On February 12, 2006, just a couple of weeks from now, riders and their equipment will be put to the test at the Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy-and wax will be one of the deciding factors in a winning halfpipe run.

What about back-to-back 1080s?

The rider who wins the Olympic Halfpipe event will do two tens (and probably two nines)-but only if their board has the right wax.

When the stakes are high, professional riders don’t rely on a simple hot-wax once-over. The P-tex base of a snowboard continues to absorb wax every time it’s waxed, making it faster and faster.

So here’s what’s been going on behind the scenes: Top U.S. riders have been waxing their Olympic boards for months now. They have different boards set aside for different conditions-snow temperatures and moisture content-and they’ll choose the right board on the day of the event. Each board will have been waxed over and over with the same wax, and it’ll probably get a last-minute buffing before each run. If conditions change, the techs won’t change the wax, the rider will change boards-you may even see a board change between runs.

Only a handful of pros will be at the Olympics, and most riders don’t have a stockpile of identical boards waxed and tuned for different conditions, but the concept of consistent waxing applies to even the working man’s P-tex. The more a board is waxed, the faster it will be, and back-to-back 1080s require an awful lot of speed.

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Ross Powers. Indy air, 2002 Olympic Halfpipe, Park City, Utah.

Photo: Kurt Hoy