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POPFREE focus area: Ski wax

Background

According to current research, friction between skis and snow consist of four components: Dry and wet sliding friction, snow compacting and impact resistance. Ski glider waxes are said to, alongside ski mechanics and ski base properties, play an important role in providing the optimal gliding properties for a ski in specific snow/weather conditions and type of use. Ski bases are generally made of Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene, UHMWPE. Additives and fillers are added to the base, and together with surface structure modification and well-chosen glider waxes as lubrication claimed to give situation-optimized gliding properties. Heat applied (”Iron-on”) glider waxes are widely used for both recreational skiing and competitive ski racing, available in various forms and formulations for different conditions and uses. Glider waxes are generally based on hydrocarbon paraffins (alkanes), with mixed-in additives giving additional properties. Important ingredients in many highperformance waxes are fluorine based chemicals (PFAS), applied in various amounts (0- 100%). The fluorocarbons can improve water repellence, dry friction, dirt release and finishing properties for the waxed surface. Waxes are generally harder with longer chain hydrocarbons for cold weather, and softer/shorter chain for warm weather.

Challenges

  • Definitions of glider performance in relation to other parameters, to allow effective comparison between different technologies.
  • Development of glider testing methodology which offers results in line with practical use.
  • Wet friction and water contact angle for non-fluorinated alternatives, hardness and dry friction against snow/ice crystals.
  • Application process and surface bonding to the ski base
  • Test methods that emulate skiing conditions well enough to give repeatable test results in real-life testing.
  • Industrial and public awareness of non-fluorinated alternatives
     

Suggested scope

Main goal is to find appropriate gliding properties using alternative solutions to the fluorinated waxes or components therein, and make these available for further testing and development by industry partners. The main focus for the project is cross-country skiing (classic and skate), but results can also offer a good foundation for future development of alpine skiing glider waxes. One important aspect of the work is to suggest a definition of performance and a testing methodology that makes evaluation of different ski glider wax solutions more effective and repeatable than they are at present. Environmental and health properties of both PFAS-based and alternative solutions will be assessed according to the general project methodology. In the project is also included a communication effort to raise awareness of the risks and possibilities regarding ski glider wax choices among cross-country skiers and the wider public.

Partners

Two consumer-facing ski wax industry brands. A university with sports science specialization is involved for performance testing, together with a sports industry innovation actor (Vinnova VinnVäxt initiative) for coordination and industry communication. A big cross-country skiing event organizer is involved as public/consumer communication partner.