DPS Phantom & the End of Ski Wax

It is quite possible that, for all of us non-racers, we will soon reminisce about the old days when we used to have to wax our skis and snowboards.

Because today, DPS is introducing a product they’re calling Phantom, which is a permanent, single-application base coating that claims to eliminate the need to ever wax your skis and snowboards.

Apply Phantom once, and it permanently changes the chemistry of your base to be both harder and faster.

This treatment is also more environmentally-friendly than standard ski wax, in that Phantom is free of PFC’s and other carcinogens. PFC’s left in the snowpack from fluorinated waxes contaminate watersheds and ecosystems, leading to a variety of potential health risks to humans and wildlife.

Furthermore, the Phantom treatment also eliminates health risks for technicians and customers who apply the application themselves, since there are no toxic fumes to inhale.

DPS Phantom on Blister Review

But if you’re anything like us, this still probably sounds entirely too good to be true. So to address our primary questions and concerns about Phantom, we talked with DPS Skis founder, Stephan Drake, and Dr. Jeff Bates, the technological developer of Phantom and professor of Materials, Science, and Engineering at the University of Utah, and basically asked them to explain why this isn’t just marketing BS.

Check out the podcast conversation

DPS launched a Kickstarter campaign today for Phantom, and though we always view new product releases and marketing claims with a significant amount of skepticism, this really does appear to be a fascinating technology that could change our procedure and approach to skiing and riding.

31 comments on “DPS Phantom & the End of Ski Wax”

  1. Dirt, grease, etc. is a major, if not the most major, cause of slow skis. How do you clean the bases after application of Phantom? Hot scrape? Base cleaner?

  2. In the video on Kickstarter they say that it permeates the whole base, so you won’t need to reapply after a base grind. But what about base repair with p-tex? Would you be able to touch up the area you repaired?

    • Check the FAQ on the Kickstarter, they say you’d have to re-apply the Phantom wax to the p-tex for uniform coverage. Still pretty legit.

  3. chemically, why not ? the practical concerns : skins, base grind, base repairs, all get favorable reviews. my real question, wouldn’t this be better as a factory applied treatment ? or, built right in to the ptex ? should be cheaper, and more effective than aftermarket sloppy moppy…

    • Re factory application: totally. Maybe DPS needs to turn individual consumers on a prove it works, before risking perception that this is a gimmick and negatively impacting sales of treated skis?

  4. Hi All,

    + You can still clean your bases to remove dirt with base cleaner. Believe it or not, our testing has shown that hot water/dish soap and also olive oil, are actually very effective base cleaners, and competitive with the more toxic brand name offerings on the market.

    + We ran extensive testing on skin adhesion across broad temperature ranges: long term exposure in hot rooms, freezers, and obviously in the field. No problems whatsoever. Phantom is a big deal for touring: you are no longer ripping wax off your skis. Conversely, your skin glue isn’t mixing with your wax. You also get broad temperature range performance on the down, which is a fine thing, especially in the Springtime.

    +We will look at offering smaller Phantom repairs kits as things get moving with the project, but yes, if you wish, you can apply Phantom to base welds/p-tex repair areas to maintain glide consistency across the base.

    + Phantom has nothing to do with Juice. It’s a proprietary patent-pending technology that was developed from the ground up by DPS.

  5. Very cool idea. Please help me understand…

    Snow is granular, rough, especially man made snow. You also get burrs from dirt etc in the snow. Over time bases become rougher (less smooth) and drag more. Base materials wear faster than edges. The result, you’re often not due for an edge/base grind but still have rough bases. Assuming you don’t want to grind constantly Phantom won’t fix this. Rougher is rougher regardless of the material. Waxing provides just enough surface material to smooth over the roughness (especially side to side drag). In other words,

    Between grinds (tuning) your base surface quality deteriorates. I don’t see how Phantom changes that. The solution seems to be waxing occasionally to smooth out the surface texture. With Phantom you would have to do a base/edge grind every time you want a smooth bases. Am I missing something?

    Question:
    Is the Phantom material itself softer than Ptex? It seems it must be softer if it permeates the base material (I could be wrong here). If softer than Ptex then the surface of the Phantom touching the snow (in the “pores”) will wear away faster than the base material. When that happens none of the Phantom remains on the surface in contact with snow. I get that there is more Phantom “deeper” in the base material but unless you grind to reach that depth what good does it do? Seems like you will still have to wax between base/edge grinds. Is that not correct? Or is the Phantom more durable than the base material?

    All that said, I hope I’m wrong. Not waxing sounds better than waxing!

