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Archive for November, 2010

West Yellowstone Update – 11/26

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

Another excellent day of racing.  Warmer temperatures were welcomed by all, and the courses held up well despite nearly 200 athletes skiing the 5km loop 2 or 3 times each.

The new Yellowstone 5k is a major upgrade over the old course, adding in a significant climb o break up the long stretches of flat and gradual terrain.

There was plenty of excitement on the courses, with a breakthrough win by Kate Fitzgerald, and an impressive victory by Tad Elliott.

Timing went smoothly, and preliminary results were displayed on a small scoreboard in the stadium before the races were over.

We finally got out for a proper ski, finishing up the reporting by 3:15.  A quick lunch at Free Heel and Wheel, and then an awesome two hour classic ski as the sun set.

We cruised into the trailhead at 6:30 to loud music pumping from a large speaker, and a group of teenager around a bonfire.  It was hot chocolate and smores night at the trailhead, and we just caught the last bit.  One of the organizers told us that over 200 people had shown up over two hours.  THe hot chocolate was delicious, and the local kids who had taken over the party at the end of the evening made room for us to toast our marshmallows.

Then on to the last night of the indoor expo and a delicous pizza from Wild West.

Likes:

- Big hills on the race course

- Surpirse hot chocolate and smores at the end of a ski

- The woman who asked, looking at the large One Way poles banner, “So the trails only go this direction?”

- Old friends in West

- Ibex wool

- Fast ski racing

Dislikes:

- No time to enjoy the hotel hot tub

- Still cold feet

West Yellowstone Update – 11/25

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Thanksgiving in West Yellowstone. The day got off to a less-than-optimal start with some early AM techincal issues. But once we got those straightened out it was on to the fun stuff. Temperatures cooperated, and reached a legal, if not comfortable level.

I headed out for an early inspection of the race venue while Nat made some calls to Europe. It was still very cold – painfully freeze your hands if you took them out of gloves for more than a few seconds. The stadium was a-bustle as volunteers prepared the course and start area and coaches tested skis.

There was a palpable energy in the air that only grew as race time approached. We made a quick run for handwarmers and pencils – the handwarmers to keep phones and cameras running, the pencils as backup if digital recording methods failed.

One of the big pluses of the West Yellowstone venue is that you have to ski to the start, and for the sprints, even further to the finish. That is great for those of us who aren’t here to maximize ski time – a nice excuse to get even a few extra kilometers in.

The racing was had plenty of high paced action, though the format and course did not lend to spectator or media friendliness.

There was some impressive skiing – watching the athletes attack the massive last climb was impressive to say the least, and frostbite was kept to a minimum.

The high point of the day may have been looking up from the computer, and out the window, to see FasterSkier’s own Nat Herz sprinting down the road, apparently being chased by a pack of young children in full festive regalia, a mixture of high-school aged kids, and some parents, including one with a baby-jogger. Thankfully for all of us, he stayed ahead of the frenzied mob to finish second in the annual West Yellowstone Turkey Trot – an event that had him away from his keyboard for a grand total of 24 minutes.

Likes:

- Ski Racing

- The right clothes for cold weather

- Classic skiing

- FasterSkier at-large photographer Win Goodbody’s mobile hotel room kitchen

- Jump skating

- More snow

Dislikes:

- Frozen feet

- Technical website difficulties

- Waiting for results

West Yellowstone Update – 11/24

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

-5F with wind is not usually an improvement, but the snow stopped coming down in West Yellowstone, the highways opened, and the trails are packed, making for a good, if not excellent, day at the annual Thanksgiving ski festival.

Skating is a bit slow, and poles punchy in places, but the classic skiing is perfect, with ideal packed powder tracks.

This morning, the four-foot high berm of snow piled down the middle of the street had disappeared, and the on-snow expo was underway a day late.

FasterSkier chose to delay hitting the trails until midmorning, plugging away at the computers before heading to try some new gear, ski the sprint courses, and talk to athletes, coaches and ski reps.

