One of the most common questions about classic waxing for cross-country skis revolves around ice, low snow conditions or man-made snow. These tend to be the trickiest conditions and thus require the most experience and or the best waxes. Below is an outline of go-tos that are in each range of the temperature spectrum for these tricky conditions.
Green – The green kick waxes often used the most, either as covers for klister or alone, are Guru Green and Start Oslo Green. Guru Green is a good wax if there is any new snow present. It deals with mixed snow conditions and new snow over old snow very well and is fast and free. Start Oslo Green is on the warmer side of what a green normally is, but with the little bit of klister that is present in the Oslo line, it does an amazing job. Coaches really like this alone in man-made or wet, cold snow but also as a cover wax for a binder klister.
Blue – There are a lot of great kick waxes in the blue range, but for ice or man-made snows, we tend to come back to the same few: SkiGo HF Blue, Start Oslo Blue and Rode Multigrade Blue. SkiGo and Oslo Blue tend to perform the best in older or man-made snows, while Multigrade Blue is typically better if a little snow has freshly fallen on top of older or man-made snow. Often, we will use a layer of Oslo Blue under SkiGo HF Blue as a cushion layer that provides bite, while the SkiGo provides speed, positive grip and anti-icing. For klisters, we undoubtedly always try Rex Blue. Rex Blue klister is hard to work with, but it is very durable and becomes a great solution in many different snow types and conditions. Other Blue klisters that are in play include Rode Blue and Blue Special. Rode Blue Special can provide a very nice binder klister if the kick zones are sanded well (to prevent chipping) in colder conditions.
Violet – Here is where the options quickly become unlimited and having a wide range of correct waxes makes the difference. For kickers, coaches often endorse the use of Guru Violet, SkiGo HF Violet, Start Oslo Violet (on the top end of the Violet range), Rode Multigrade Violet or Swix Violet Special. Guru Violet is always in play no matter the type of snow or condition. It is just an amazing violet wax with incredible versatility. For longer distance events, or when rapid warming from cold temps is occurring, SkiGo HF Violet is a favorite. It always provides a great combo of speed and grip when the conditions are correct. Rode Multigrade Violet can be a nice cover wax over blue and violet klisters but also stands alone as a solution when the snow is mixed or fresh. Swix Violet Special comes out of the box once a year in that rapidly approaching freezing and fresh fallen or falling snow condition. It is simply money in those cases. Start Oslo Violet is almost a Red, as it really excels at 30°F and above, but can be used alone or as a cover in tricky mixed and manmade conditions as an in-between klister and hardwax solution. For klisters, there are a number of good options that are available and new things are added every year. Some of the best are Rex Violet, SkiGo HF Violet, Guru Violet, Rode Violet and Special Violet, Guru Extreme 39 Hard, and Swix KX35 and KX40S. All of these have their applications, but as a general rule when it is icy, test Rex Violet, SkiGo HF Violet, Rode Violet Special, Guru 39 Hard or Swix KX40S. For fresh or rapidly warming snow, Guru Violet, Guru 39 Hard, Rode Violet and Swix KX35 can be great options. Generally, Guru 39 Hard is one of the most amazing klisters in the world when used covered and alone. Always try this or some combination of it. For those who use the Rode T Line, this is where KR3 can excel as well. However, it is a more expensive klister at $30 a tube. KR3 also does very well in wet, icy warmer tracks.
Red – Red is the hardest range out there, but also the most fun. For kickers, there are some clear winners: SkiGo HF Red, Guru Red, Swix VR70 and Start RF Red. Oslo Violet also crosses into this range. SkiGo HF Red works great as a cover wax or alone in varying wet conditions right around or below freezing. Guru Red can work as a cover or alone in falling, fresh snow, or snow that is rapidly gaining moisture. VR70 is often used alone as a just before klister solution. Start RF Red is the first wax we try in brand new snow in this range. Oslo Violet will work up to the mid 30s as a cover or alone in varied snow types. For klisters, coaches like Rode Rossa and Rossa Special, Guru Red, Rex Red Special, Rode K3 and Swix KX65. When the track is wet or wet and icy, Rossa, Guru Red and KX65 are good options. If it is fresh, wet snow, the best bet is to try Rossa Special, K3, Guru Red or Rex Red Special. Remember, if it is raining, add silver to your klister solution when it doesn’t have any in it to begin with.
Yellow – For kickers, coaches really only like three in the yellow range: SkiGo HF Yellow, Guru Yellow/Silver and Start RF Yellow. HF Yellow and Guru Yellow are good solutions in all ranges of yellow conditions, especially in snow that is transitioning to klister or has been on the ground for a bit. For falling snow or freshly groomed new snow, Start RF Yellow is incredible. Quite frankly, there are not a lot of great yellow klister options out there. Our favorites are SkiGo HF Yellow, Guru Red/Silver, Rex OU and Swix KX75. SkiGo HF Yellow and Rex OU are the best slop klisters on the market. When conditions are slushy or are going to become slushy, these are the ticket. HF Yellow can be mixed 1:1 or 2:1 with HF Violet to form an all-day solution when things are going from wet ice to slush; just keep increasing the amount of yellow in the mixture. Guru Red/Silver can be good in all wet snow klister conditions. Swix KX75 tends to be better in wet snow that is maintaining its structure and not breaking down into pure slush.
Universal – We see more and more of the universal type klisters hitting the market every year with varying degrees of success. This is a category where some of the oldest klisters out there are some of the best, and there are a few killer new options. The best universal klisters are Guru Extreme 39, SkiGo HF Universal, Start Universal and Universal Plus, Rode Multigrade Universal, Swix Universal and Silver Universal, and Rex Universal, Gold and OV. Guru 39 falls on the cold side of the range for most universal klisters. It can work from 20°F and up, and is possibly the most widely used universal klister on the World Cup. Rode Multigrade can also be used when mixed with violet down to about 20°F, or alone approaching 30°F to 40°F. Swix Universal is the same, and when it is the best, it is the best. Swix Silver Universal is best in dirty, wet tracks or when rain is falling from 28°F to 35°F. SkiGo HF Universal and Rex Gold are our favorite new universal klisters, and can be used alone or mixed with yellow klisters to extend the range up into the 40s. Coaches are really impressed with these klisters’ range and versatility. Rex Universal, Start Universal and Start Universal Plus are all players when things start to get really wet. From wet corn snow to slush, these klisters can be mixed or stand alone as incredible solutions. Rex OV is a specialty wet ice klister that can be the best thing on the planet alone or when small dabs are added to softer universal klisters.
Roger Knight manages Boulder Nordic Sport East in Portland, Maine, and is in charge of the team and wax business for BNS. Knight raced at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington, Maine, and went on to ski at the University of New Hampshire. Following graduation, he went to work as the product manager and race director for Swix US. After leaving Swix in 2005, Knight started importing Ski*Go ski wax into the US and has since merged with Boulder Nordic Sport, the USA’s leading Nordic Ski Store with locations in Boulder, Colorado, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Portland, Maine. Knight can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.