Is Wax Dead?
It’s Hallowe’en, so what better day to think about one of the newest spectres to haunt the ski world: Phantom from DPS.
Since its spectacular debut last year on a Kickstarter campaign, Phantom wax has been one of the hottest new products to hit the downhill ski world. Spectacular is probably an understatement. The goals of the Kickstarter campaign were to fund $35,000 but that quickly ramped up to a total of $291,349 or 832% of the campaign goals.
That’s over 2000 skiers who trust the spin enough to lay down $70-80 (USD) per bottle before it was released to the public (a bottle now retails for $119 CAD at MEC). At the same time there are the skeptics, and even those who feel it’s worth a shot have questions about the product.
I approached Rob Owens and Jason Billings, who distribute DPS products out of their office here in Canmore, to see if I could get some answers to some of my own questions before giving it a try. Yes, Rob and Jason have an interest in the product, but I also trust their honest evaluation.
Interview with Rob & Jason
Q – I’ve heard that the glide isn’t as good as a fresh hand-waxed ski, and so it’s not recommended for ski racing. So why bother, when waxing a pair of skis only takes 10 minutes?
A (Jason) – “A freshly waxed pair of skis will have slightly faster glide than Phantom, but only for the first couple of runs. Wax is topical and begins to wear off with the first run. Phantom will provide the same glide for the life of the ski.”
Q – Phantom is fairly expensive. Do you have any estimates on the cost effectiveness of Phantom treatment over the life of a pair of skis?
A (Jason) – “It would be hard to put a dollar amount on this, unless I knew how often you waxed your skis. People can figure this out pretty easily. Beyond cost, the main benefit is health (if you are waxing your skis without a ventilation mask you are breathing in very toxic fumes). Also, wax which contains fluorocarbons leaches into the ground water and surround environment when it rubs off on the snow.”
Q – After application of Phantom the skis need to be cured with UV in the sun. Is there a time of the year here in Canada the days are too short to do that using the sun?
A (Jason) – “Phantom 2.0 requires 1 hour of curing in the sun for both part A and B (2hrs total). The sky needs to be clear and the air temperature above 0 degrees celsius.”
Q – There are reportedly shops with UV treatment lamps that substitute for the sun’s UV. Where are these available?
A (Jason) – “Shops that will be getting rapid cure stations in the next month are Monod Sports, Valhalla Pure Revelstoke and MEC Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. Escape Route in Whistler currently has one.”
Q – Will Phantom affect the stiffness or other performance factors of a ski?
A (Jason) – “No.”
Q – Phatom is a pretty new product and has only been tested for a year or so. Is there any guarantee that Phantom will not degrade a ski’s performance long-term?
A (Jason) – “Phantom has been in extensive testing year around in different snow climates around the globe for 2 years prior to its release last year.”
Q – Phantom is supposed to be noticeably stickier at slow speeds. Is this true? Do you think this is a disadvantage in any situation? (or advantage?) What about slow skiing i.e. in bumps or super steeps?
A (Jason) – “The condition/speed that you would notice this “stickiness” would be shuffling along in a ski lift line. As soon as a slope has angle, or you have momentum this does not apply.”
Q – Is Phantom similar to traditional waxes?
A (Rob) – “Phantom bonds to the base material and is 100% permanent. It will not coat your skin glue and affect performance (a freshly waxed ski can really affect the glue performance long term) and also seems to resist glue retention on the base very well.”
Q – You say it’s a permanent treatment, but what about when I need to do a base grind? Doesn’t the grind take the Phantom treatment off?
A (Rob) – “Phantom soaks into the full base thickness of the ski and performance is unaffected (and actually improves) after a base grind. A base patch would not be treated with Phantom but even if it is a large patch it would almost surely go unnoticed. You could always add some Phantom (work with a shop that has bulk bottles) or just add some wax.”
Q -Can I put wax on a ski that was treated with Phantom?
A (Rob) – “Wax will stick to Phantom and actually lasts 20-30% longer on a base with Phantom than an untreated base.”
Q – What kind of interaction is there between Phantom and skin glue?
A (Jason) – “There was no issue with skin glue (I was on G3 Alpinist skins). Glue on the skins did not become gloppy (as happens with fluoro wax contamination) and the glue did not come off on the bases of the skis. The glue on the skins I was using seems unchanged from day 1.”
Q – What do you recommend if I need to do serious repairs to my bases using P-tex candles or glue-on base material?
A (Jason) – “As for repairs, the Phantom is permanently saturated and cured through the entire thickness of the base. A base grind just exposes more Phantom. If you did a base repair (ptex or patch) that spot would not have Phantom. I think you would have to have had many repairs, or a really big repair (ie. base patch) before you would actually notice a glide difference, but technically you could re treat the repaired area with Phantom.”
Q – What’s your personal experience with Phantom been like?
A (Jason): “I ski toured around 15 days on Phantom last winter. A mix of snow types, from cold powder, to moist spring snow. The skis glided equally well on the last day as the first day after the application – the same as my skis have felt in the past after a fresh “all temperature” wax (I typically use red Swix or KUU wax).”
Q – Is there anywhere I can rent a pair of demo skis treated with Phantom so that I can see what it’s like?
A (Rob) – “To test out a Phantom treated pair of skis, please reach out to your local DPS Dealer directly. ”
I really enjoy skiing on freshly waxed skis, but during a busy winter of ski guiding I just don’t hit the wax room twice a week to give my skis a proper tune-up — more like twice a month. A lot of the time, especially when dovetailing back to back guiding weeks, my bases are a sad shade of grey. Phantom doesn’t promise to be a substitute for regular, professional tuning with traditional wax. It promises to do better than what I do now, and I don’t think I’m alone — most of us would rather be hanging out around the dining table with a glass of wine in the evenings instead of hovering over a smoking iron!
So I ordered a package and received it in the mail last week. Immediately I was struck by how small the packages of wax were — I’m not sure what I was expecting, after all it’s a single application!
Application was very straightforward — I recommend reading through the instructions though just so you know what to expect. I applied Part A on Sunday and let it cure outside for a few hours — mostly sunny skies but some cloudy periods so I figured leave it out there a bit longer. I brought them inside for the night. Next morning I applied Part B. About 2 hours later the surface was still moist and seemed uncured despite lots of sun and temps in the +3 to 5°C range. Then it started raining, so I brought them inside for the night. Next mornings the surface was dully and cloudy and scraped off nicely.
Now I’m just waiting for the chance to use them. That probably won’t be until January as I don’t feel like destroying my brand new G3 SEEKr skis! I’ll let you know how it goes then.
Mountain Guide ACMG/IFMGA