Last week the U.S. Ski Team announced an addition and reshuffling of its service staff for the coming season. Former Rossignol and Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation wax tech Cory Wubbels was hired as a fourth member of the cross-country staff and long-time US technician Peter Johansson moved up to the Head of Service.
The changes reflect the need for more people in the wax room for a growing American squad on the World Cup, which at times includes numerous SuperTour points leaders on top of USST athletes. A focus on World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, this winter additionally creates a need to increase support staff numbers
“Last year we had some unique challenges in that we at times had 12 or 13 athletes with us,” said USST head coach Chris Grover. “We had these really big teams and it was absolutely a challenge for us to provide the kind of service they needed to have the best possible chance of making world-class skis.
“Our goal for this season was to add another full-time service person to our staff so that we could provide a little more consistent service to a bigger team.”
Wubbels joins the USST most recently from White Pine Touring in Park City, Utah, where he has been a stone grinder for the past two seasons. His first job in ski service was in 2007 with Rossignol’s race service team, and since then he’s also helped Sun Valley at big domestic events and intermittently waxed skis for the U.S. and Canadian Nordic Combined teams.
At the start of the World Cup season last fall, Wubbels also filled in the waxing duties for then-men’s coach Pete Vordenburg when the latter was at home for the birth of his daughter. Grover and his team made note of the quality of Wubbels’ work during his brief time with them, which included a weekend in Dusseldorf, Germany, when the US brought home two podiums.
“He was a great fit; the athletes enjoyed working with him, the staff liked working with him,” said Grover. “He melded into our current team really well.”
The USST service staff now includes four dedicated servicemen — Wubbels, Johansson, Randy Gibbs and Oleg Ragilo — and three coaches that invariably take on waxing duties in addition to coaching responsibilities.
Wubbels is eager to be joining the group in a full-time capacity.
“It is really a great time to jump in with this team because they are on their way up!” he wrote in an email. “Coming off their best season of results, with more athletes in the red group and more athletes on the World Cup, there is almost tangible momentum. It is really an honor to be asked to work with this team.”
With more people handling the Americans’ skis than there have been of late, Johansson was promoted to a recreated leadership position so that one person would be responsible for calling the shots on race day.
When it had only three servicemen Grover was often the one charge of the USST’s skis, but with more staff, “I need some help from someone actually in the wax room all day to come up with the best strategy,” he said.
“A small team works on a World Cup weekend, but doesn’t work so well during major championships.”
The inner workings of the USST service team might seem like mundane details, but a lack of summer news isn’t the only reason to pay attention. A growing team and staff size means more people on USST payroll and an accordingly bigger cross-country budget — though only “slightly.”
Without specifying the exact size of the increase, Grover said it wasn’t huge. Moderately bigger funds wouldn’t get rid of the need to be creative with available resources.
“We’re having some savings in some places but we’re spending more in others,” he explained. “We’ll have the same challenges.”
What could have a more significant impact on next season’s resources is whether the US Dollar grows stronger than the Euro in the months leading up to November and through the rest of the season. The USST spends nearly half the year in Europe getting charged in Euros or Swiss Francs. If the dollar keeps getting stronger like it has over the past 12 months, the budget stretches even further.
“If the strength of the US Dollar versus the European currency continues with the current trend, that is huge for us,” said Grover.
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.