By the time this issue hits the stands, the World Cup season opener on the Rettenbach Glacier will be over. If you follow World Cup Alpine at all, you know that this race in Sölden Austria is an intense battle between the top giant slalom (GS) skiers in the world and a steep icy track that takes 100 per cent focus, commitment and intensity to overcome. A race this early in the season is driven by the ski companies that use it to unveil all their new skis to the millions of ski fans that watch it live on EuroSport, and to the 50,000 fans that pack into the little resort to watch it unfold in front of their eyes, and to party.
This year GS racing is going to be particularly wild to watch because the GS skis on the World Cup circuit have changed completely. They used to have a 27 metre radius and have changed to a slightly longer ski with a 35 metre radius. What does that mean? It means the racers are racing on skis that have similar construction and shape as skis from the late ‘80s.
They say the reason for the change is safety; the 27 metre GS skis on an injected slope would create so much pressure that with one little mistake something would have to blow, usually someone’s knee. The new construction requires a completely different style of skiing to make it turn: a lot more vertical movement, more pivoting and turning of the feet.
A lot of Toddies right now are saying, “Man I should suit up and get back in the game!” What I hear from my old athletes and friends on the World Cup is that they take much more energy to turn, that they take longer to pick up the edge at the top of the arc and they’re horrible in softer conditions.
There’s another issue with this change, too. Right now the new rules only apply to World Cup, Europa Cup and the World Juniors because the ski companies couldn’t meet the demands of all the racers that need the new skis. The problem then becomes that all the Europeans get the gear first with hardly any of these new skis making it to North America. Our World Cup Teams are all looked after but our World Junior contenders have barely been on them. Our B.C. Provincial Team that’s training in Sun Peaks this month has only a couple pairs to share between the whole team.
That’s not ideal for Ford Swette who should be a medal contender at this year’s World Juniors. Sun Peaks’ local national team athlete Elli Terwiel says she likes the new skis in the course but hates them for everything else.
In any case it’s going to be a fun season to watch. Stay tuned to see if they allow Lindsey Vonn to race against the men at the Lake Louise downhill, but that’s a whole different story.