*How-to videos at bottom of page
Pure fluorocarbon waxes have revolutionized ski racing in recent years. With their ability to repel water and dirt, fluorocarbons have become a must-have in every wax box for those looking to get the most out of their skis. Pure fluoros provide the largest advantages over traditional paraffin waxes as snow gets wetter and dirtier, but recent advances in technology have resulted in new compounds that work well in colder and drier snow. Modern fluoros work so well that it is rare to find conditions where pure fluoro powders aren’t used at high-level events.
Powders are the most durable of the pure fluorocarbons but also the trickiest to use and apply. Most powders come in a 30g vial; you can expect to get 5-8 powder applications per vial. Powders are durable for 50k of racing and beyond and will often increase the durability of pure fluoro topcoats applied over the top.
Powders are applied in a “hot” application process using a hot iron to melt the fluoro powder. The high heat required to apply fluoro powders can be intimidating, but like all waxes, once you know the tricks, it becomes a simple and straightforward process. We’re used to the tentative looks we get at wax clinics when we say that applying fluoro powders is easy, with the correct techniques every skier can apply fluoro powders with ease and confidence.
Sprinkle powder on the base until evenly covered. The goal is to use only enough to cover the entire surface of the base. Adding more powder does not increase performance once you get full coverage. Push the powder out of the groove using a groove scraper or finger. Iron temperature is critical to success with powders. Each powder will have its own recommended temperature, so follow the instructions on the package. Always remember that with high temperatures involved, the iron has to move very quickly across the ski. “Tack” the powder to the base with a single quick pass of the iron, using the leading edge of the iron to smooth the powder onto the base. Then follow it up with one quick pass of the iron from tip to tail. You should see the powder liquefy and re-crystallize on the ski. If you are having trouble, try a hotter iron. Fluoro applications are much easier on bases that are flat and in good condition.
Scraping & Brushing
We usually start by scraping off the fluoro layer with a plastic scraper. Some people like to only brush fluoro powder off of the ski, but there is no performance advantage over scraping, and scraping is faster and easier. Once you’ve removed the bulk of the fluoro powder, brush with a stiff natural brush (horsehair/boar’s hair). For powders that are difficult to brush out we will often start with a fine steel brush before using a horsehair brush. Then polish with a nylon brush. Keeping a separate set of brushes for fluoro use is common practice and ensures that your expensive fluoro application does not get contaminated. It is possible, however, to use the same brushes you use for paraffin waxes, but to avoid contaminating your fluoro application, keep your brushes clean. Rub brushes against each other, against a bench top, or vacuum to remove excess wax.
Base material needs to be brought to a temperature near 110ºC in order to absorb wax, but the structural core of the ski will begin to deform when heated much above 70ºC. This means the base must be heated up enough to melt the wax while keeping the core relatively cooler. While this may seem like a delicate balance, keeping the iron moving from tip to tail at a reasonable speed and only making two or three passes will prevent damage. This is especially important when using the high heat necessary to work with pure fluorocarbons.
Of all the steps in the waxing process, fluorocarbon topcoats (hand-corked liquids and blocks) can improve ski speed far more than any other step. There have been many instances when we have been simply stunned by the difference the right topcoat can make. Topcoats are relatively inexpensive per application, quick and easy to apply, and can give you a distinct advantage over your competitors. We have established that ironed applications of pure fluorocarbon powders improve speed over paraffin waxes alone, but their greatest asset is the durability of that improved speed. To maximize speed, we add topcoats of solid or liquid fluorocarbons in a cold application. In general, liquid fluorocarbons outperform other fluoros in older, granular or transformed snow. On some occasions, a liquid fluoro will perform better alone than when applied over an ironed fluoro powder. In these instances, it is important to note durability concerns, as many liquids will only last 10k without a fluoro powder underneath.
Applying Fluoro Topcoats: Quick & Easy
1. Apply the liquid or block to the ski. For blocks, crayon on the ski; for liquids, paint a smooth layer on the base and let it dry, at least five minutes.
2. Hand-cork (cold application). Don’t be afraid to push hard. The liquid/solid fluoro will get gooey as it heats up and will then become clear as it is absorbed into the base.
3. Let the ski cool for five minutes or more.
4. Brush with a metal brush lightly, going tip to tail only.
5. Polish with a nylon brush going back and forth at high speed and pressure.
Applying a Fluoro Block
To apply a fluoro block, crayon the block evenly, covering the entire base. It is important to note that blocks may crumble when gripped tightly. Avoid this by relaxing your grip on the block and not pressing too hard. Should the block crumble, simply spread the smaller pieces on the ski with the cork. Although this is called a cold application, the topcoat will not bond to the base unless a fair amount of heat is created. We highly recommend hand-corking using a natural cork, rather than synthetic, in order to create enough friction to bond the fluoro to the ski. Corking by hand ensures that you do not overheat either the fluoro or the base. We recommend this over roto-corking to ensure consistent results and prevent burned bases. We use the large SkiGo corks for pure fluoro application, as their larger size makes for fast and efficient work. Cork aggressively with high pressure until the topcoat changes consistency to ensure that the fluoro bonds to the base. Once corking is complete, allow the surface to cool for five minutes or more. More cooling time is better to ensure that the bond between topcoat and ski is adequate. After cooling, use a stiff nylon brush briskly back and forth for approximately one minute. Finish by wiping the ski clean from tip to tail with Fiberlene.
Applying a Liquid Fluoro
To apply a liquid fluoro, use the applicator on the container to apply a thin film of liquid to the entire length of the ski. Allow to dry for at least five minutes or until all of the liquid has evaporated. Cork aggressively until the applied layer becomes warm and tacky. Put ski aside to cool for a minimum of five minutes. Brush aggressively with a stiff nylon brush after the ski has cooled. The fluid will often set up very hard; in this case, it is possible to use a fine steel brush for a few passes before the nylon brush.