The International Ski Federation (FIS) is again postponing its ban on the use of fluorinated (fluoro) waxes, originally passed in November 2019. The decision to delay the ban’s implementation until after the 2022-23 season was announced in a press release earlier today.
The FIS cites the need for “further refinement of the fluoro testing device and to define procedures to protect the integrity of FIS competitions.” The same concerns over an efficient and effective testing procedure have already led to two prior announcements of delays in the implementation the fluoro ban in 2020 and 2021. This latest decision will mean that the World Cup, World Ski Championships, World Junior/U23 Ski Championships, and other FIS-sanctioned events will continue to see the unregulated use of waxes containing fluorocarbons this upcoming winter.
Fluorinated waxes contain a class of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to as PFAs, which have been the subject of increased regulation in the past decade following research showing significant environmental and human health risks. To read a comprehensive overview of this evolution in PFA regulation, read here. Fluoro ski waxes have been found to be some of the most PFA-rich substances on Earth, on account of their extreme hydrophobia. Wax manufactures are now shifting away from producing fluoro-containing race waxes, long a standard in competitive Nordic ski racing, and with that shift, regional, national, and international governing bodies have had to adopt policies regarding their usage in sanctioned competitions.
When the FIS announced its ban in 2019, originally to be implemented at the start of the 2020-2021 season, it was on the forefront of fluoro policy-making. As the international governing body, FIS’ ban was set to take the broadest step possible in banning fluoros from Nordic ski racing. With the ongoing delays in implementation, however, a patchwork of policies across national governing bodies, and even individual races and venues, now govern fluoro wax policy. In the United States, U.S. Ski & Snowboard enacted a total ban on fluoro containing waxes in January of last year, following the Beijing 2022 Olympic qualifying period. Nordiq Canada has yet to release updated policy guidelines for the 2022-23 season, but it’s 2021-22 policy implemented a “tiered system” that essentially banned fluoros at all non-co-sanctioned Nordiq Canada and FIS events (SuperTours and the Canadian National Championships therefore, were exempt). Nordiq Canada’s policy will be of particular interest this season, with the 2023 FIS Nordic World Junior Ski Championships scheduled to be held next January in Whistler, British Columbia.
In place of a ban, the FIS says it “will increase the systematic collection and testing of samples during the upcoming season 2022-23.”
Ben Theyerl was born into a family now three-generations into nordic ski racing in the US. He grew up skiing for Chippewa Valley Nordic in his native Eau Claire, Wisconsin, before spending four years racing for Colby College in Maine. He currently mixes writing and skiing while based out of Crested Butte, CO, where he coaches the best group of high schoolers one could hope to find.