For as long as people have slid down snow-covered hills on skis or boards, waxing has been about the same: apply wax, glide well for a short while until the wax wears off, and then glide poorly for a while until the next waxing. DPS is changing that with its new creation, Phantom, which permanently penetrates the base of your skis or snowboard for consistent glide throughout the life of your gear, as well as any temperature you’ll encounter.
We recently got a chance to tour the DPS factory in Salt Lake City, a facility bustling with activity from about 25 manufacturing employees going about the hands-on and surprisingly manual process of creating some of the world’s most sought-after skis. Back in a quiet corner of the shop, though, several pairs of skis sat on a drying rack under UV light with Phantom curing into their bases. That’s where we got to talk shop with DPS Product Development Manager Charlie Schayer about this revolutionary new base glide treatment.
According to Schayer, the biggest benefits of Phantom are threefold: pure convenience, consistent performance across all temperatures and conditions, and the fact that Phantom is more environmentally friendly than traditional wax.
“Since it’s permanent, your skis can be sitting in your garage, and you can ski them the first time of the year and not have to worry about not having wax on there,” Schayer said. “From my perspective, convenience is the number one thing, not having to worry about it.”
Phantom’s one-time application process is very simple, and can be done easily at home with only the supplies included in the package, though Schayer said that many shops will likely offer a Phantom wax treatment as an option when having new skis mounted or old skis tuned. Each pack includes enough wax to coat one pair of skis or one snowboard.
“It’s super-simple,” Schayer said. “You open the packet, put it on the base of the ski, and just rub it in. And that takes about two minutes. It’s a very straightforward process. You’re just coating the base of the ski.”
After the base of the ski is coated, the Phantom treatment needs to cure in UV light, which allows it to penetrate all the way into the base of the ski. For this process, DPS uses a rack hooked up with UV lights and is in the process of developing a more advanced UV lighting system for ski shops. But for the typical at-home application process, a few hours outside in the sunlight will cure the Phantom. A second application is then wiped onto the skis, and allowed to cure in the same way.
Once Part B is cured, rubbing the base of the ski or board with the included cork and brush preps the surface for the snow. There will initially be an oily residue on the base of the ski, but the friction of the snow will remove it after skiing for a run or two.
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Anyone who has experienced sticky skis as the result of choosing the wrong wax can appreciate the fact that Phantom is designed to perform well across all temperatures and conditions.
“They’re always going to be fast in any conditions,” said Schayer of skis waxed with Phantom. According to Schayer, Phantom performs especially well in warm, soft, and slushy conditions where traditional waxes tend to stick. “We were skiing it up at Snowbird this spring. The conditions there were sunny in one section, and then you’d hit a shady patch. You can really feel that with traditional wax. With Phantom, it’s extremely hydrophobic, and it has a very low coefficient of friction. It isn’t very sensitive to temperature change. In slush, you get a very consistent glide through it. With traditional wax, that’s the tipping point. That yellow wax will work great on the frozen stuff, but as soon as you get to the slushy stuff it grabs. Phantom just has a really wide range of conditions that it performs in.”
An Eco-Friendly Alternative
Traditional waxes often contain harmful chlorofluorocarbons and PFCs. “Every time the ski gets waxed [with traditional wax],” said Schayer, “the wax stays on the ski anywhere from a few runs to two days depending on the quality of the wax and the delivery method. Every time it has to be reapplied, you’re putting more of those chemicals into the watershed.” Schayer also mentioned the fact that many traditional waxes contain mercury, which can quickly become hazardous to the health of someone waxing skis or boards frequently. Because Phantom is only applied once, and is permanently bonded to the base of the ski, these chemicals do not come off and end up in the watershed.
Redefining a Norm
While ski waxes have changed a bit since the 1850s, the basic premise and delivery method of them has never been challenged. The development of wax has been dominated by the ski racing industry, where high performance for one run in very specific conditions mattered far more than overall performance and convenience. Because of this, DPS began working with chemists at the University of Utah last fall to try to figure out a new solution.
Other companies had worked on products with similar premises as Phantom, but none had any scientific data to back them up. According to Schayer, DPS wanted to change that, wanted to create a product that would actually work for people who ski every day. He also says that they lucked out in finding the chemists that they did, that some of the few scientists in the world who could make this work just happened to live in the company’s backyard.
Schayer says that the initial formula for Phantom skied terribly, but they used that as a starting point for a ton of trial and error. “We’d take three of four pairs of skis up to Alta, take a few runs, and basically say ‘this version has some characteristics that we like, and this one doesn’t.’ And then we’d take those and kind of branch off and find the things we liked about it.” Before long, they had dialed it in and made it perfect. The final formula for Phantom ended up having a side benefit that they’d never anticipated as well: it actually hardens the base of the ski or board, making it more durable and more resistant to rock chips and core shots.
Schayer is often asked about the longevity of the product, not only the permanency of the bond but the effects of a lifetime of stone grinds and abuse. “we did long-term testing down in South America and New Zealand where we had ski racers and ski instructors on their skis,” he said. “And they were skiing every single day, and they never had to wax. They can validate based on their first-hand accounts of the performance.”
From a more scientific perspective, DPS built several pairs of skis with a release layer, meaning they could wax each pair with Phantom and then remove the base of the ski to see if the wax penetrated all the way through. And sure enough, it did. They took the skis to the chemistry labs at the University of Utah, where analysis actually showed a higher concentration of the wax chemical on the inside of the base than on the outside. Further tests revealed that the skis performed as well or better as layers of the base were ground off.
In terms of longevity on an actual pair of skis meant to serve a life of many years, that is very good news. Phantom permanent base glide treatment can withstand as many stone grinds, edge tunes, and rock shots as you’ll give a pair of skis, all in a single, simple dose.
“Overall, we’re quite confident. It’s pretty amazing stuff. It’s in there and it’s not coming out.”