Traveling to places like West Yellowstone is definitely one of the big perks of a cross-country ski journalist – the big challenge is tearing oneself away from the kilometers of perfect tracks to get back to the other parts of the job.

A delicious lunch and cappuccino from Free Heel and Wheel, the excellent coffee bar/café/ski shop that is pretty much the place to be in West, eases the transition.

Despite the inclement weather of the last days, and the present cold, most people seem to be in excellent spirits, and agree that too much snow is better than too little.

We are fired up for the races to get going tomorrow – the courses are plenty hard, bordering on brutal.  It should be an exciting day.  We will be posting updates as quickly as we can, technology permitting, so check back often.

Likes:

-       Lots of snow and excellent skiing

-       Enchiladas and cappuccinos at Free Heel and Wheel

-       West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce – nice people, comfy couches, fast internet, quiet, and free Jolly Ranchers

-       Fischer pole straps with the zipper – first impression is that they got it right

-       Swix Triacs – ridiculous swing weight and oh so stiff

-       Tasty cookies we won in the dessert silent auction

-       Nat shaving his beard

-       Challenging race courses

Dislikes:

-       Too busy to ski four hours a day

-       Qualifier-only sprint races

-       Eating too many tasty cookies

-       Trying to keep battery-operated devices running in the cold

-       Microsoft Word not recognizing “berm” as a word

-       Overtaxed hotel internet

Accountability

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

While FasterSkier’s main purpose is to bring rabid ski fans updates on the latest and greatest in uniform styles, we do touch on some other issues in the Nordic ski world.

And while it may not be quite as sexy (both literally and figuratively), Nat Herz recently wrote two articles on the issue of repayment of convicted dopers’ winnings.

There is a little-publicized International Ski Federation (FIS) rule stating that dopers must return money collected in races after their positive drug test. Nat checked in with both Finland’s Sami Jauhojaervi and the Czech Republic’s Lukas Bauer, both of whom should have received more than $2,000 U.S. after Russian Evgeni Dementiev tested positive at the 2009 Tour de Ski.

Both men told Nat that they had not received any additional money, with Bauer saying, “I was never contacted by FIS or Tour de Ski organizers about this problem…We will see later, but I don’t expect any miracles.”

While it is up to national governing bodies to re-distribute the funds once they’ve been reclaimed, it is up to FIS to make sure that this actually happens.

FIS initially communicated that the money should have been redistributed, and that they would check the accounting. After Bauer confirmed that he hadn’t received money as well, Nat pushed FIS further, culminating in a somewhat tense phone conversation with FIS General Secretary Sarah Lewis.

Later that day Nat received an email from FIS Anti-Doping Administrator Sarah Fussek finally explaining the situation.

“It appears there was an administrative lapse in handling the necessary transfers from the Russian Ski Association account to the Finnish and Czech accounts after the decision was taken by the FIS Doping Panel,” wrote Fussek.

The point to recounting all this is not merely to pat ourselves on the back.  Nat certainly deserves that pat for a fine piece of investigative work, but I see the whole episode as notable in that one of the outcomes is that FIS has stated they will correct the matter.

Over the last year, as we have expanded the breadth of our coverage, FIS staff have generally been responsive and helpful, but it is also seems that they are not used to being pushed.

So while part of our job is to keep the ski community informed, we also try to provide a level of accountability that has not existed in the past.

Nat deserves credit for his good work, and FIS as well for ultimately admitting to a problem. We will certainly be following up to see what happens next.

And while it can be fun to write about plans for new race formats, and what color suits the US Ski Team will be wearing next season, our mission is also to provide the accountability that ensures the right thing is being done.

Perhaps this sounds a little too self-congratulatory. It is not meant to be. But I am proud that FasterSkier has reached a place where our reporters are doing that level of journalism.

And whether it is FasterSkier, or some other media entity, it is notable that it is happening in the ski world.

We are always working to do a better job, and we know that there is still much room for improvement. We hold ourselves to the same high standards that we expect from others – be it FIS, National Governing Bodies, and individuals within the sport – and expect others to do the same.