today (16 skis), and for most of the day we found that we were set-up too warm. In general the slurries were better in initial feel, but the powders seemed to improve as the day went one. At the start of the day the best ski was Red Creek HF Green roto-corked – yeah, that’s a paraffin but it does really well as a top-coat in the cold. As the day warmed into the single digits we saw better results from the powders. Early on Vauhti Black Fox and Star F40 were quite good, but the products that rose to the top over the day were Rex TK820 and Toko Jetstream Blue.
Tomorrow we’ll start the day with a fluoro product and application test, which we’ll use to build specific race build-ups on the skis that have race paraffin applied. We’re doing it this way because we don’t want to assume that fluoro powders are automatically faster than cold powders or paraffins. Tomorrow should be warmer, but it’s best to plan for all eventualities. So we’ll be ready for what comes!
Structure testing will be really interesting tomorrow with the variable conditions. We haven’t run any structure testing yet, but will be posting results as they come in from morning testing.
Hang on to your hats. Late afternoon testing is all different. Rex HF21 is best for paraffin, with Red Creek Yellow/Hard mix running second. Toko Jetstream Blue still running well, with Red Creek “grained” powder also running well, and Red Creek HF Green roto-corked climbing best. But it’s cooling and heavily glazed. Heheheh. We’ll see what tomorrow brings!