This has been a really, really long and fantastic season for XC skiing.
Hard to Fair Going...
I remember a lot of it as frustrating too, because of often very hard conditions caused by the post Juletide thaw back. This happened two or three times this winter, but now the spring weather creates almost ideal conditions for daytime skiing to 6pm.
Each night the darkest woods are down to minus 6 and in the day the strong sun just softens the top without melting too much of the 75 cm base there is on many trails even just above sea level!
Season's Wrongs, Season's Rights...
This season, which started in December, I tried to concentrate on having a kicking style with a nice high rise on the kick. However this seems wrong for many reasons: it had messed up my weight transfer and basically I was unloading too early to exaggerate my kick and therefore not getting enough forward propulsion AND breaking the glide ski onto the snow.
I survived this in the hard stuff, and maybe the load transfer is a little different.
Right at the end of the season I am back at digging my toes in a little: an effort to hold more weight on the kick leg to get more traction. With the fitness from the earlier season, about 40km on good weeks, this paid off on both hard and then slushy conditions.
Next season my aim is then to talk to an expert like our local acquaintance and former youth coach at a top Oslo area club. Weight transfer clearly alters over conditions as does the legnth of stride and height of kick, but I want to have basically a couple of gears and a long distance tempo in my bag for doing a trip of 40km once a week, with the total being up at about 60-80 km per week.
Waxes and Wanes....
This year I have learnt more about waxing: how the recommended kick zone is not necessarily what should be waxed : leaving more un-waxed or even with glider an inch or so under the heel can be better for glide with no real expense to the kick in soft conditions or when you need to use soft wax or clister in harder conditions.
I have concentrated on using the pyramid!": or having "more in the pocket" ie laying layers in over to the mid sole. This has meant that on good conditions I can get two trips or more out of a single application of say, Lilac V50. In the very hard conditions which have been prevailing, then I at least have a little reserve until I get a view to stop at and re-wax or I am able to get home on the downhill or with a gentle warm down which is okay for the reduced kick adhesion!
Avoiding waxing under the heel or the last 3 cm, is also good for various conditions: it wears off here often anyway on the hard, and in soft , as a heavy guy I find I get better glide and can get an instant speed boost by rocking onto my heels when I am in fast gliding mode or at the start of a downhill.
I also combined the use of just using softer waxes on the inner 30cm or so, with the 3 cm under the heel and 12cm on the front of the kick zone being only an extra layer of green on top of the two base layers of green. This was less claddy, and a bit better glide. However : how long this area is, or what condition to use this is something to sort out next year: suggestion is for new snow or very good quality soft tracks with fine corned old snow.
I looked at my daughter's waxless, scale-patterned skis and I think the pattern extends too long on the ski. I had thought about this and the "pocket" a lot recently, and I was using this weekend a 10 year old pair of "waxless" which are so worn they need waxing , but retain a bit of pattern which helps KEEP THE WAX on the ski behind the scale and gave very good kick compared to clister. I have been over some very hard conditions with this, using first lilac v50 ( my do-it all in old snow faithful for the lower level skiing we do here, under 500m altitude ) then using red. In yesterdays typical easter conditions, it was a slushy porridge in the best sun traps, old transformed, coarse grained someplaces and ice in others. Nasty. I did reapply but only used one layer in the first place, and this lasted anyway as long as clister of my companion on normal skis! Good kick and good enough glide.
Which gave me an Idea.....
Given the trend to "rubbed" or specially textured, skis for end of season I think there is a case for a much shorter patterned "pocket" : the idea being that it works well on its own in some conditions, probably slush and very cold new snow, while you use it with a bit of wax for hard stuff and you then wax with a hard wax forward of the "pocket" (ie the most raised part of the kick zone under the sole of the shoe which is in least contact with the snow under gliding). Hard wax always gives some adhesion, and usually resists clumping in new snow conditions, but applied along the whole ski, I find that "blue" gives up for me on hard stuff at -6'c and in soft or new at -4'c : I get poorer kick.
Waxless Revisited: Combining Various Existing Technologies on the One Ski!
Ideally then a wax free ski could be developed such: a pocket with a traditional fish-scale texture and then forward and back end kick zone which is in a nanotech particle based composite, suitable for some texturing on the work bench and which either lasts "life time" comparable to today's waxless skis or is renewable at service point. In addition, some form of nanotech or conposite-random-microfibre "zero" like tech could be incorporated into the scale textured area. This should be something which is "adiabatic" in that it both enhances ice crystal adhesion while also being liquid water repellent. Strange stuff, but water has very unique qualities : expanding rather than contracting as it freezes, melting under pressure, existing in three phases under negative pressure etc.
I imagine a future where you maybe have an old pair of old fashioned training skis for waxing for very special conditions or for a longer tour : you then have a pair of low temperature light textured, nanotech skis, and a "zero plus" set which cover both wet, hard and new snow at various temperatures. For touring you would have a single set of skis to which you vary the glider area by waxing and cleaning, and you then use different grades of simple one spray and wipe hydrophobic treatments for varying conditions on to the above type of nano-.and textured kick zone.
Fischer have for many years offered a top carbon racing ski in a (once patented) scale pattern for use around zero or know difficult like mild snow onto very cold surfaces or the converse. The pattern is pretty much the whole kick zone if I remember, but it is quite a light pattern with the ski having a lot of pre-tension. Other manufacturers don't seem to bother, at least actively marketing, a quality racing / training ski with waxless surface. Waxless is like "sailing on a jib, when a genoa is of course a faster sail" according to a ski-boat compatriot of mine. This need not be the case because for the amateur, time spent with good kick and a slight compromise on glide is better than time out due to wrong wax or as in this winter, very high abrasion on waxes which have enough adhesion for hard spore.
Next season I will try to get hold of a lightly used set of training waxless or light-tour waxless and sand off the pattern as much as I dare, (hopefully there is enough base to get them smooth: ) on the front 10cm and back 3cm of the kick zone. Then I apply a good two layers of green over these rubbed areas and see how it goes , for harder and softer conditions I would then add a soft wax or clister "in the pocket". The aim of this:
1) reduce time in waxing. Wax on the fly when you get out in the spore. It is just a fine tune in the pocket area!
2) make up for incorrect waxing or very hard conditions as the tour progresses
3) make re-waxing easier! less to area to apply to and if you were too soft, less to then take off from a and re-apply!
4) avoid waxing (after "green" or "blue" base wax is on the ends of the kick zone) , in good conditions for many weeks.