I always promise myself that I’m going to take a ton of photos at these big championship events where we’ve got all our test skis and materials spread out, and test pilots on the snow for long hours. But it seems my hands and brain stay too busy with other things. We’ve just concluded back to back race days through a wild rollercoaster ride of conditions, and this is the first chance I’ve had to grab a moment since my last update. Here’s a brief run-down of what we’ve been using.
10/15K Skate, Jan 7
Race day got off to an inauspicious start as we arrived pre-dawn to -13 degree temps and a bunch of generators with gelled fuel because of a delivery of untreated fuel the day before. That’s my guess – anyway. What’s clear is that we had no power, and spent the first couple of hours of the day trying to run a heatgun on the fuel filters from a small portable generator, and generally getting really, really cold. I may have bunched the permanent screen out of the window of our trailer to run an extension cord to the small generator so we could run an iron. In the dark. It was an angry morning for about half the field. Eventually the race jury postponed the start by an hour, and we were informed that we were being “given” an extra hour. Gee. Thanks. Not a highly professional display by the organizers.
We ran Red Creek Hard “Grounding” base on all the skis after a narrow win in testing the day before of Rex RCF Pink. We had no reason to second-guess that.
We had race skis prepared for the women with Vauhti LF green, and with Red Creek Green/Hard mix – the same paraffin we used very successfully in Craftsbury at the Eastern Cup opener. We ended up running a cold powder (Ski Go C380) on those skis, as it was beating the best fluoros narrowly on top of that paraffin base. In this cold range we had conflicting test data, with Rex HF31 and HF21 both showing up really well in testing. We made a lot of different tests on the day before the races, and things were changing all the time. In one of our afternoon tests when the tracks were glazed and temps were cooling the HF31 absolutely crushed everything else, but we ended up going with the products that won during the warming temps of the morning, since we figured that was more applicable. I know at least one team made excellent skis (at least as good as ours, and maybe better) on Rex HF21.
For the men’s race we moved to skis prepped with Star VF4, which was way outside of its range, but felt very fast on the snow. We had gone with the VF4 based on its really good testing with a shell of Star C2 hardener the day before. But we tested VF4 with C2, and with C380, and neither were as good as the straight VF4. We ran a Start SFR75 powder, and finished with Vauhti Cold (21.1) liquid. That was the first time I’ve run the 21.1 in a race, but it seemed quite good.
Hand structure came into play early, and we were on Red Creek -5/-15 all day, with really good success. The 0/-10 was also quite good.
Classic Sprint, Jan 8
It got warm and stormy toward the end of Saturday, and we arrived at the venue this morning to 30 degrees and falling snow. The drive from Park City was through rain and mixed precip, and it seemed clear that it was destined to get sloppy. It did. The day ended in pouring rain, with occasional forays into sleet. Ugh.
We ran Red Creek Hard Base and Star VF4 on all race skis without retesting. The day was going to be too busy to be making paraffin applications in the morning.
We found slurries to be faster than powder applications all day, with Vauhti LDR Slurry taking the early win, and fading to a very close second in the pouring rain. Good combo (make a note of it!). Once the transition set-in we ended up on a Red Creek Wet powder (we actually have this available now) slurried with a prototype liquid that K-G Lundqvist just sent us labeled “Nysnö +2/-7”. We’ll have to see about getting more of that. The other excellent solution we had out there was Star F20/XF6 slurry, which could as easily have been race wax. Those top three were all fantastic.
We got a nice boost in the morning from Toko HelX Red, and once it started to move toward rain we had good results on Vauhti Wet (9.1) liquid. Structure remained +5/-5 Skrå all day long, but in the afternoon we added a Red Creek 2mm linear.
I’m really satisfied that we had excellent glide solutions, but kick wax and ski selection were really where it was at today. Amy and cousin Anya Caldwell Bean were out kick testing team today, and they did absolutely amazing work to start the day. We had 8 pairs of matched test skis, and we started the day with six pairs finished with Rode Topline VO as a test of basewax and application. Our normal binders were all running really slow, and not adding much kick, so we wet straight kick wax. There were no concerns with durability on a sprint day with falling snow.
The most interesting part of the testing was that our efforts to go softer and stickier than VO really failed to give us anything extra on kick. However, we also realized that the application was key.
Here’s a good trick: Amy and Any are both fairly light for the test skis (Amy is about 125), so for the first test we sent Steve (150lbs) out with her. Steve will obviously ride the same ski a lot lower to the ground. So when Steve reported perfect kick with VO and Amy was a bit lean, we had a really good idea that the snow and wax would be reactive to layering. Added layers (bringing the kick surface closer to the snow) would boost kick. If both Amy and Steve had been slick, then we’d know that the material was wrong, and would expect softer waxes to work better.
For men’s qualifying we must have had some of the very best skis in the field, and I think a lot of it came down to working with the wax on the skis. Ben Saxton was on a nominal klisters ski with a VXPS (softer) cushion, and VO on top. He won qualifying by two or three seconds, which was a satisfying testament to good process. Ben Ogden was the only junior to make the senior heats, which was also satisfying.
By the time the women started qualifying the rain had started, and hardwax was no longer working well. The last hold-out among the hardwax solutions was Toko Yellow. It’s not a product that we sell, but we should consider it, because unlike some yellow kick waxes which are invariably slower than klisters solutions, the Toko Yellow can be amazing race wax. As it happened, we moved straight past that, and onto Rode Topline K3 klister. Again the wax was reactive to thickness, and it was easy to grab a bit more kick with some thickness under the foot.
We also had zeros in play, and running pretty well. However, I over-prepped a couple of pairs and made them too kicky, and a bit slow.
By the end of the day it seemed that about half the field was on zeros and half was on klisters, and there was no clear differentiation in terms of what was kicking better, or what had the best speed. There were big variations out there, and it really seemed to come down to having the right solution on the right ski. We had racers in the heats with good skis on both zeros and klisters. By the end we were running Vauhti Universal klister on top of the K3 to add some kick, and it seemed to be excellent.
After four super long days in a row, we just dumped test skis and race skis back in the trailer, and locked the door behind us. We’ll have a lot of cleaning up to do tomorrow on a non-race day, but now it’s time to give broken legs a chance to mend, and get some rest. We’ve been making skis on the good side of average, with a few real advantages sprinkled around. I’m particularly happy with the slurry application today, and we’ve been selling quite a few of the felt rollers this week. The Red Creek paraffins have been doing really well, which has been exciting. We had the Red Creek yellow as a test winner in addition to the green mix, and I’m interested in getting the silver out on snow if it keeps raining for Tuesday. In the meantime, Star VF4 is so reliably awesome that we can always put that one race skis without testing and know that we’ll either have competitive skis, or a big advantage.
I’m sure I’m missing some valuable information. But I’m too tired to dredge my brain for the rest of the good stuff, so I’m off to rest a bit.