Cross country ski racing at Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Vermont. Photo Credit: Dave Priganc.
Cross country ski racing at Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Vermont. Photo Credit: Dave Priganc.

If you’ve been following the news in the Nordic world, there has been a lot of confusion regarding Fluorinated Waxes. Are they banned or not?

We learned of the upcoming ban from FIS council last year and then just a few weeks ago, learned the ban had been postponed until next season. However, to add to the confusion, we just learned that even if a venue does not allow fluoros on their ski trails, they still cannot ban fluoros for an FIS sanctioned / qualifying race. The logic is that FIS cannot put restrictions on their races as a whole - due to not having the right equipment to test for flouros (yet). We all know that fluoros make your skis faster, although bad for the environment; but if one venue does not allow them, the playing field is not level between races at different venues.

So what do you do this season?

First of all, make sure you keep up to speed on fluoro waxes for any races you are competing in, as it's every-changing. Head to FIS-ski.com and / or check with the organizer / venue first. The recommendation we've received is to get ready for a world without waxes containing flouros. And even though our focus is on cross country skiing in this blog post, the non-fluoro wax ban also pertains to downhill ski and snowboarding. Below are some tips on preparing yourself and your gear.

Changing to non-fluoro waxes first requires thoroughly cleaning your skis, tools, bags, apron, and wax room. Photo Credit: Toko USA.
Changing to non-fluoro waxes first requires thoroughly cleaning your skis, tools, bags, apron, and wax room. Photo Credit: Toko USA.

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What are fluorinated waxes?

“Perfluorinated chemicals”, “fluorocarbons”, “fluoro compounds”, “fluorinated waxes”, or simply “fluoros” are all synonymous. They refer to waxes that are infused with perfluorinated chemicals. Fluorinated waxes had been commonly used for their superior ability to repel moisture, dirt, and oil from ski bases to achieve a faster ski. Although effective, fluoros are harmful. These waxes are damaging to the environment where they are produced, dangerous to your own health when applied to skis, and bad for the local ecosystems when skied at your favorite ski center or mountain.

For the reasons above, fluoros have been removed from all new waxes moving forward. And since fluoros can leave a residue, all skis, waxing equipment and gear should be thoroughly cleaned if fluorinated waxes were used at any point in the past. All old waxes you have at home that contain fluoros should be discarded.

Not sure if your gear has residual fluorocarbons?

This is a short guide to help you prepare all your skis and equipment for a fluoro-free ski world. In order to be a steward for our environment, and for the sake of our own health, we as skiers must rid all of our equipment of fluoros and residual particles. This is easier said than done. As Adam Terko said (in a now out-of-date) blog post for Mansfield Nordic: “Imagine a CSI crime scene where a UV light reveals fluoros…if you turn off the lights and shine it on your wax area, in your ski bags, and on your skis, what would you see…?”.

Although this clean up may seem daunting, the FIS have recently published an article of its official recommended cleaning procedures for all equipment. Here it is below:

This document describes the proposed steps to “clean” used equipment from fluorinated substances and reduce contamination down to a level where no competitive advantage is present.

Cleaning of skis and snowboards:

  1. Clean the running base with a non-fluorinated base cleaner by applying the liquid with a cloth. Then rub the base surface with a fluor-free cleaning brush (stiff nylon). Let dry for 15 min, continue to brush the ski / board with a clean steel or bronze brush.

  2. Perform “Hot Fluoro-free wax cleaning” >10 times (iron hot wax – scrape while warm – brush) on each ski and board. Use waxes of different melt temperatures (warm – medium- cold). (Clean scrape and brush after every application).

  3. Grinding the bases of skis/boards is an option that will also remove contamination fluorinated compounds from surface layers. Grinding is recommended for base material made with fluorinated additives since research shows that these additives migrate to the surface. After grinding step 1 and 2 should be repeated.

Equipment cleaning:

  1. Iron
    • Scrape off excessive wax. Warm the iron and clean liquid wax residuals with a cloth. Melt non-fluorinated wax and clean with a cloth.

