Nordic Ski Instructor

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Equipment: [ viewpoint | waxes | skis | bindings | footwear | poles | clothing | extras | novelties ]

Waxable or non-wax?

There was a time, not long ago, when this was not even an issue - there was no such thing as a non-wax ski. Over time, an accidental non-development(!) in Alpine ski technology brought about the use by many Nordic skiers of non-wax skis. Whilst this author will argue that there is no such thing as a non-wax ski (all skis should be treated with wax, to prolong their life, if nothing else), it is accepted that for all intents and purposes, people treat these skis as non-waxable skis.

They were indeed well-suited to the conditions often experienced in Australian snowfields, and have become the de-facto norm for the general Nordic skiing public. This is especially so for those who have only a casual interest in Nordic skiing, as it requires little or no knowledge of waxing. These skis are also well-suited to those with a beginner to intermediate level of skill, as most of the skills that were considered 'basic techniques' in the past could be reasonably performed using these types of skis. However, times and techniques have changed...

Intermediate to advanced skiers should be well aware that waxable skis offer greater skiing potential, and especially so when skating, or telemarking and paralleling. As instructors, we should not only be able to perform at this level and higher, but also teach. Not only is it difficult to teach some lessons when some or all of the group are using non-wax skis, but in some instances it can be impossible. Try teaching the basics of long-radius parallel turns to some-one using non-wax skis standing on a slight slope (and for good measure do the same with waxable skis - with or without grip wax). It becomes apparent that this knowledge can only be gained by experience, and not by reading books devoted to the subject.

Non-wax skis can be appropriate for students in most conditions, especially if they are not wishing to ski expertly, and the same can be said for instructors - in some conditions. Look at the sales of non-wax skis in shops and it is easy to see that the bulk of Nordic skiers are buying the convenience of non-wax skis at the expense of high-performance. This is not a problem for an average skier who places little demand on her/his equipment. At the higher levels of instruction (Instructor 2 and 3) however, non-wax skis are an impediment to the learning processes, for both the student and the instructor. XCD and skating aficionados will attest to that (it should be obvious to the serious instructor).

As instructors, we must also consider that teaching intermediate to advanced skiers will often involve discussion about skis and the preparation and maintenance of their bases. To inform these skiers of the best choice of wax for the day, how to get the maximum glide out of the skis, what to do when their skis stick to the snow, etc, we need to have had a good deal of waxable ski experience ourselves.

It has been said by some that it is impossible to use waxable skis effectively in Australian conditions, and arguments have been put forward to accentuate the difficulty in selecting the best klister, or stick wax, for changeable conditions. This is certainly true for those who have little experience in waxing skis, and only ski on an irregular basis - these people are better suited to using non-wax skis from the outset. Yet with a little patience, it is possible to use waxable skis effectively in all Australian conditions.

Skating is certainly adding a new dimension to this aspect, and providing people with the opportunity to experiment with waxes and not get caught out by changing conditions. Even in waxing terms, conditions here in Australia are far more stable (and suitable for effective waxing) than some regions of the world where temperatures may swing from -20°C to +5°C in a given day - and still the instructors there prefer to wax their skis, if only to get grip on the ice.

Even with all of the arguments for and against the use of waxable skis, it is virtually impossible at this level of instruction to avoid having to know all about waxing, and apply that knowledge. All skis require wax to maintain their running surfaces, and even if your skis have been well-maintained, it is almost certain that at least one of your student's skis will suffer from a lack of base maintenance during a lesson. To counteract 'balling-up ' on those days when fresh snow falls onto a wet surface, an instructor must be in a position to apply a remedy (some wax, non-spray silicone treatment, or if really desperate - sunscreen) to the whole group's ski bases.

Intermediate skiers wishing to perfect more advanced techniques often require a little ski-tuning in the form of some wax (it all helps). Learning to understand the structure of snow and the function of waxes and klisters adds another dimension to the activity, and allows the skier to understand fully the medium in which s/he is performing, and his/her relationship to it. See also Appendix VI (Snow structure and waxing tips).

Equipment: [ viewpoint | waxes | skis | bindings | footwear | poles | clothing | extras | novelties ]

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