With less than 100 sleeps to go until the start of the FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup season, the teams have been working hard in the gym and on snow. The men’s tech team will face one of the bigger changes this season with the reintroduction of 30-meter radius giant slalom skis, compared to previous season’s 35-meter radius skis.
A controversial change to the size of men’s giant slalom skis by FIS five years ago has been partially reversed for the 2017-18 World Cup season, kicking off in Soelden, Austria, in October. Initially, the change was introduced to prevent injuries. Now, FIS is reverting to the original radius to the delight of the Canadian men’s tech team.
“It turns sharper, turns easier, turns in a tighter circle,” Calgary’s Trevor Philp explained after his first on-snow camp in Italy earlier this summer.
“There will be a lot more flair to the sport,” said Phil Brown, overall NorAm Cup 2017 giant slalom champion. “With the old skis, if the snow conditions weren’t perfect they were nearly impossible to ski on and it looked horrible. In the end, that’s what we’re after in all sports, is viewers and popularity. If the sport doesn’t look interesting or fun, why would people watch?”
Philp, Brown, Dustin Cook and Morgan Megarry have all had a chance to test and run the new skis this summer and say the adjustment to their new skis has been easier than the transition to the giant slalom skis of five years ago. With one on-snow camp completed in Italy, and a second well underway in Switzerland, the men are racking up miles on the new boards seeing positive changes in their skiing.
Dustin Cook joined the team for their first camp in Livigno, Italy, and fell into form after a few runs.
“Even though they’re a lot easier to turn, it’s completely different tactically and the way you ski on them is different,” Cook said. “The first couple days were kind of ugly, but now that I’ve skied five and the other guys have skied six days on them, the change is a lot easier than going the other way. Now that we’ve kind of figured them out, it’s a lot more fun. It’s a lot less work and it looks a lot better. It makes GS skiing look a lot prettier than it did the last bunch of years.”
Brown believes the change will allow for more creative course sets for the men. The Canadians say it will also make giant slalom easier for younger skiers breaking into the higher ranks of racing.
“It’s going to be great for the younger generation, the kids entering FIS races,” Philp said. “It was tough on them. You had World Cup skiers struggling with these new 35-meter skis. Those are the top guys in the world. In all sports, there’s going to be regulations that are changing, for better or for worse. I guess we are guinea pigs, but in the end we’re the product for the business of ski racing. We have to work with whatever is put in front of us and figure out the best way possible to ski on it. It’s the job we sign up for.”
Not only are the athletes excited about the change, the leadership and coaching staff are also seeing some promise for the young team.
We caught up with Martin Rufener, alpine’s athletic director, to see how he feels the new skis will affect the Canadian tech athletes.
“What’s old is new again,” Rufener said. “Athletes with the greatest power and confidence will have the most success with the 30-meter radius skis, as they will have the ability to power through the turn, even after the gate, resulting in a tighter and faster line. We are very happy about this change, not only for our World Cup and Development Team athletes, but also for the younger provincial and club level racers. The 30-meter radius skis are much easier to turn, which should help to reduce back injuries and issues many athletes experienced with the 35-meter radius skis.”
New to the men’s tech team is Ryan Malmberg, filling the position of assistant coach. Joining Alpine Canada from Mont Sainte Marie, where he was the Program Director and Head Coach, Malmberg brings over 10 years of experience to the organization. He has already joined the team for multiple on-snow camps.
“We had a very productive spring training camp in Italy where we were able to slightly reduce the intensity to revisit the fundamentals and get some quality mileage on the new 30-meter radius giant slalom skis,” said Malmberg. “This group had some very respectful flashes of success on the World Cup last season and we think some of the changes we have already seen in this summer’s training can bring more consistency to day-to-day training and that added discipline will help the guys find another gear of speed. With the change in radius to the GS skis, there is a bit of uncertainty around how this might impact the GS standings and we are looking to capitalize on the change.”
The team is looking ahead to the first race of the season, which also marks the start of the Olympic season.
Release courtesy of Alpine Canada