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Five Lessons from Ski Testing for a Birkie Winner

Five Lessons from Ski Testing for a Birkie Winner

When Anders Gløersen crossed the line victorious at the 2018 American Birkebeiner, he did so in a final sprint against a strong field. He also did so with three days of ski prep and testing dedicated to the weekend. Here are five lessons you can learn from the five-time World Cup winner and the Swix staff that led up to the event.

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1  Bring the kitchen sink.

Gløersen, like most professional skiers, was not shy about skis and ski testing. His fleet for the week was roughly 12 pair of skis that he whittled down to two final options on race day to be prepped by the Swix Racing Service team. Even if your fleet is only two pair and they’re marked by a big age difference, testing those against each other in the days before the race is worth it.

2. Don’t skimp on high flouro waxes.

On the Wednesday prior to the Birkie, two trends emerged: 1. Colder waxes were running on the fine snow that had recently fallen. 2. High flouro waxes were faster. “In our test at the 00 trails at noon on Wednesday, the following waxes ran as follows, 

#1- HF5X

#2- HF6X

#3- HF7X

#4- HF4X

#5- LF6X

 Even though the air temperatures were cold, HF waxes were running faster than LF waxes.While not universally the case, high humidity,” described Chris Hall, Swix Racing Service Director. The result was a zeroing in on HF waxes for subsequent tests.

3. Finish with the Block

With warming temps and new snow, Swix Racing Service tested HF and Cera F waxes. Of the most interesting results of this testing, the cold block high flouro FC6XS over the top of Cera F powders made a profound difference.  Here’s how testing broke down on the warming temps of the Thursday prior to race day:

 

Paraffins:

#1- HF7X

#2- HF6X

#3- HF5X

#4- HF8X

Cera F Powders:

#1- FC7X

#2- FC6X

#3- FC8X

#4- FC5X

4. Test, if possible, in similar conditions.

Early on Friday morning, Swix Racing Service planned to test at the start of the Birkie (well out of the way of the Korte racers taking off from 00). When that proved impossible due to a lack of grooming over the 8 inches of freshly fallen snow, the testing crew waited, then moved, back to 00 for a look at what was going to run. “Ideally, you’re testing at the same time as the race, in the same conditions,” Hall described. “But we had to improvise a touch. The useful result here is that we had very real-world conditions for the later starters of the Birkie.” For his part, Gløersen skied for 90 minutes over the Birkie Trail on a variety of his skis.

5. Past results may not predict future performance.

 After three days of testing, at nearly every event, a Race Service Director has the ingredients but not the recipe. Here’s where the art of ski waxing bests the science. “With the weather forecast predicting much colder temperatures, we based the final wax recommendation on what the forecast was predicted to do, not what had happened in previous days,” Hall described. “The FC6X Cera F powder was near the top in warmer conditions and was the right call for Saturday’s race.” Hall mixed up the tests from the days prior to what the thought would be the best configuration and was rewarded with a win. While there is no doubt that the fasting thing that went on Gløersen’s skis was, in fact, Gløersen during Birkie weekend, the simple lessons of testing can be applied to any race (even those without five career World Cup wins.)