How Important is Ski Wax?

If you listened to any of the controversy over who did and did not bring a gold medal home after big Olympic ski events, you likely heard quite a bit about the importance, or lack thereof, of ski wax. In fact, when famed Norwegian skiers began to struggle, they quickly blamed the wax. Does it really play that much of a role in champion results, though?

The verdict – a definite maybe. A good wax is undeniably important. In most cases, it means the difference between gliding across that gorgeous snow and getting stuck on the way down (or across if you’re headed out into the world of cross-country skiing). To understand the purpose, think about the process of skiing. Most modern choices are made of plastic. As you ski, you literally melt the snow under your skis. That water beneath your feet makes you go faster or slower, depending on lots of factors, most notably the type of snow on which you’re skiing. When the snow first hits the ground, your skis need a hard coating of wax that won’t let the snow penetrate into your skis. As it turns into a mess during the freezing and thawing cycle, though, a much softer wax coat is called for.

The snow in Sochi wasn’t ideal, according to many of the athletes, and that’s perhaps why so many of them blamed the ski wax. As professionals, though, they likely should have known how to best wax their skis for the conditions, and while the wax job probably played some role, it’s certain that a number of other issues helped decide who won and who lost rather than a simple can of ski wax.

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