Last spring, when it came time to place a pre-season order for wax, the Vauhti guys mentioned that, “oh, hey, there’s a new Mid fluoro formulation coming for next year.” I sent a very nasty note back. We don’t like changes that we haven’t had a chance to test – how are we supposed to sell and support a product that we haven’t ever even seen? We need to be advance testing these products! Grrr.
Now we’re half a season into working with this new Mid product, and I’m even grumpier, because we could have sold a LOT more of this if we had known how good it is.
We started working with Vauhti at about the same time that they introduced their hfC fluoro line. The first version of “mid” product was called hfC15, and it was the same as their race “Code” powder known as C11. We still test and use C11 in old or manmade snow with good success. But C11 was never the answer for newer snow in the cold-mid range. You can tell if you have old C11 because the label is black with a violet stripe on it. Keep it for old snow!
The second version of hfC15 was released under the same name, but with a blue and red stripe on the package. This one was a combination of Code powders C125 and 330C. The C125 is a very warm new-snow product, and 330C is a quite cold and dry snow product, and the combination was pretty good. This formulation was released at the same time that the first hfC liquids were released and the hfC15 liquid was an outstanding product that we sold a lot of.
The third version of the hfC line introduced all new cold and wet formulations (which were big improvements), and the mid was adjusted to a slightly warmer mix of the same two ingredients. These were sold as hfC21.1, hfC15.1, and hfC9.1. The hfC15.1 was really good in a narrow range of high moisture new snow near freezing. The powder was reliable in this range. The block produced good descending speed, but didn’t often feel great for skating. And the liquid took a backseat with the concurrent introduction of the LDR product range. LDR liquid was (and remains) one of the most versatile fluoro products we’ve ever used, and it really eclipsed the 15.1 liquid in most conditions.
After a year or two of selling the hfC line in that most recent form, Vauhti changed their packaging and started selling the same products as FC Cold, FC Mid, and FC Wet. There were no changes to the formulations introduced with those label changes.
Throughout all of this, we struggled to deliver really top-level results in the new-snow cold to mid range conditions that are really common for us. At the coldest end of things, the 330C Code powder was pretty good. And at the warmest end of things, the Mid (hfC15.1) was good. But there was a big range of conditions from the low and mid-teens (-10/-12 C) to the mid-twenties (-3/-5 C) where lots of other brands had superior products.
New Product Testing and Results
We’ve been testing the new (look for the little yellow “New!” tag on the label) Vauhti Mid (race Code VFCP15) product since the beginning of the season. When I say “we”, it’s important to note that we’re doing our own testing, but also gathering information from teams that we work with. It takes a little while to get traction on new material because when teams are testing for races, they need to be quite targeted in their product selection. In order to even get tested, a product needs to be fairly well proven, since test resources are limited and time is tight. But the new Mid product showed encouraging results in early testing in West Yellowstone, and Silver Star. I don’t think it ended up on race skis in either of those events, but it earned a place in testing.
By the time we got to US Nationals in Craftsbury, expectations were high enough that the new Mid had earned an “automatic” test slot whenever conditions were in range. And the results were outstanding. We raced on Mid powder once, and Mid liquid three times (out of four races) during US Nationals. Anytime the race was characterized by new snow, the Mid was showing up very well, and it won tests from temps in the low teens, right up to freezing. In particular, on both sprint days we (and others) felt that the Mid liquid was a competition advantage in a large and competitive race field. On the final skate sprint day, we raced on mid liquid, reapplying for each heat, and had skiers win both the men’s and women’s events.
This past weekend at the Super Tour / Eastern Cup in Lake Placid, the new Mid product once again won our testing two out of three days, and produced winning skis both days.
The new Mid powder has a broad range of very competitive performance, but it’s not a runaway winner throughout the range. We’ve had LDR powder, and powders from other brands directly in the mix in head to head competition. These are conditions where the old mid powder would be really challenged to compete, and the new product has been reliably competitive to the point where we’re comfortable recommending its use without extensive testing.
We’ve done a lot of durability testing of all our wax applications this year, and we’ve seen big changes in the running order of powders after a few km of skiing. We really want to see products remain fast beyond the first couple of km, and we’ve been veru satisfied that the new FC Mid has held its speed well, and even seems to improve with skiing.
The new Mid liquid has been the real stand-out for us. Liquid fluoros have been a huge part of racing for a very long time now, but conventional wisdom has always held that liquids are good mostly in older snow, and that new snow demands fluoro-blocks (hand-corked rub-ons). In the past month we’ve seen a lot of conditions where most liquids are not competitive, and the attention has turned to fluoro blocks. We’ve been really happy to see this Mid liquid winning tests against proven blocks in conditions where blocks have normally won.
Why does this matter? Why not just use a fluoro block? Well, as a matter of personal opinion, I have felt for a long time that liquids produce better races when you can get them to be competitive in testing. I’ve certainly seen circumstances where blocks are the best choice, but when it’s a toss up, I really think liquids are better. I have ideas about why this might be, but I’m not qualified to state them as facts because I’m not a chemist, and I don’t really know what’s going on under the skis! So let’s just say that I have a strongly-informed bias toward liquids, and like to use liquids when test results support at least equivalent performance.
Incidentally, like the powder, the Mid liquid seems to improve with skiing, and our gut feeling has been that it should be brushed pretty aggressively – especially in conditions where an excess build-up of surface coatings is problematic. The final sprint day at US Nationals was one of those days, and while we did end up reapplying between rounds, we also aggressively roto-brushed with Red Creek fine steel after each heat, and aggressively hand-brushed with Red Creek fine white nylon after each application.
We haven’t used the block in racing. And not because it’s not good. It’s because the liquid keeps winning, and we like liquids. We have had six National Championship or Super Tour races in the last month in new or falling snow conditions, and we’ve ended up racing on Mid liquid in five of them, and cold liquid in one of them. And we’ve had race winners in each of those events on that product. Without that Mid liquid, I’m confident that we’d have been on blocks for most of those races. The one exception is that Star XF6 spray has been equivalent or very close to the FC Mid liquid on a couple of those occasions (and better in some of the early season testing and racing).
Be careful. Recent success doesn’t guarantee future success. We’ve been very successful with this product at two venues that are relatively close to each other, within one month, during one climatological regime. The weather will change. Races will be held in other locations. Conditions will be different. But this new Mid is worth testing in a broad range of generally new-snow conditions with temps and humidities reaching down pretty low. This stuff will win a lot of tests, and races.