The King of Ski Waxing: Reinhard Kronbichler
It’s only a few milliseconds that decide over victory and defeat. Every detail has to be on point to stand on the podium as World Champion. An almost invisible, but still one of THE decisive factors: the ski wax. Reinhard “Reini” Kronbichler from Ebbs in Tyrol is a ski wax expert: the best Austrian athletes entrust their cross-country skis to him. In an interview he explains to us how he gets the last decisive milliseconds out of the skis.
4 decades of experience
Reini, who was born in Ebbs near Kufstein, looks back on more experience as a “wax master” than he can tell us. He has been waxing cross-country skis for 40 years and is also the managing director of HWK Skiwax. He has spent countless hours preparatiring cross-country skis, doing thousands of tests and continuously improving the waxing technique. All this is the decisive experience from which Austria’s top athletes now profit. When they strap on their skis for competition, they can be sure: The wax is as best as it can be.
Reinhad “Reini” Kronbichler and his collegue Andreas Fuchs in the Service Area in Seefeld.
A complex science
When Reini lists his work steps, one can almost become dizzy: Who thinks that it is done with 1 or 2 layers of wax and some polishing is wrong. “First, the base wax is applied to the ski,” Reini says. “Then it is ironed in and we let it cool down. It is then cleaned with a grooved pencil and brushed out with a metal brush until the structure is exposed. Then the fluorine powder is applied and ironed in.” So far, it doesn’t seem too complicated, right? Reini explains further: “Then the powder is polished and you let it cool down again. When it is cold, the wax is scraped off and a hand structure is applied to the respective cut of the ski. Because every ski already has a cut, you can imagine it like a pattern or a profile on car tires. Then the wax is removed and brushed out once more until the structure is exposed again.”
Already a lot of work steps – but Reini is not finished yet!
“Then there’s liquid wax, too. It can also be applied. But you have to see if the ski gets better or not. You just have to try it out. Liquid wax has a short mileage. You can’ run far with it because it runs off fast. But the skis often go better with it and if you only have a faster ski for 4 or 5 kilometres, it often makes the difference whether you win or lose. Whether the competition catches up with you or not.”
Finding the best wax
In addition to preparing the skis, Reini and his team carry out extensive tests. Which products are the best? What works best on the respective snow? “We have eight pairs of skis for this.”, Reini explains. “There are different products everywhere. Then there are two cross-country skiers who test the skis. They lean against each other and ski at the same speed. Then they disperse and we check which ski goes better. Then the two cross-country skiers change skis and the test is repeated so that everyone has each ski once. That way, you know which ski is better. This is done until the best ski is left.”
These tests are done by the professionals: “All teams at the World Championships do it like this,” Reini reveals. “That’s how they find out what’s best.” The test results are of course always meticulously documented: “There is a report. We write down which base wax was used, which powder won, with how many degrees I ironed it in, that I polished it. So I know exactly what the processing method is. “In addition, the date and test time are documented: “The conditions change continuously with every hour,” says Reini. Of course, all this has an effect on the wax and must be taken into account. Not only the air temperature is measured, but also the snow temperature determines which wax works best.
Preparing the perfect cross-country ski is a science in itself. It’s a good thing that there are professionals like Reini who have decades of experience supporting our athletes – and bringing them a step closer to victory almost invisibly and in the background!
Fotos and interview: Laura Zobernig