If you think of skiing as simply a fun sport to watch in the Winter Olympics or a recreational activity when there’s snow outside (thanks, Nemo!), 26 people at Harvard would beg to differ. Although there’s no way to watch these alpine and Nordic skiers unless you make the three-hour drive to Vermont, The Back Page’s new series presents five things you should know about their sport to support their teams from the comfort of your dorm.
No, giant slalom does not equate a larger mountain that alpine skiers must ski down. Instead, the gates that a skier must maneuver around are spaced further apart than they are in slalom, yielding a slightly slower speed than in its sister event. While alpine skiing is also composed of the “super giant slalom” (even more space between the poles) and “downhill” (few turns, and as the name suggests, going straight down a mountain), collegiate races often use only the technical events—giant slalom and slalom.
4. Skates or skis
When you looked outside your window this weekend and saw people skiing around on the streets, Nordic coach Chris City would term that “Classic” skiing. In an actual race, classic skiing is done in parallel tracks, but the Nemo skiers resemble more of classic skiers than they would the “skate” style. In skate skiing, the skiers look more like skaters than normal skiers (with the parallel skis)—the skis are angled outwards and often yields a faster speed through the course.
3. Size does matter
If you see the skiers walking around campus with their ski bags, don’t be alarmed by how heavy their bags look—they have more than just one pair of skis. For alpine skiers, GS skis are often longer and wider than slalom skis to keep as much contact with the snow between gates, while slalom skis are shorter to increase speed. On the Nordic side, skate skis are often shorter than their classic counterparts, causing a need for ski bags with a lot of room.
2. Waxing their equipment
When a skier talks about waxing before a race, rest assured that they’re (probably) not talking about a body part. In order to make their skis glide faster, skiers will wax before a race—their skis, that is. By applying a thin layer of glide wax (for alpine skis or Nordic skate skis) or grip wax (for Nordic classic skis), the skis develop a thin film in contact with the snow that makes the ski friction with the snow optimal.
1. Crimson stars
Although the Harvard skiers may be competing far from home, success is never far from their grasp. Last year, alpine skier Rebecca Nadler took home the Crimson’s first ever national title at the NCAA Championships in Montana and is looking for a repeat title in 2013. On the Nordic side, freshman skier Emily Hannah recently made it to the 2013 FIS Junior World Championships for the second time in a row, a step which her coach calls a catalyst for the rookie to possibly make it onto the US National team someday.