Racing "mit schlag" or where has the ice gone?
Racing mit Schlag.
Contrary it would seem, yet mit schlag (or with whipped cream) has been the rule of thumb on the World Cup this season.
“We were prepared to race on ice,” says US Head Mens Coach Sasha Rearick referencing an off season of on-snow camps spent searching for and/or creating icy surfaces for training. Ice has, afterall, been the most frequent surface seen on the World Cup in recent seasons. This year. ... not so much.
Instead of ice this season has seen race after race conducted on courses the consistency of very wet, lumpy whipped cream. Only two of the downhills held so far even ranked as “hard.”
“Beaver Creek was good hard snow,” Rearick says, “and Bormio, was harder by the end, but not hard. We haven't seen ice once this year.”
Downhill tracks have been especially soft for the first days of training. “And then it gets bumpy and patched up,” the coach notes.
“Slalom has been soft, grippy snow everywhere we've been, or the water salt program.”
In December the problem was primarily a lack of snow, but in January that transformed to an absolute abundance. “It's amazing how much it has snowed,” he says. It has snowed enough that his racers are not just being treated to powder days, they're skiing runs they didn't know existed.
“We skied things in Wengen this year that we didn't even know were skiable,” he said while driving through a snowstorm in low lying Geneva, a city he said he had never seen snow in before.
“Kitzbuehel was held on all natural snow. I don't remember that happening before. And Adelboden was crazy. It was man made snow on top and then natural. It never got cold enough to make snow at the bottom, that's why the injection never took.” The end result was a course where the surface changed continually from top to bottom.
All of this has caused some long hours in the waxing rooms where tech reps struggle to find equipment for conditions they hadn't anticipated. The downhills skis need to be less sharp and tuned back a bit. “It's not so much the ski set up as being subtle on the edge,” says Rearick, “and then have the technical and tactical confidence to go out and ski aggressively. On the slalom side it's a little different.”
After placing second at Garmisch in the one race that was held for the men, Canadian Erik Guay reflected he had done well this season on courses he has not excelled on previously.
“It has been a very weird season for hill set-up. I was dialed in for rock hard with bumps and that hasn't been the case at all. It's tough going from ice and hard last year to soft all season and lots of bad weather. But it's the nature of the sport. You have to be ready for everything.” - Hank McKee
Photo: Erik Guay racing in Lake Louise snowstorm. Gepa