  6. Questions:

    Are there any snow conditions, any situation, any temperature, any snow crystal structure, etc, when a Phantom treated ski will glide WORSE than an untreated, unwaxed ski?

    You describe a Phantom ski as: Not as slippery as a freshly waxed ski at “very slow speed” but “after gaining just a little bit of speed, Phantom delivers significant acceleration and achieves strong top-end glide”.
    Please clarify:

    a) How fast do you need to be moving before improved glide is first noticed?

    b) At that initial “very slow speed” described does the Phantom treated ski drag more (glide worse) than an unwaxed OEM ski base? For example, when skating slowly up an incline does the Phantom treated ski drag more than an unwaxed ski?

    Thanks.

  7. David,
    You are good on avoiding ‘Sticky Skating’. it’s a very low speed threshold where you start to feel Phantom kick in. In our testing, Phantomed skis were consistently faster than all-temp wax control skis on catwalks. It became a consistent comment from testers that Phantom treated skis were blowing by the general skiing population on any catwalk scenario, including hybrid skate/glide/slightly uphill programs. When you are in the lift line, and barely moving, it’s not as if there are anchors on your bases, it’s just as not as slippery feeling as wax.

    Christian,
    That’s a good question and something we have played with, and will do more of this season in temp-specific tests. In short, there was an experiment where we pushed grinds to their finest level and even skied Phantom on blanked structures (the idea being that because there is no longer wax filling in valleys in the structure, then perhaps finer would be improvement with Phantom). During these tests, there was no noticeable improvement in top end glide, and a noticeable decrease in lateral control and performance in the blanked skis. So, a fine but standard structure (similar to what you would use with wax in cold/all temp snow) is a great performing structure with Phantom – even extending into the Spring.

  8. I’m not a big x/c skier, but I imagine that community is also pretty excited about this.

    I assume Phantom works with the porous nature of sintered bases? I’m thinking about someone with casual x/c touring skis with extruded bases who never wants to wax again, either. But I guess that population is probably not so inclined to get a stone grind every 30 days of skiing.

  9. Hi Christian,

    Not sure where the online deal started re: having to stone grind every 30 days, but it’s definitely not the case. From the Kickstarter FAQ:

    “Your skis or snowboard will retain a glossy appearance after a Phantom application. After thirty days or so of use, any base material, whether it’s been Phantomed or not, will begin to look “dry” as snow abrasion starts to take its toll; a stone grind will freshen the visual appearance to new. However, to clarify any prior confusion: stone grinding is NOT required on a Phantomed base at any prescribed interval. Stone grinding is generally simply a good idea, irrespective of Phantom, to remove hair and dirt, and place a fresh structure on your ski or snowboard. Our test groups in New Zealand and Chile ran entire seasons, skiing practically everyday, without new stone grinds. In both climates, after months on snow, there was no noticeable drop in Phantom performance – only the visual appearance of the base.”

    On the Nordic side, we look forward to diving deeply into further development this winter because there’s great potential there. As it stands, the under 2 mph characteristics of Phantom, and lack of Nordic testing thus far mean that we are only endorsing it for Alpine skiing/snowboarding at this time.

  10. Just checked the Kickstarter site.

    At current prices, this is a pretty big leap of faith. Not saying it won’t be worth it, but at $50 per pair of skis, I think they’d have to hire a new employee just to count money. Ha!

  11. I’ll be interested once Nordic skis enter the mix. This would be amazing. I have avoided fluoro waxes for their impact on the environment (and the people applying them). Please continue your research and development!

  12. Excellent; we should all look into the environmentalsafety of a product no matter what it is and no matter what the claims are.

  13. I talked to some one at my local Sportsman store and the guys that wax acted suprised even though they know of DPS Skis and actually seemed like they did not want to disscuss the new product. Probably worried about their employment as those that wax off and wax on

  14. I have tried it now and can report that it does exactly what they say it does. I have only skied it twice, so no long term use, but on hard snow they felt very slippery, even standing in the lift line. On warmer, softer, wetter snow I could feel the slight initial friction. Once you start moving, even at uphill skating speed, the glide is very good and the friction feeling gone. Basically it feels like a freshly waxed ski.

    I have applied it to three skis now, it wasn’t hard, but the sun cure time is a bit of a pain in the winter, especially with a busy schedule. If I bought new skis, I would just pay to have the shop do it. I am not affiliated with DPS in any way, just sharing my experience so far.

  15. Because this product reportedly hardens the base, would that potentially change the dynamics of the skis? I have several pairs of dual rocker skis, and would not appreciate the tips and tails becoming stiffer.

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