While Salt Lake City, Boulder, Colo., and Truckee, Calif., have developed into hot spots for what’s left of America’s ski manufacturing industry — producing small boutique ski brands — a New Mexican has carved out a niche of his own that can help all skis and snowboards perform far better.
Marc Harris is a wizard of wax, and a conversation with him is sprinkled with technical terms like cryogenic lubrication, crystalline morphology, nano-particles, film properties and sacrificial mediums, all folded into the specialized science of material interfaces and frictional mechanics called tribology.
During the past 25 years, Harris has been experimenting and developing wax preparations that can be applied to the bases of skis or snowboards to improve their performance and longevity. He calls his product “Base Candy” under the registered trade name C-XEX.
Most conventional ski waxes only function optimally in a limited range of snow conditions and temperatures, which can vary even from the top of a run to the bottom. C-XEX, however, works extremely well at all temperatures, though it really shines in super-cold conditions. It also is extremely durable and abrasion resistant. This is due to its unique composition, which includes highly refined microcrystalline waxes combined with proprietary ceramic nano-particles in a very high-tech low oxygen environment in the company’s manufacturing facility in Albuquerque. It is the ceramic nano-particles — nano-meter measures a billionth of a meter — that provide this wax its unique properties. It is actually just a small part of his company’s operations, which focuses on coatings and lubricants for industries ranging from offshore oil drilling to electrical generation and power transmission.
Born in Roswell, Harris obtained a mechanical engineering degree at New Mexico State University. From 1979 until 1985, he lived and worked in Ruidoso as a ski tuner and ski instructor at what is now Ski Apache. “I’ve been playing with waxes and base preparations for some twenty-five years,” he said. “I was gaining an understanding of the products that were out there and seeing what worked, as well as the limitations of the conventional and fluoridated waxes.”
His wax can be applied by hand with a quick rub-on application, or melted on using a warm iron. The latter process works well to displace other contaminants in the base as well as providing deep penetration and a very durable finish. I first used the C-XEX wax last spring, using an iron, and it held up through a couple of outings and storage all summer in my shed. The wax is not cheap — $20 for a small tub — but it lasts, he says, five to six times longer than conventional waxes, so ends up being very price competitive. Its durability also helps protect bases from normal aging and so extends the life of the ski or snowboard. Perhaps the biggest benefit from using C-XEX wax comes from it’s capability to improve your skiing, as the wax ensures consistent speed is carried throughout a turn and requires less effort to execute edge shifts. You will also glide better over flats and so expend less energy.
Harris launched his website — www.c-xex.com — last year and has not pushed sales hard.
“There are quite a few liability issues, and I’m risk adverse, but I’m going to continue to pursue this — slowly,” he said. “It’s kind of a tribal knowledge product now.”
He has local racers and ski teams using the wax, but notes it is really designed for the average skier.
“Studies show that fewer than five percent of skiers or boarders use any type of wax and most of that is applied in shops, so people have no real knowledge of what is on the base,” he said.
He would like to find some party to help with marketing the wax. He will continue to tweak its manufacturing process with the help of his son, other company employees, and his on-slope testing friends at Taos Ski Valley.
“There’s been a lot of experimentation,” he said. “We had some early versions that you could literally walk up a wall with! We’ve learned a lot and it’s been an exciting, evolutionary process.”
Regional conditions are in a holding pattern while the area pulls out of an extremely cold and dry spell.
Angel Fire came in at coldest spot in the lower 48 states, at 20- to- 30 degrees below zero, alternating with Alamosa, Colo. and other nearby locales. But moisture has been scarce.
Ski Santa Fe only got a few inches in the past week, bringing it up to a 40-inch base, followed by winds that blew the incredibly dry and light flakes off into the woods. So, that’s where you might go looking for powder and get off the wind-scoured slopes. Ski Santa Fe hosts the Tony Forrest telemark and mogul workshops next week, Jan. 25-27.
Wolf Creek, per usual, did manage some substantial accumulations, and has a nice base of 45 inches. It hosts the Martin Luther King Race on Sunday, 1/20, which is free and open to all skiers and boarders.
Pajarito Mountain, which opened for one extended weekend, is closed again. With a 16-inch base, it needs another good snow to resume.
Daniel Gibson can be reached at email@example.com.