Holdernsess School skier Haley Mahar wrote and recorded an essay for a composition class. Titled “I Believe in Kickwax,” Haley’s piece details a skier’s relationship with her wax.
I believe in kick wax. Any Nordic skier who has ever skied competitively will tell you that classic skiing without kick wax gives you four times the workout, ten times the frustration, and a few dirty looks and a suggestion to clean out your mouth. The majority of society already struggles to grasp why anyone would voluntarily try to ski UP a hill in freezing temperatures when you could just as easily ride up and ski down. Then, if you start to complain about your wax job, the looks get stranger. Still, any Nordic nerd will tell you that nothing is better than fast snow and good wax. When a skier gets into a rhythm of syncopated breathing and the fwish of the skis across the snow, the exhaustion and physical rigor of a Nordic skiing lifestyle becomes worth it. It’s a love hate relationship, but through thick and thin, I believe in kick wax.
For the people out there who enjoy spending time in the warm indoors and NOT skiing up hills in freezing cold temperatures, you probably have no idea what kick wax is. You probably don’t care. Classic skiing looks a lot like running on skis, and for recreational enthusiasts, it doesn’t get more complex than that. But for racers, the application of the correct kick wax is crucial. Classic skiing without kick wax is like trying to write without a pen. So, you have to put faith in it.
When I was in seventh grade and first learned to ski, I was magnetically attracted to skate skiing. Skating wasn’t that hard- the motions were the same as ice-skating, something I was already familiar with. But classic skiing was all technique. You had to know how to position your legs, your hips, your arms, your feet, your shoulders even, to align perfectly in a balanced position above a sliding piece of plastic. You had to get the perfect pop that made your wax stick and then your ski glide. I didn’t have the patience for it. I wiggled around on my classic skis, stabbed my poles into the ground in attempt at balance, and whined my way down the tracks. Needless to say, my strategy didn’t work out very well. So, I had to learn how to trust my kick wax.
Since snow is a perpetually morphing substance, different conditions call for different wax. When the snow is between ten and twenty degrees, we layer on extra blue. If the temperature is hovering around freezing, skis are slathered with green and purple rodie. Anything above freezing is usually treated with klister, a substance that sticks to anything and everything. Literally, I mean everything. I won’t lie, kick wax, especially klister, can be hard to deal with. Yet there always comes that point in a race, heading up the last hill, when your legs are about to collapse underneath you and you’re not sure if your wax has completely worn off from the abrasive snow. Your face is cold, your chest is burning, and nothing, NOTHING, sounds better than stopping. At that point, the only two things out on the course are you and your wax. Either you’re going to work together, or you’re not. At the end of the race, when you cross the finish line, you trusted it or you didn’t; you either believed in it or you didn’t; and for the sake of sanity, I’ve found that it’s always better to just put your trust in the kick.
Haley Mahar is from Williamstown, MA and is entering her senior year at Holderness School in Holderness, NH where she plays soccer, lacrosse and skis under former USST development coach Pat Casey. “I Believe in Kick Wax” was an assignment for her AP Comp class in the spring of 2011. Submissions to FasterSkier are always welcome. If you have written or recorded a piece that you think would be of interest, don’t hesitate to send it along.