Sunday, December 13, 2009

Silverstar - wrap-up report

Good news: I'm sitting in the Kelowna airport enjoying the observation tower. In a sweet turn of events the temperature as dropped to -173°C across the Canadian west. As a result, my flight back to Edmonton has been delayed by two hours or so. Pretty standard for a Canadian race trip.

The flight to Kelowna was uneventful and arrived on time. Christian picked me up and after negotiating some intense traffic we made it to Silverstar (see 2008 post for pictures of this place - it is amazing - Silverstar). We got right to work that night and made a powder test on the Fischer test fleet. This consisted of ten varieties of powders from Solda, Swix, Holmenkol, and Vauhti. The snow was cold and new and we quickly began to see some patterns in our testing.

From there we moved on to paraffins - a quick test of five options revealed a clear winner and we made the call. The real differentiating factor in making skis in on the powders and topcoats, so no need to waste too much time on paraffins.

End of day one. Boom.

Nope... that was a false alarm. Making fast skis is all about hard work so when we got home we had some supper and moved on to the night shift. Thursday night was all about setting up the test skis (11 pairs) for Friday to maximize our efficiency. At this point we narrowed our focus to a few powders and focused on topcoats (too many to count) and hand structure. As it turned out the hand structure was not making a difference.

Ok... real end of day one. Boom.

Day Two - repeat day one but with refined variables. We also did a second session of testing in the afternoon as the changes in temperature offered another window from 4:00 - 6:00.

Friday night was all about setting up race skis for Saturday. We were feeling confident in our plan and the team executed it perfectly.

End of day two.

Day three - As someone once told me, "eat a double helping of Wheaties because you'll be dragging ass by now and we're just getting started." Race day. Game on.

We were at the race site early to focus on testing topcoats to make a final call. Sweet, but not very interesting. What was interesting is that Gord Jewett qualified for the Olympics in one of the most gutsy performances I have seen in a long time. It was amazing to be out on the race course and listen to the splits come in over the radio as things unfolded. Truly inspiring.

Madeleine also had a wicked race to finish as the second Canadian. This leaves her in a very good position going into Canmore and the Olympic dream is very much alive. I'm feeling very confident as to how things will unfold.

End of day three.

Today was our last day and consisted of a skate sprint. Conditions were classic Sovereign Lakes for sprint races - ridiculously cold, windy, and snowy. I don't think there has ever been a sprint here that didn't fit that bill.

It was a mixed bag in terms of team results with some athletes not starting the race and others using it as a training event.

Next week we are off to Canmore for the final bout of Olympic trials. It is going to be an exciting weekend.

End of day four - nope. False alarm. The end of day four will depend on West Jet. Stay tuned here (WS422) - flight time and click here for a live map - flight map.

More this week...


  1. What do you think of the same wax policy being instituted at some biathlon races? IMHO this is the best thing to happen to ski racing in a long time.

  2. Cyrus, its an interesting policy but not that practical in the end. Does it work? I doubt it. My guess is that skiers would just opt to carry around 50pr of skis and look for the advantage that way. Wax is cheaper than skis and the same wax policy might force junior races to be more costly, but less coach intensive. I think at the provincial, high school development level its a good policy but maybe not the higher end races.

  3. I'm more optimistic. To me, this takes out one huge variable in the ski speed equation. Sure, ski selection will still play a role but with everyone on the same wax at least it makes things a little easier.

  4. Cyclists get to choose bikes, frame geometry, an materials, tires, crank length, gears to some extent, etc.. Or should they all be give a standard race bike?

    Wax is generally thought to be 5-10% of the ski speed equation with ski camber ~80% and structure the remainder. So does a standard wax make a huge difference?

    What about when the are 300 starters in an individual race start first thing in the morning on a day when its warming up fast. Skier #1 is on a suitable wax but 2 hrs later the last starter is disadvantaged because his wax (the standard) is no longer a good race wax. What do you tell that guy? Seeding is a much bigger advantage than wax.