Speedy descent for fluorinated ski waxes- ALPHA II as fluoride detector

If you want to ski, you have to wax the ski, and if you want to ski particularly fast, perfluorinated waxes have been to got-to solution so far. However, the toxic fluorinated compounds contained in these ski waxes accumulate in soil and groundwater.

Therefore, the International Ski Federation (FIS) and the International Biathlon Union (IBU) decided to ban these ski waxes from their competitions.[1] Although planned for the 2020/2021 season, the ban was postponed several times because the effort of testing in a competetive setting was deemed to high.

But now FIS and IBU found a sustainable solution: FT-IR spectroscopy!

Perfluorinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS)

Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) have been produced synthetically since the 1950s. They are used as surfactants for industrial and consumer applications. Because of their dirt- and water-repellent properties, they can be found in a variety of everyday products.

These include coated pans, fire-fighting foams and ski waxes. In the latter, PFAS are used to enhance the glide on the film of water between skis and snow. This increases the chances of being the first to cross the finish line. Unfortunately, it is bad for the environment and ultimately also for us.

PFAs and goods containing them.

What are the negative effects of PFAS?

PFAS are virtually impossible to break down in nature. As a result, they accumulate in the soil and groundwater. To document this accumulation in skiing competition areas, the content of PFAS in snow, water, soil and small mammals was determined.

The results showed increased values. Adverse health effects are the consequence and include lower birth weight of children, diabetes mellitus, or a disturbed thyroid metabolism. Subsequently, the FIS and IBU have decided to ban fluoride-containing ski waxes in all competitions.

However, a ban can only be implemented if it is possible to check efficiently and easy whether the ski is coated with the prohibited wax or not. A full-blown laboratory analysis at competitions would be time-consuming, expensive and therefore not feasible.

Testing the snow after the race is too unspecific since it is impossible to identified who used the banned wax. Thus an analytical device is needed that is intuitive to use and delivers reliable data in the field, even under the harsh conditions of ski competitions.

Ice-cold, high performance.
The ALPHA II ski-wax analyzer.

The ALPHA II is perfect for this demanding job. It is not only shock resistant but also works perfectly at low temperatures. In the approach a contactless reflectance sample module is used.

The PFC Ski Wax Detection Method was developed under umbrella of FIS and IBU and remain as licensed ownership of these organizations. This method can tell directly on the spot, in half a minute per ski, if the banned wax was applied or not.

The ALPHA II during a test run for the detection of fluoride-containing ski waxes at competitions.
The ALPHA II in action.

For PFC content evaluation multivariate data processing is implemented. The detection limit is below the level at which the use of PFC ski wax makes a competitive difference. Since fluorine occurs frequently in the environment an absolute zero limit is not possible.

The ALPHA II helps to implement the ban effectively and protect the environment by identifying „black sheep“ directly on site, during competitions. We at Bruker are very excited that the ALPHA II is supporting the professional ski world with this task.

You are interested in our ALPHA FT-IR analyzer? Why not contact us and arrange a demonstration? We are looking forward to hear from you!

Want to learn more about unusual uses of FT-IR spectroscopy? Why not check out this parquet flooring application or maybe this one about cannabis is more to your liking.


News many people have waited for. Both the International Biathlon Union (IBU and the International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS) will fully implement the fluor wax ban at the start of the upcoming 2023/2024 winter season. See the news articles below:

IBU implements full fluor ban

FIS to fully implement fluor wax ban at start of 2023-24 season

And here is a new Blog article about how our ALPHA II so far is performing in the competitions: