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Ski Preparation Without Fluorocarbon: “Some Embrace It, Others Fight It”

The International Ski Federation council announced in November 2019 to ban all use of fluorinated ski wax for all FIS races starting from the 2020-21 season. Later, however, FIS decided to postpone the ban, as an adequate and reliable testing procedure could not be implemented in time. 

Photo: Magnus Östh/Visma Ski Classics

For the current season 2021-22, FIS forbids the use of any wax products containing C8 fluorocarbons/PFOA in all its events.

As they continue to work on the issue and remain committed to implementing a fair fluorine-free competition in all disciplines, some federations such as US Ski and Snowboard have already taken steps in their domestic racing towards fully fluorine-free racing. 

USA Paving the Way

US Ski & Snowboard (USSS) has banned all fluorocarbon products at non-FIS sanctioned events in North America since season 2020-2021, which means that all domestic races besides those that are FIS have been fluorofree for two seasons now. 

However, regarding the inadequate testing procedure, some US Super Tour races and US nationals have remained outside this ban, mainly to ensure appropriate selection for international competitions like the Olympics and World Cup. 

In general, the US ski community has been receptive to the change towards more environmental-friendly fluorofree waxing products. Out There Nordic shop owner and race service prep Bjorn Hanson from Wisconsin, USA, tells about the shift and how it has shaped domestic racing in the US. 

“In our region, the major players have embraced it well. We provide race service for over 50 juniors in our region. Knowing the athletes we do service for and others that do service for some of the other top juniors in the Central Region, the kids winning are fluorofree,” (Central region consists of some big ski states in the USA such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan). 

Sharing and Providing Training

To be fully prepared and equipped for the new fluorine free waxing and to know how to properly clean skis that have previously been exposed to fluorocarbon wax products, Hanson has hosted several in person and virtual wax clinics. 

Additionally, Swix has provided training as well. The knowledge between race service and regions has been shared, “Although we are ‘competing’ with each other, there seems to be a good amount of knowledge shared. It is great helping raise the knowledge across the board.” 

In the current 2021-2022 season, fluorocarbon products were allowed in the first three US Super Tour races and US nationals. Although fluorocarbon waxes were banned by the venue or race organizer in many races. Besides providing services for juniors, Bjorn Hanson also offers race services for US nationals and American Birkie. 

“Our race service for USSS races and US nationals tested products from 7 to 8 different brands. This season even when we could use fluoro for a few races, we still tested fluorofree. 63% of our tests for the first two Super Tours this season and US nationals, fluorofree beat fluoro hands down.” 

While FIS has postponed the total fluorocarbon ban due to the lack of a reliable detector system for fluorocarbon products on skis, US Ski & Snowboard has stated that the organizers of non-FIS sanctioned events can hold random “ski control.” 

However, Bjorn reminds:

“For the most part, it is a hand-shake agreement. I only saw random testing at the 2022 American Birkie. Otherwise, nothing.” 

As testing methods remain unsure, it is clear that fluorofree waxing products have shown to be equally competitive or even better option for skiers across all levels and we can only hope the development toward more environmental-friendly racing and training to continue. 

Hanson concludes: 

“We have been excited about the change. It has created forced research and development by all wax companies.”

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