American Chemistry MattersA Blog of the American Chemistry Council

American Chemistry Matters

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Hitting The Slopes With Chemistry

Winter is here, the snow is falling, and folks are starting to grab their skis and snowboards and head to the slopes. While the fundamental aspects of skiing and snowboarding likely won’t be changing anytime soon, one thing they have in common is chemistry.

Chemistry can be found throughout these slope sports, starting with the equipment you use. Modern skis and snowboards are made from high-density polyethylene. The high strength-to-density ratio of the material makes it ideal for strong, yet lightweight, skis and boards.

Though used in sturdy and durable boards and skis, polyethylene is also a porous compound, making it great for another important item found on the slopes – ski wax. Ski wax helps in reducing the friction between the snow and your skis or board, and can be critical to safely enjoying your day on the mountain. Ski wax also contains fluorocarbons, though the amount found in ski waxes can vary depending on snow conditions. For instance, hydrocarbon wax has a higher level of fluorocarbons and is typically better for wetter snow.

As for your snow gear, chemistry can be found there too! It’s important that you stick to moisture-wicking materials such as merino or polyester thermals, which are designed to keep your body warm but wick away the moisture from your skin to keep you dry. The chemicals within non-Polyurethane waterproof materials help keep the fabric breathable, which is great for when you work up a sweat on the slopes.

So if you hit the slopes in the coming months, remember that chemistry matters.

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