The wax on your skis can’t win the Olympic games for you, but when fractions of a second can mean the difference between Olympic dreams and disappointment, the wrong wax can definitely cost you.
Preparation has come a long way from spreading whale oil or pine pitch on the bottoms of your skis. Today’s wax technicians are chemists and meteorologists, studying everything from temperature and humidity to relative freshness of the snow to determine the perfect combination of hydrocarbon and fluorocarbon compounds to help Olympic athletes both grip and glide.
That’s right. The compounds that can help an athlete climb uphill in a cross-country competition, beat the clock downhill and land a clean double McTwist 1260 are made from natural gas and oil. So are the ultra-high-density polyurethane bases of skis and snowboards, the aerodynamic uniforms worn by speed skaters, the multi-directional impact protection helmets that keep athletes safe, and the sensors that collect the data to help bobsled teams achieve optimal speed.
We know the Olympics are underway when the cauldron (first fueled by natural gas in 1988) is lit. How fitting that every day, in every competition, products made possible by natural gas and oil help fuel Olympians’ peak performance too.
For a fascinating look at natural gas’s role in the 2018 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony (Drones! The Torch! Heated Parkas!), check out this article from INGAA.
To see how energy innovation gives the edge to Olympians, read this op-ed.
And to learn more about wax techs, the Olympics’ unsung heroes, see At Winter Olympics, Science Wins the Day.