Driving up to test air temps at the finish were 25f (18f in Ketchum and 12f in Hailey) and at Prarie Creek (10k into the race) air temp was 37f. This was a super strong inversion. There was a warm shinook type wind coming down from Galena summit which was pushing the colder air lower and lower down the Wood River Valley. When we arrived at Prarie Creek, I was shocked at how warm the air was and how wet the snow was. I was sure that I was going to need to wax a few hundred pair of skis for people at the registration with a warmer wax.
We had 4 different testers conduct 6 different blind wax tests using a few fleets of skis (4 brands, different structures and flexes). Waxes tested were HF Blue versus HF Blue/Red mix and JetStream Blue versus JetStream Red versus JetStream Yellow. All 6 testers picked JetStream Blue over the other waxes (Red was second best, but every single one picked Blue over Red). Testing between HF Blue and HF Blue/Red was inconclusive (no difference). We were testing in the wettest area of the course. Lower down between Baker, Easely, and Murphy’s, the snow was far more arid.
Amazingly, when we were finishing our testing, air temperature at Prarie Creek was 50f! As we drove down the course it got colder and the finish line, only about 20k from Prarie Creek was 34f. Ketchum was 27f. What a crazy strong inversion.
We also found that the stiffness of the skis was very important to consider. The stiffer skis ran faster than the softer skis. Additionally, fine structure on the stiffer skis ran better than more. However the same person could run a pair of softer skis and then structure was better. This makes sense as a softer pair of skis has more contact with the snow and thus would require more structure.
I also spoke with a few others who were testing other brands and they found that the colder waxes from other brands were also outrunning the waxes more appropriate for the warmer temperatures and moisture content of the snow.
I have studied with snow scientists and have decades of experience doing exactly this, but I can tell you that experiences like this still amaze me. I figured Blue was the wax of the day (HF Blue followed by JetStream Blue) because it always seems to be at the Boulder MT Tour, but still when you are standing there in the warm temperatures and wet snow, it was still very surprising.
Having historical knowledge as well as a good understanding of local forecasting and course conditions continues to be critical to having good skis. Bottom line is Ketchum, ID, Bozeman, MT, Soldier Hollow, UT, Steamboat Springs, CO = HF Blue covered by JetStream Blue almost all the time. It is difficult to explain, especially in this case as this is old snow. When new snow falls in these places, then it is easier as there’s something about being on the lee side of a big mountain at altitude that makes these areas wax cold.
Toko wax tip for the Boulder MT Tour remains LF Moly followed by HF Blue, followed by JetStream Blue. Structure would be Blue except if on soft skis, then Red. Good luck!