Spring…it’s 60 degrees out. The sun is shining and it’s t-shirt weather. Turn after turn comes smoothly and then all of a sudden there is a sudden pull like gremlins just came out of the snow and tried to tackle you. Bummer, the day is shot right? Well, it doesn’t have to be. A lot of times this only means your gear isn’t setup properly for the conditions. There are many ways to prevent or reduce that “Suction” feeling in spring snow. All kinds of different methods and strategies are used to ensure optimum performance. Here’s what we found works for us.
Spring Snow doesn’t have to equal slow
To understand what causes you to slow down, you need to understand the mechanics of what’s happening under your feet. Short and sweet, it’s known as “Wet Friction.” It’s a fancy term that means there’s high moisture content in the snow. Threads of water called capillaries attach to the base and slow you down. Imagine two piece of glass that are wet and press them together. This will create suction and the two pieces of glass stick together like glue! Like most things in life, it’s all about balance. When water is present in small amounts it acts like lubricant to the hard snow crystals. Once there is enough water though it suddenly begins to slow you down.
Combating Wet Friction
Wax with Fluoro!
The easiest thing to do is understand what kind of wax works best in the snow conditions you are attempting to ride. In spring, your choice of wax is more critical than any other time of the ski season. Wax works because it reduces friction. In spring you want to make your base is waterproof so that the capillaries don’t slow you down. To do this, attempt to find a wax with a high amount of fluorocarbons. One of our favorites is the wax by Ass Industries, called Haul Ass Wax. It came highly recommended by The Village Board Shop. Since they really know their stuff we had to give it a try. The first day using it we were impressed. There was almost no suction on the snow until the very end of the day. When this happens, it’s good to carry a bit of wax paste in your pocket. Less is more…only use a tiny amount or it will slow you down even more!
Nylon Brush – A poor man’s stone grind
Ok, so now you found the wax you are going to use. It has high fluorocarbon content in it and will make your deck slide like Clark Griswold’s sled. Another great option is to take a nylon or steel brush and lightly create a cross-hatching pattern on the base like a diamond pattern. These tiny grooves will direct water to the edge of your board to clear the base more efficiently allowing for less drag.
Stonegrind – The magic touch
If you really want a fine tune, take one step further. Take it into a shop and ask for a wide open aggressive crosshatch stonegrind. What does that mean? Wide open aggressive stands for a deeper cut like a snow tire. While crosshatch stands for cutting the pattern, which scores your board with the diamond shape described above. This is a tricky technique to master, so it’s a good idea to ask around town to find out who does it well. For those in South Lake Tahoe, I’ve heard Sports LTD and Shoreline of Tahoe both do great work. Make sure you explain exactly how you want your deck to be tuned and it’s always a good idea to tip your local shop guru with a 6 pack of beer to make sure it comes out nice
Keep away from trees!
Finally, there is another major factor to consider when spring skiing. This is environmental pollutants such as tree pollen or sap, volcanic ash, exhaust fumes, and salt from snowmaking. To ensure your skis or snowboards stay fast, stay away from any snow that looks “dirty” and definitely avoid the trees!