Grip (or Kick) Zone Information

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This page covers what the grip zone is and how to determine it. The grip zone goes by a number of other names including "kick zone" and "wax pocket".

grip zone
For a classical ski that kick wax will be applied to the grip zone.
No kick wax in the glide zones and no glide wax in the grip zone.

The Grip Zone

The grip zone is a term used for classical skis. That is, skis that use grip wax or klister. The grip zone is the area on the ski base that grip or klister wax can be applied to that will minimize the amount of wax being dragged across the snow maximizing the amount of wax that can grip. This area is under the binding -- in the center of the ski. The grip zone is determined by the length of the ski, stiffness of the ski and the weight on the ski. The weight on the ski is a combination of the skier, clothing and anything being carried (packs with gear or small children).

Skating skis do not have a grip zone. In brief, a ski has camber to help distribute the weight over the trail. But a skating ski has only one camber. A classic ski has two cambers. The first camber is to help distribute about half of the weight on it. The second camber keeps the grip or klister wax off of the snow. By being off the snow the wax does not drag (giving a better glide) and the wax lasts longer (by not being physically worn off). When the classic ski has full weight on it the second camber is pressed so the wax will contact the snow.

A grip zone that is too small can result in not enough grip because there is not enough surface area of wax to grab onto the snow. With a reduced surface area there is not enough strength in the "bond" between the wax and the snow.

A grip zone that is too large is usually an indication of a ski that is too stiff or too big for the skier. This usually means the skier will not be able to press the second camber enough for enough of the wax to make contact with the snow. A ski such as this also means that the skier has to work harder to make the ski work. This is tiring and after a while is not fun (recreational, training or racing).

The portion of the ski that is not the grip zone is known as a glide zone. Classical skis have two glide zones: one at the front of the ski and one at the back of the ski. Since skating skis have no grip zone this makes the entire ski base a glide zone.

Determing The Grip Zone

If you buy your skis at a good ski shop then part of the process of selecting your new skis is determining the grip zone. The process is straightforward and simple. If the shop doesn't know how to do it then either go to another shop or you can get them to help you do the test.

The process is:

  1. Find a clean, smooth, very flat, hard surface (i.e. kitchen floor). Carpeted floor don't work.
  2. Remove all grip and klister wax from the skis (so you don't stick to the floor).
  3. Place both skis parallel to each other about 8cm apart.
  4. If possible wear the clothing and gear you will have skiing (it adds weight and is vital to a correct measurement).
  5. Stand on the skis with your toes at the binding.
  6. Keep your weight evenly distributed between both skis and stand erect during the measurement.
  7. Have a second person (a helper) with a strip of paper.
  8. Have the helper slide the paper under the ski where your toes are.
  9. If the paper will not slide under check that you are evenly distributing your weight on the skis. Otherwise the ski is too soft for you.
  10. Now the helper should slide the paper forward and mark where edge of the paper stops. This is the front of the grip zone.
  11. Now the helper should slide the paper back and mark where edge of the paper stops. This is the back of the grip zone.
  12. The grip zone should extend from your heel forward toward the tip of the ski. If the back of the grip zone doesn't reach your heel the skis are likely too soft. The length of the kick zone should measure approximately 2 to 2-1/2 lengths of your foot (45cm to 65cm approximately).
  13. Now the helper should place the paper in the area under the ball of your foot.
  14. Move all weight to one ski and the helper should try to pull the paper free. If the paper comes out easily the skis are likely too stiff for the weight. If the paper does not come out or comes out with some difficulty then there should be no problem.
  15. Mark the grip zone on the sidewalls or top sheet of the ski for future ease of reference. This is your grip zone. Many skis already have tick marks on the sidewalls as guides for the grip zone. You can use these ticks to help you remember instead if you wish.

Notes About The Grip Zone

If you find you are carrying extra weight for a short ski trip don't worry too much. Wax as you regularly would. But check regularly (every 8 to 10km) that the wax is not wearing off too fast. If it is add some more wax.

If you find that you are not getting enough grip using only the grip zone: Home

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