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Kimberley tech sends gear to Sochi
While Canadian ski cross athletes prepare for Olympic glory in Russia next week, they could potentially be sporting some equipment with a Kimberley connection.
With the warm temperatures in Sochi presenting a challenge on the slopes and the effects on snow conditions, the national ski cross team sent some custom-made skis to Kimberley's Scott 'Scooter' Reid for some work.
Reid, a ski technician who is a familiar face at the upper echelons of Alpine Canada, has past Olympic experience, working with the ski cross athletes at the Vancouver Games in 2010.
With the Canadian ski cross athletes on the World Cup circuit in the fall leading up to the Sochi Games, they simply didn't have the time to put in the necessary work to set up the skis.
That's where Reid comes in.
A former racer turned coach turned ski technician, Reid was given a contract to get about a dozen pairs of skis ready for possibility of warm conditions on the slopes.
"My friends, who are the existing servicemen, just did not have enough time to prepare the skis for Sochi," said Reid, "so they left those skis for a month, so I can get them up and going, get them fast for them while they were busy competing on the World Cup, just because the time constraints on the World Cup are such that you don't have enough time to just prep skis for a month down the road."
Shipped straight from the Stockli factory out of Europe, Reid got his hands on them in December and started to work his magic, sinking half a kilo of wax into each pair before sending them off.
"They came tuned, so they had their initial prep," said Reid.
"…Pretty much it was every morning, I would come into the shop, scrap and then really, really brush the skis. Most people don't understand how important the brushing of a ski is. Spent a lot of time brushing the ski and then rewax the ski and I just did that pattern over and over and over.
"When you do that on a pair of skis, especially on these ones which were specifically designed for extremely warm temperatures on snow, you slowly start to see the base of the ski morph and change and it almost turns from a dull black-grey and it starts to shine and shimmer.
"Once you get that real shimmer, that's when you know you're starting to go fast, and when you get to that point, you know you have to get out on snow and start running them."
Not all skis are made equal, and these ones are especially unique, said Reid.
"Each athlete will have 10-20 pairs of skis to choose from. The actual tune is very similar but the base is very different, so you'll have a hard base or a soft base, then you'll have different structures or grinds that are actually put into the base," said Reid.
"Some structures are good for cold, some structures are good for wet, some structures are good for dry, some bases are good for this, some for that.
"The skis I worked on were very a unique ski that is designed pretty much for plus-6 degrees C snow, which is the prediction. That's why they had these skis specifically designed for the team."
Reid got into the national level as a coach and ski tech in 2006, once a few of his athletes graduated to the top stage from the provincial level.
Once there, he became a self-described jack of all trades.
"I find it actually gives you a really big skill base in the ski room, working on the skis, with my knowledge as a coach.
There is a lot of influence in coaching that a really good serviceman can do in the ski room. You can actually change an athlete's skiing by working on their skis a certain way and doing certain things to their skis."
He cited an example of raising the toe in the binding a few millimetres on a ski, which made his racer shave valuable seconds off her time.
He was a part of the technician crew for the ski cross team in the Vancouver Games in 2010, helping Whistler's own Ashleigh McIvor win a gold medal as the sport made it's Olympic debut.
"She just destroyed that run, and just was hands-down the winner and as soon as she crossed—we were all at the start—but then the roar of the crowd just rolls up the hill," said Reid.
"She finishes and then three seconds later, this wave of sound that came up the hill was incredible.
"It was something else."
While McIvor's gold speaks for itself, there is another story behind the story of her dazzling run, according to Reid.
By the second and third heats, there was heavy snow up at the top of the run that turned to rain about a third of the way down, said Reid.
The athletes were intentionally decelerating on parts of the run, and their coach got on the phone and tore a strip off Reid and his partner.
"Do something. Do something now," Reid recalled the head coach saying.
Reid had race-waxed his own skis—the same as his athletes—and decided to try a particular product with a powder version on one ski and a liquid version on the other.
He buried his skis to get them cold, and pulled them out after a while to test how they ran in the snow.
"This overlay, we had never used in a race setting, we had only tested it. It was a very, very bold move to do," said Reid.
"...I turned to my partner and said, "We got to put the liquid on now."
Reid put on the liquid overlay, and the rest is history.
"She [McIvor] left the field behind," he said. "It was seconds ahead. She was through the finish while the rest of the girls were on the last jump.That shows you just what can happen.
"Not many people really know that story. You don't see that on the TV coverage."
Reid stepped back from the frenetic schedule of working with the national team after the Vancouver Games and eventually set up ski shop in Kimberley.
While he worked specifically with the ski cross sport, he's also has coaching and tech experience with the other alpine events, such as downhill, slalom super G.
He's also gotten involved with local club race groups, such as the Kimberley Alpine Team and the Fernie Alpine Ski Team. He has also done some work with local ski-cross athlete India Sherret, who is starting to make a name for herself at the national level of the sport.