Friday, November 30, 2012

Aspen Hotels & Ski Techs – Winternational World Cup Alpine Ski Races 2012

Aspen Events - Aspen 2012 Winternational World...
Aspen Events - Aspen 2012 Winternational World Cup Ski Races (Photo credit: richpalpine)
What does it take to win a World Cup alpine ski race? One of the old-time Aspen hotels knows.

I found out a little bit more about this subject last Friday at the Mountain Chalet Aspen, where the main ski tech room labyrinth was set up once again for the NatureValley Aspen Winternational women’s World Cup alpine ski races.

A given athlete’s performance obviously depends largely on how well they’ve trained, how they feel that day, if a specific course fits their skiing style, and on how well their skis are tuned and waxed. What I did not know was just how big a production it is to get these skis in shape.

A few years ago I happened upon an article in the Aspen Daily News describing that year’s Aspen World Cup ski tech setup.  I was intrigued and planned to see what it was all about some day, so I finally made my way to the Mountain Chalet Aspen for this year’s tour.

Not many Aspen hotels play as much of a role in how well a World Cup alpine ski racer might perform on a given day as the Mountain Chalet Aspen, which has provided the main venue for race day ski tuning since 1992. Apparently, this year there was also, “a small group of ski techs who set up shop in the garage of the Aspen Square Condominium Hotel.” -

Tour of the Mountain Chalet Aspen World Cup Ski Tech Waxing Rooms

Since this was in Aspen, I had expected a leisurely tour experience, and I thought I might even have the opportunity to get some photos for this post. It turned out to be a bit of a whirlwind affair, however, because understandably, the techs prefer not to have too much of an intrusion as it is distracting and provides opportunities for waxing secret stealing.

Once inside the ski tech garage, I saw rows of small (only 8’ X 12’, I think) wooden cubicles (which the tour guide appropriately called “boxes”), and the layout and availability to the public appeared to be governed by each country’s (and sometimes a given racer’s) situation or status.

Some countries, like Austria, had several boxes and others, like Argentina, had only one. In fact, the Argentine tech (apparently the only female tech on the tour) chose to perform her magic at her hotel room (extra secret protection, perhaps?). Many of the doors to the boxes were closed and even locked.

American skiing star, Lindsey Vonn, actually had her own, personal cubicle. Naturally, it was one of the ones not open to the public – super special secrets!

While this was all fascinating, I was the most intrigued by the Canadian ski tech’s use of a computer to somehow “scientifically” tune skis for the specific current Aspen snow conditions.

I would have liked to learn more about that right then and there, but you know….it’s a secret. We were not allowed too long of a glance at this room – or the computer. I was surprised we got as much of a look at it as we did (don't worry, it was quite far away from us).

After I left the Mountain Chalet Aspen’s garage, I realized we had hardly been given the chance to glance at even the doors of the Austrian ski techs cubicles, and in the end, the Austrian ski racers finished first and second in the slalom and second in the giant slalom….hmmm. 

So what does it take to win a World Cup ski race? There’s a lot more to it than one might think, and Aspen hotels and the ski tech secrets they conceal appear to play a major role. I suppose a little luck can’t hurt either.
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