North

Warmer weather the new norm at ski races, says coach

Getting the right wax is essential for cross-country skiers at the Haywood Ski Nationals, in Whitehorse. A big variations in temperatures this week presents an extra challenge.

Wax technicians face changing temperatures at Haywood Ski Nationals

Thunder Bay, Ont. ski coach Victor Wiltmann said varying temperatures through the course of a day can make it tricky to choose the right wax. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

Warm afternoons are proving an additional challenge to competitive skiers at the Haywood Ski Nationals in Whitehorse. Or, more accurately, they're proving a challenge to the coaches and technicians who keep the skis waxed for speed.

"It can be pretty tricky to nail the wax," said coach Victor Wiltmann, from Thunder Bay, Ont. 

Morning temperatures this week in Whitehorse have typically been several degrees below zero, but "then as it goes past lunch, there is a transition period," Wiltmann said. Afternoon temperatures have at times approached double-digits.

"That changes the firmness of the snow, how it's holding up, and the moisture content, which changes the speed of the snow," said coach Pavlina Sudrich of the World Cup Academy in Canmore, Alta. 

"It does make it challenging, for sure."

But Sudrich also said competitive skiers are getting used to such conditions — wherever, and whenever, they ski.

"I think five years ago, that would have phased us a lot more. Unfortunately, with climate change, we're seeing that a lot more in race venues across the country, and internationally."

Sudrich said that's made klister wax the most valuable tool in the wax technician's arsenal. It's typically used to provide more grip on granular snow. Yukon skiers typically break out the klister later in spring.

"Klister is like God's stickiest substance, that comes out of a toothpaste tube, and is a real nightmare to work with," Sudrich said.

"The way weather patterns are going, internationally and domestically, we've been on klister on almost all classic races this season."

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