  2. Scrapers
    • Scrape off wax residuals. Clean with base cleaner, wash with water and soap, rinse thoroughly.

  3. Brushes
    • Vacuum clean the wax dust from the brush. Use the brush extensively while cleaning skis with hot wax and vacuum clean between every application. Dip the bristles in a base cleaner and brush over an edge to further clean the brush. Let dry and vacuum clean. As a final cleaning step, one may consider washing the brushes in a dishwasher in a high temperature programme. *Warning: As brushes may be the most difficult equipment to clean thoroughly one should consider replacing used brushes with new ones.

  4. Roto fleece
    • Based on experience we recommend replacing roto fleece and similar equipment as they have shown to be almost impossible to clean thoroughly.

  5. Apron
    • Wash in a washing machine with a high temperature cycle several times.

  6. Files and File Guides
    • Brush the equipment with a soft file brush. Vacuum clean. Dip into a base cleaner, wipe off and vacuum clean.

  7. Ski Bags
    • Vacuum any dust, wipe clean with cloth and base cleaner, wash with water and soap, rinse thoroughly.

  8. Wax Room
    • To secure a healthy working environment the wax room should be thoroughly cleaned. It is important to remove as many dust particles as possible. A safe and healthy working environment is the responsibility of the user.

** The objective of these cleaning recommendations is to point towards both the cleaning as well as dilution effect the above waxing steps describes. As of 14th August 2020.

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Products to Clean Your Skis:

Here at Skirack, we offer all the products and services to clean your gear; you can follow along with FIS procedures above. For cleaning your skis, brushes, scrapers, and other equipment, we stock non-fluorinated base cleaners from multiple companies like Swix, Toko, and Vauhti. All of these are great options and available in different sizes. Choose the amount that is right for you based on how much equipment you have to clean.

Although the FIS recommends “fluoro-free” base cleaners, a fluoro base cleaner will be more effective at breaking down and removing existing fluoros in your ski bases. Fluorinated base cleaners do contain fluoros, so be sure to go through the waxing process with non-fluoro wax at least two or three times. Be careful when choosing between cleaners. Most companies have separate products for cleaning kick waxes or klister and for cleaning glide waxes. Those products used for cleaning glide wax zones of your ski base will often include “glide cleaner” in the name or description.

For hot-wax cleaning your skis and for cleaning your waxing iron, we stock a variety of cost effective non-fluorinated waxes from companies such as Swix, Toko, and Start among others. These waxes are available in different sizes and temperature ranges similar to their more-expensive counterparts. I recommend picking up a few blocks of these for cleaning purposes but also for training and storage purposes. They are generally good to have in your waxing cabinet and will serve you well for years to come.

Non-Fluorinated Wax Products:

We will also be stocking new non-fluoro high performance waxes from Swix, Toko, and Vauhti that are direct replacements of their fluorinated racing waxes. These new non-fluoro race waxes will include new additives that improve upon typical hydrocarbon waxes. All of our waxing products are available to purchase in store or on our website here.

Stone Grinding Services:

Skirack also offers stone grinding services with condition-specific grinds for both skate and classic. Grinding is a great way to rid your skis of residual fluoros, even and flatten your ski base, and reopen the pores on the base that may have been damaged by ironing in seasons past. A flat and fresh base will be easier to wax and will retain wax more effectively resulting in a much faster pair of skis. In the absence of fluoros, the advantage of having a flat and refreshed base will be larger than ever before. This season above all others we highly recommend getting a grind, especially on race skis that have seen a lot of fluoros and high-temperature waxing.

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If you are new to waxing entirely and need to learn the basics before concerning yourself with fluoros, we already have a guide on waxing basics here. Our “Basic Guide to Cross Country Ski Waxing” will cover the basic techniques and types of waxes relevant to nordic skiing. The post will also briefly touch on glide waxes relevant to both nordic and alpine skiers. Glide waxes will be our focus in today’s guide because they are the focal point of the fluorocarbon ban in skiing.

Thanks for reading!

- Cooper Willsey,
Skirack Nordic Department


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