Canmore Nordic Centre

Norah and mom Kari prepare to do some skate-sking at the Canmore Nordic Centre

This is a good time of year to re-visit the pros and cons of waxless skis so I’ve added a section at the end of this post which gives my thoughts but I welcome everyone’s input. 

Bow trail

I’ve had some excellent ski trips at Canmore Nordic centre this winter and this was another one. Today was unusual for the fact that I averaged a faster speed on my waxless skis than at any time on my waxable skis. 

Banff trail

The tracks were glazed and ultra-fast, with very little slush to slow me down, and I had perfect grip with my zero skis. At 1 pm the temperature was +2°C and the sky was cloudy. At this time of year, clouds are our friends. No sun to make the tracks wet. 

Banff trail on man-made snow(but with all the recent snowfall, it is mostly natural snow)

I skied to the end of Banff trail(the very end where Rundle Riverside trail begins in Banff National Park), and returned on  Bow. I was impressed with how pristine the trails are for this time of year. No debris, no snow fleas, just clean, white snow. 

My only (minor) inconvenience was the loose snow in the tracks which was created by sticky wax pulling divots out of the snow. My zero skis dislike loose snow and they get gummed up if there’s a lot of loose snow. 

Rundle Riverside trail had skier tracks going into Banff National Park

Waxless skis

That brings me to the question a lot of people are asking: Which waxless skis are best. There are three choices when considering waxless skis: Fish-scale, skins, and zeros. I welcome everyone’s input on this question, but I’ll give my quick opinion.

I think skin skis are probably the best all-around waxless ski because they work well in all conditions. It’s critical to make sure they fit you correctly or you’ll experience grabbing, or if they’re too stiff, you’ll have no grip. Skins eventually need to be replaced. 

Fish-scale skis are my least favourite because they don’t grip well on icy tracks and I’ve always found them difficult to control on fast downhills. As you’ve read on the trip reports, skiers still have trouble with the grip zone icing up in fresh, wet snow. 

Zero skis are my favourite but the window where you can use them is very limited. They grip well on ice or wet snow, and offer excellent glide. If there is  fresh, soft, or loose snow, they are worse than useless. I use sandpaper on the grip zone before each ski and that’s all the maintenance they need. You can buy an expensive silicone spray for the grip zone which is supposed to prevent icing but it wears off quickly.


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  1. Hi Bob. Great post and on a timely topic.
    Guess you were going too fast to see the snow fleas in and around the classic tracks on Banff trail, towards the Rundle riverside end. A sure sign of spring skiing!
    I used my Skintecs today, probably my best day ever on them in these conditions.

  2. Hi Bob:
    I find this time of the year snow ideal for skies so called all around like the Salomon S/lab yellow or the Fischer speedmax 812 which is rated for -10 to +5:
    I have both and very happy with them but waxing is still the best choice in my opinion even if it requires some sophisticated sorcery to be spot on.
    I recently went to see Geret at ” The grinders” In Canmore and tested these very skies for camber ans suitability, his electronic method of calibrating the skies is accurate and also allows you to optimize the position of the bindings, which is rather important, therefore just pay him a visit with your skies and find out what you are working with, you may be surprised of the outcome; not all the time a slippery ski is to be attributed to the wax, you may have inappropriate camber for the snow type, perhaps too stiff.
    I have mentioned this before: I ave been using Rex powergrip wax for the glazing conditions and it works magnificently; it is used as a base like a klister and then cover it with stick wax, you need a heat gun to apply it and just e few drops are sufficient: On the Rex website there is a video that explains the dynamic of it.
    Good luck: Paolo

  3. Great topic Bob!
    I think you’ve hit the pros and cons of each category.
    We switched to Skintecs two years ago. The best benefit is that we can travel anywhere and get good kick and glide regardless of the snow or temps without a wax box.
    Coming from a teaching/coaching/racing/ ski rep background, I’d much rather have a properly waxed ski. However as a buddy mine says these new skin skis are like comparing a rotary dial phone ?? to a smart phone ? when comparing waxless to skins skis. Like any ski they need to be matched to the skier and their weight. BTW if using skin skis in the wet we use a ski skin prep used for AT skins to prevent icing. Nikawax has one as does Swix.

  4. That’s an interesting topic. It touches on why sometimes I’ll use my AT Skis in the spring on a valley bottom trail just because that’s the only pair I have skins for. I’d like to see more feedback on the Zero skis as well. For example, how about wet, but freshly fallen new snow? Sounds like it may be time to add some arrows to the quiver.

    I also noted with interest your sanding recommendation was echoed in an old NY Times article found via Googletron, which seems to be a pretty good introduction to this type of ski:

    “The grip area may not need waxing, but it does need occasional sanding. At Madshus, Groenaas demonstrated his technique by flourishing a large industrial rotary sander. But he allowed that most skiers would probably prefer do the job by hand.”

    I think Skier Bob must be of the industrial sander camp withal…

    • That large industrial sander was too heavy for my backpack, so I have a small piece of sandpaper, about 10 cm x 10 cm that does the trick. Wet, freshly fallen snow will clump up. I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has solved the problem of zero skis icing up in fresh snow.

      • If I had a pair of those skis, I’d also be skeptical of inflated pricing on silicon spray that you mentioned. One of the first things I experiment with would be “Fluid Film” (easily available in Canmore at Canmorian Tyre.), which we used in the past to replace a silicon based lubricant for precision threads.

        It displaces moisture and has good adhesion, making it a preferred annual undercoating for many who like to rust proof their vehicles. It will not harm plastic (but can eat rubber). We’ve used it for lubricating precision threads because it has good lubricity, and it does not get ‘tacky’. I’ve had good results using it on bike chains, so here now is a common ground that might be the glue that binds Fat Bikers and Skiers together with a common life purpose during that Spring equinox when we all innocently kick up our heels like Billie Goats as we speed down that common use trail. Well, all except one Fat Biker perhaps….

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