2010 Olympic Cross-Country Ski Course Crew #2 - Stage 1
By: Peter Czerny (2010/02/16)
Hello again from BC,
I have now completed three shifts with the cross-country ski event course crew at the Whistler Olympic Park. I am in the company of eleven folks based out of our ‘condo’, actually a shipping container fitted out as a meeting place for both our crew and the kind team of folks who pilot the fleet of snowmobiles parked outside. Our base is located right between the bottom of the stomach-churningly tall ski jumps and the athlete compound, a virtual and temporary neighbourhood of such containers housing national teams and a variety of ski industry gear suppliers. The energy of the whole place is palpable with alternate sights and sounds of fans, announcers, grooming machines, TV camera power generators, press corps photographers, sun rain and snow (sometimes together), radios, the whap of the ski jumpers landing, the crack of rifles from the biathlon range and, of course, the competitors with their support crews running and skiing everywhere with intensity, testing hundreds of wax and base prep combinations and revving their bodies for the snow-bound showdowns to come.
In my prologue to these Olympics impressions, I put together a general list of the top ten benefits of being on a course crew. Here is how the first two have worked out so far:
1. Being up early enough to see a winter dawn break across the land.
There is no question about the need to get up early: while our shifts typically start at 6 or 7am, it takes about one hour to get to the Whistler Olympic Park from Whistler itself or two from Pemberton when you factor in waiting for the buses. I’ve got no complaints here except for my inability to go to sleep early enough (too many interesting events and conversations). The reward is a kind of daily metamorphosis from the bleary-eyed pre-dawn of workers and volunteers huddled at the bus stops, the hint of light in the cloudy skies glimpsed from inside a warm and doze-inducing bus, the disembarking and awakening at the volunteer check-in, to the sudden realization that the great hills and mountains have been watching you all this time. The variable weather has given us multiple dawns and dawn-like experiences throughout the day as the clouds wreath the nearby forested slopes (you can see the line where rain changes to snow tantalizingly part-way up) only to reveal the snow-capped peaks as some kind of floating world when the sun finally breaks through.
2. Getting to ski first tracks on perfectly groomed trails.
Course crew membership gives us one privilege few can claim: we get to ski the competition trails as part of our work, especially when walking is impractical or even damaging to the trails (not that I’d have to be asked twice to don skis and go). Each morning when we arrive, the groomers led by Dirk, have already done the majority of their work in preparing the snow for the day’s practices and competitions – I still have no idea when they sleep. Maps checked and assignments given, we head out in pairs across the as-yet untouched corduroy surface to set up signs and v-boards, and tread the fine line between the need to ski softly and the temptation to let it all hang out on some of the finest competition trails I’ve ever skied. Our natty purple ‘Service’ bibs let us get by the sharp-eyed course marshals to check and re-check the course markings. Two days ago we received a call from a marshal concerned that we had not yet closed off the proper intersection with only a half-hour to go before the start of the 10km freestyle portion of the Nordic combined; two of us set out to essentially be forerunners for the forerunners (top junior skiers from across Canada who are here to ski and officially mark the start and end of each competition). Happily our initial work had been done correctly, the call being a case of mistaken map reading, and we were left to finish our outing past the gathering fans, a rather dream-like fantasy ski outing if there ever was one!
Until next time, cheers from the Whistler Olympic Park.