Toko: And Now for Something Completely Different

FasterSkierMarch 23, 2011

Although ski wax is designed for skiing, there are some who use it for activities that are completely different.

Team Chateau Frontenac – Ice Canoe Racing

Ice canoe races usually involve triangular shaped circuits between two distant cross the river buoys.  The teams must negotiate the terrain, the current, the tide and even the wind to make the quickest (not necessarily the shortest) route to success.  It is impossible to have the same path as your opponents due to these natural elements taking place.  Tide and current in opposite directions create ‘turntable ice’ that can fool a team and rob it of a few precious seconds.


Conditions include water, snow, slush and ice.  In water or loose slush we row, but once on hard slush or ice we ‘scooter’ about.  We face the front of the canoe and keep one leg  inside the canoe (in a shaped trough) and the other leg plowing-treading-pushing on the hard stuff.


The captain steers by paddle in the water, but on ice the front men initiate the turns, calling out the orders for the rear men to assist.  The 5 person team members are all involved in pushing and steering the boat through and around the various obstacles.  Ice chunks can be long, flat and as big as tennis courts, or sharp and choppy like a minefield with points over 3 feet tall (or sometimes even bigger).


On average, in the water we row 10 km per hour.  On medium difficult ice we can go 8 km per hour. On skin perfect ice, we have achieved speeds up to 29 km an hour.  Scootering allows for more than twice the normal stride length of a human as we benefit from glide as well!  We race on specialized carbon fibre canoes, carbon fibre oars with ice picks at the end, and the famous ice crampons we wear on our feet.


We are team Chateau Frontenac, captained by the local living legend Jean Anderson (electronics engineer by day).   Second in command is Michel Lessard, our most experienced wax man on board, front man starboard (vp operations by day in a local high tech company). Next is me, Eric Fraser, industrial designer and innovation consultant by day, my job in the boat is rear starboard (rocket man).  On the portside we have: Mathieu Grenier, front man, machinist by day. Rear starbaord is Benoit Tremblay, professor of human kinetics and our substitute is Eric Desroches, fireman.


We spend 10 hours a week training 4 months a year, 6 hours a week 8 months a year in preparation for the ice season. We have a total of 5 races a year with cumulative points.  The Chateau Frontenac team has the longest winning streak since the history of the sport.  So far this year, we have won all the races with 2 more to go!


The best teams (assuming equal cardio performance) are those who wax right and those who have the best field technique to transfer back and forth efficiently between rowing position and scootering position.  This is more complicated than it sounds as oars and paddles need to be either stored or taken out.

Here are the steps for our waxing process:

1.  Bring canoe indoors and let warm up

2.  Brush to clean off dirt and leftover wax

3.  Crayon on an antistatic base layer

4.  Hand cork with a synthetic cork

5.  Crayon on HF Yellow

6.  Heat in with a torch

7.  Crayon JetStream Yellow

8.  Hand cork

9.  Brush out lightly

10.  Cover canoe with tarp and pack for travel

11.  Once on site, apply HelX


Waxing the 28 foot long canoe takes 2-3 hours for 3-4 people.  We also test with a pull scale.  An unwaxed canoe can require a bull weight of over 50 pounds compared to a well waxed canoe which can require less than 13 pounds.


Eric Fraser, Rocket man, Team Chateau Frontenac



Boy Scout Troop 1066, Heber City, Utah - one of many Boy Scout troops in the Heber Valley.

Helping the Boy Scouts

A few weeks ago, I helped out our neighborhood group of boy scouts. They had a “Klondike Derby” coming up which is kind of a large winter campout including many scout troops and competitions between them.  The big one that they were targeting was a loaded sled race where the boys acting as sled dogs would be harnessed in front of the sled which they would pull the course (maybe 1 mile).  The course had a little uphill and a little downhill on it.  The sled was also mounted on Alpine skis like most of them are.  I was glad to help out of course.


I gave the skis the full race prep treatment first removing any burrs or rough spots that were on the metal edges, then making sure that the ptex bases were ok and flattening and smoothing them where needed with a file and a metal scraper.  Then after cleaning, I hot waxed with a highly fluorinated hydrocarbon wax (Dibloc HF Blue), let it cool, scraped it, and brushed it out.  Then I crayoned on a pure fluorocarbon wax (JetStream Blue), rotocorked it in well, brushed it and polished it with a felt polishing pad.  This was the full World Cup ski race treatment.


I then cautioned them that they no longer had a pulk sled, but rather a rocketship and to be careful because the thing was going to slide a whole lot faster than they thought it would so long as they kept the bases clean, kept it off the road surface (during loading and unloading), and also during the race kept the sled on the hardpack snow as much as possible.  I also asked about the course and after learning that there was a small downhill, I asked the leader how he was planning on navigating it as I figured if the snow was hard, the sled was going to easily outrun the kids.   He said that this has never been a problem before out of all of the Klondike Derbies that he has done and didn’t think that it would be an issue.


I didn’t hear anything as I was really sick and didn’t leave the house for a while.  Two weeks later, one of the scout leaders asked me if I knew what had happened.  Suddenly I became aware that I might have some liability issues.  Very interested and somewhat nervous, I asked what had happened.


It turns out that they were way in the lead, hit the small downhill and the sled went so fast it passed everyone. Only two kids were able to hang on to it. The remaining 6 were left completely behind.  The time a team gets is recorded when the last kid crosses the finish line.  All of the other sleds crossed together as the kids were pushing the sleds.  Ours crossed with two kids stubbornly hanging on to it and the rest of the kids walking after it doubled over with laughter.  They ended up 5th I think.


Pretty funny!  We’re going to do it again next year I gather, but hopefully this time they’ll figure it out!


Ian Harvey


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