Nathan Schultz is working with the US Ski Team as a wax tech and athlete coordinator during the Canadian World Cups Jan 19-27. He will file reports throughout the week documenting his experiences in what will hopefully be a very successful week for the USST. Schultz is the owner of Boulder Nordic Sport, www.bouldernordicsport.com.
Saturday Jan 19th Boulder, Colorado to Canmore, Alberta.
The day started early for me as it did for the large contingent of athletes and coaches traveling to Canmore for the North American World Cups to be held here later this week. It began at 3:45AM with an hour of rushing around my shop finishing up the last of necessary projects, frantically packing up my scattered wax service kit, and cramming our ski test fleet into a bag before sprinting to catch the airport shuttle. In my hasty exit, I managed to forget my respirator, a pair of Fischer Carbonlites for a customer of Zach Caldwell’s, and 2 pairs of classic skis I was testing for Zack Simons. Not a great start, but I actually expected worse, so I was able to sleep soundly on the ride to the airport.
At check-in I had to do the usual swapping of excess weight from my duffel to my dangerously over-packed ski bag. After transferring 8.7 lbs, I lowered the duffel onto the scale and accidentally slipped my foot underneath it. The baggage clerk nodded approval when the scale stopped at 49.8 lbs, she tagged the bags, and I had cleared hurdle number two of the day.
Doing race support as a wax tech requires a ridiculous amount of gear. As an athlete, I had to bring a lot of skis and gear to a race, but the added gadgets, clothing and kit I now carry with me seem almost absurd, and I am traveling extremely light – the US World Cup crew brings all of the heavy equipment: tables, forms, tools and wax. With me are 4 pairs of boots — classic and skate for both binding systems, 3 radios, 2 video cameras, notebooks, waxing iron, tools and computer with extra batteries, battery chargers, cords and cables designed to make it all go but mostly just tangling the mess into a giant knot.
Zack Simons happened to be on my flight from Denver to Calgary, so we used the time to catch up. Zack switched to Rossignol skis this season and I helped him pick his entire race fleet. He filled me in on how the skis and grinds have been running, how the races went, and most importantly, he shared stories about the ski world that one does not get while feeding skis into a stone grinder in the back of a ski shop.
Zack and I were the first of the flotilla of athletes, coaches and support staff to arrive in Calgary. We settled in some comfy chairs at a juice bar just outside of Customs and fired up the wireless internet. We had a 2.5 hour wait until the rest of the crew arrived and our bus could depart for Canmore. Snow and fog stretched 2.5 hours into 3 and then 4 as flights were delayed due to visibility issues. The Norwegian Team was scheduled for the same bus and they were late getting in, so we finally departed for Canmore about 3:30PM. We were tired from a long day of travel, but the Norwegians looked trashed as they climbed onto the bus and slumped into their seats. Welcome to the WORLD Cup, where everyone has to travel ungodly amounts, not just the non-Europeans.
The drive to Canmore was a bit surreal. I’ve been out of serious racing for a few years, and there I was on a bus going to a World Cup chatting with Kris Freeman while Tor Arne Hetland sat in front of us reading what appeared to be the Norwegian equivalent of GQ Magazine. The bus is navigating through the carnage of multi-car pile-ups on the icy roads while Zach Violett is chatting with his Norwegian buddies he raced with when he was sixteen. Those Norwegians are currently ranked 2nd, 4th, 9th and 13th overall on the World Cup.
The great thing about cross-country skiing is that it is accessible like this. The athletes are vaguely famous, but they are for the most part down-to-earth, friendly, fun people to be around. It is good to view them up close like this to be reminded that, just like the rest of us, they breathe air, smile, laugh and look like hell after 24 hours of traveling.
We finally arrive at our hotel in Canmore at 5:30PM. Dinnertime arrives before I have the chance to completely untangle the nest of cords inside my bag, but I do manage to unravel the mess before we have our first meeting at 8:30. Pete Vordenberg, the US Head Coach, presides over a conference room that includes the 3 World Cup Wax Techs, Assistant Coaches Chris Grover and Justin Wadsworth, Team Doctor John Finnoff, Sports Psychologist Jon Hammermeister, CXC Coach Brian Fish, Kris Freeman’s Coach and wax Tech Zach Caldwell, and me, for lack of a better title: Wax Lackey.
This World Cup is unusual in that the US is given extra start spots due to it taking place near home soil. These extra spots are referred to as the â€œNation’s Groupâ€ and it provides an opportunity for athletes not on the national team to shine on the international stage. This is a great opportunity not only for athletes but also for coaches and service people like me to gain valuable experience at The Big Show and to help the Team achieve great results. The Support Staff Roster for this trip reflects how much the USST and the top coaches in the country value this opportunity; coaches from five of the country’s top programs paid their own way here to be involved.
But it is a fine line. Without careful management, having a large contingent of inexperienced bozos like me around can distract the team’s focus. While it is not unrealistic to hope for a dramatic breakthrough result from the Nation’s Group, the US Team’s normal World Cup crew has proven they have the potential to win races and at least 4 athletes have a realistic shot at a podium here. While it is great to provide the opportunity for a breakout result from the Nation’s Group, we have to make sure that this does not interfere with the World Cup Regulars.
Our meeting is informal, friendly and filled with humor, but Pete wastes no time in making our goals and priorities clear: â€œThe primary goal is podium finishes. This goal is more important than any of our other goals and we cannot allow anything to interfere with this goal. Second priority is to support all of our athletes to allow them to achieve their best results. And the final goal is to gain experience as coaches and athletes.â€
With that said, the rest of the meeting went quickly: the regular World Cup crew will work together as they do at all other World Cups. The Nation’s Group Coaches will work together in parallel to the World Cup crew and information will be shared at a daily meeting to discuss wax, structure and skis. To minimize distractions but provide for the free flow of information, a Nation’s Group Coordinator will serve as the link between the two groups. Since I don’t have athletes to support here and can focus on the task, I was promoted from Wax Lackey to Nation’s Group Coordinator. Things are looking up.
We worked out the logistics for the next 24 hours and the meeting was over and everyone set off to bed. Sunday brings a full day of getting oriented, testing skis and wax as well as the first race meeting where we should get a full dose of logistics to cover the entire week.
Stay tuned for updates. If you have any questions for any of the US Team staff or athletes who will be here at the World Cup, please send them by filling out the Information Request Form at:
I’ll do my best to track people down and get them to answer your questions. The best question we receive each day will receive a Boulder Nordic Sport T-Shirt.