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Archive for October, 2010

NEWSFLASH: Skis used in ski racing!

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

In a recent expose, the world-renowned cross-country ski website FasterSkier.com reported that skis are being used in cross-country ski racing and, shockingly, that rollerskis are often seen during rollerski workouts and races.

According to FasterSkier editor Topher Sabot, “after months of asking the tough questions, following up on every lead, and putting it all together, we have come to the surprising conclusion that equipment plays an important role in ski racing, and that glide appears to have a significant impact on the outcome of races.”

Okay…I’ll stop there, but hopefully you get the point.  Every year around the time of the Climb to the Castle rollerski race, the issue of ski speed comes up.  If this discussion was limited to this lone rollerski race, it would be easy to ignore.

But ski speed—and the inextricably intertwined issue of waxing—comes up every winter at big events.

At this point, in the high-tech world of elite racing, ski speed plays a huge role in success.  Almost without fail, skiers standing on the podium of World Cup races shower compliments and gratitude on their wax techs. It is a rare occurrence when even the fastest skiers in the world can overcome bad, even mediocre skis (see: Northug, Petter, 15 k freestyle, 2010 Olympic Games).

Whether you like it or not, how fast your skis move has a major impact on the outcome of a race.

It should not be taboo to talk about equipment, and athletes should feel comfortable including it in a post-race discussion.

When we ask a skier about their race, we want to hear how they felt, about tactics, AND how their skis were running.  And we want to really know.  The Europeans don’t seem to hesitate to talk about this, and the press and public do not look at bad skis as “making an excuse.”

But for some reason in the U.S., there can be a negative reaction to the simple statement “my skis were bad,” or “so-and-so who beat me had better skis.”

That is part of ski racing, and if athletes are blasted for making excuses or disrespecting their competition every time they talk about slow skis, they’re less likely to be honest about it.

For anyone interested in the story behind a race, that’s not a good thing.  Ski speed is a major part of ski racing, and until the International Ski Federation requires matched grinds on matched wax, it will continue to be.  Races at the elite level are not won on slow skis.

The same is true with rollerskis – only with rollerskis, no one on the elite scene actually cares. Athletes and coaches alike recognize that rollerski results are basically meaningless because of the huge variation in ski speed.

Noting slow skis is no different than saying that you didn’t have the body to win on a given day. No elite skier is going to win without the fitness and the skis.

Let’s do everyone a favor, recognize that fact, and stop criticizing athletes for being honest. Waxing is tough, and no one hits it every time – not even the Norwegians with their dozens of techs, not the Swedes with their fancy wax truck, not anyone else.

Slow skis happen.