MWC Report -- Joy Cordell

 Another fun report to wrap up the KSC experience: Joy's summary and pictures of her time at World Masters and beyond!

World Masters Seefeld 2023

To say that we were not prepared for what we found in Seefeld is an understatement! I was deluding myself about the amount of snow there—thinking it was probably like March skiing at Cabin Creek when the snow was low. So it was a shock to arrive and see ribbons of snow carving through a brown and dusty landscape, Seefeld close to a ghost town as people fled for higher elevations or, like our apartment host, flew to Gran Canaria. Unfortunately, we did not bring running shoes, hiking boots, or shorts, like many of the other athletes.

The second shock, perhaps worse, was the course conditions on Sunday at 12:40 pm when my group began our 7k slush skate. It was at least 6” deep around the whole course! Try to V2 in that! We were all exhausted when we finished. As one woman told me, “I can ski 42k at home and not come back as tired as that!” Memories of skiing the Ski to Sea at Mount Baker on Memorial Day weekend came back—mashed potato snow and sprawling bodies on every downhill and corner! My one consolation was that I did not fall. I promptly formed a new club called the “Did Not Fall Skiers” and not only were Suzanne and I charter members, we held that membership the entire week.
Veteran Suzanne had told me that I had to sign up for three races but only needed to race the ones I wanted to. (I met skiers who did not race again after that Sunday treat.) I had a 15k skate and a 20k skate ahead of me and didn’t really feel up to a total of 35k of slush. The 15k was to start at 11:30ish and the 20k at 9:30ish—which would you choose? I thought I’d have a better chance of at least enjoying myself doing 20k with an earlier start. The day before my 20k was the relays, and somehow it got cold enough to set up that night and they salted the course liberally. It was fast and hard for the relays and looked like it would repeat the next day. I was SO excited! My group would have our chance at a faster course! But then, in the format jiggering they did at the end of every day, somehow they decided to move all the young guys and the younger women in front of the older women, so our start time was moved back another hour and we got to ski on a slushy course in the remnants of what 100+ skiers left behind them. (Yes, the women in my age group noticed this change and did not approve.) Looking at this as a newbie, I find it interesting that the original schedule places the M1-6 at the start of every day, then the W1-6, then the older folks fall in. If the conditions are great and the course holds up, that seems ok. When that can’t happen, I think it’s only fair to move the different age groups around so everyone gets the best and the worst. I wondered, as we cheered the oldest guys in the medals ceremony every day, if we were really cheering their stamina through awful conditions, because they always got to ski last.
In 2016 Jeff and I went to Quebec to ski in the Gatineauloppet, in what turned out to be the coldest winter in Quebec in 250 years. The second day was -25F. We took all our coldest wax and followed all the waxing instructions and it still was like skiing on sand. We were double-poling down the hills. We realized at some point that we needed cold grind skis—that no matter what wax we used, the skis were the key.
Jeff brought all our fastest wax (and speed powder!) to Seefeld and talked with the Boulder guys and other waxers in the shed and came back to report that pretty much everyone was using the same waxes (and added structure). It didn’t seem to make a difference—we all struggled. There were a few skiers that seemed to ski a notch higher than everyone else, floating where we dragged. WELL, after returning, I read this info from Benjamin Ariens (Allison’s brother) on Facebook. 
“Masters racers: after hearing about the slush-fest that was the 2023 Masters World Cup in Seefeld, I wanted to make sort of a PSA. If you are spending a lot of time and money training and preparing and traveling to a big event like this, it is probably worth the money to invest in a pair of skis that will handle conditions like what they encountered in Seefeld. You might not end up using them much over the season as a whole, but having a pair of skis like the Salomon S/Lab Red (or Rossi S3, or Fischer Plus 61K(?) will pay off big time. When you line up at a race you have traveled a long way for, spent time, energy, blood, sweat and tears preparing for, and you aren't showing up with a knife to a gunfight, you will be so glad you did. My sister raced on her S/Lab Red skis in the 5 races (Engadin, and 4 Masters world cup races) she entered, had great skis, and great results. She probably hadn't used them more than 2-3X the whole winter prior, but she had them when she needed them. Yes, they cost money, and no, you won't use them as much as your "Universal" pairs, but they will make a difference when it counts. Wax will only do so much, the camber makes the most difference, followed by the grind, then the wax. Don't show up to a big race in sloppy conditions and be surprised if your Cold Specials don't run. You're a master racer, you can probably afford it! (Disclaimer: I am the Salomon Tech Rep for Alaska. I didn't use my S/Lab Red skis all winter until this spring. They are very fast in the current +32F conditions).”
I also learned that the reason the event was so late in the season was because it was supposed to be in Russia; Seefeld stepped up, but this was the only time they could do it.
OK, getting the tough stuff out of the way, I have to say we made the best of it and had FUN. Because Suzanne was skiing classic and I was skating, we alternated skiing and cheering days. We had one hill near the stadium where a crowd assembled to watch us climb up and schuss down and if someone there knew your name, the whole group started yelling for you! My work on tucking downhills and cornering this winter paid off and if I couldn’t ski fast, I could at least tuck courageously on the downhills! We met wonderful people, ate lots of great food, slept plenty, and watched the World Cup live (Tallin). I took one sunny day to downhill ski up high on an “Alp” and read two books. 

downhill skiing and strudeling

Jeff spent an afternoon on demo skis and boots and bought himself a new kit at a sizeable discount. I bought new, much lighter, poles. We completed our trip with 2.5 days in Salzburg and explored the city on kick bikes, a first for us.

kick biking in Salzburg

Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg at sunset

Here are some of the memories I brought home with me:
·     Sitting in the big tent waiting for the medals ceremony and watching a ginormous dump truck pull up to a hill and drop a load of white snow. That was impressive, but it wasn’t enough!
·     Drinking a leisurely coffee with a French woman in the main tent, comparing vacations and travel plans.
·     Walking back toward town after the last race, catching up to an older guy gimping along and carrying his skis. “It doesn’t hurt when I ski, only when I walk,” he said. “I’m getting the hip replacement in three days.”
·     Chatting up an older Swedish woman who told me about the two falls that left her black and blue on one side and unable to race. She was sad. “I just want to race,” she said, touching her heart.
·     Discovering that 1) a lederhosen band can indeed play “Achy Breaky Heart” and 2) watching a couple of Canadian women teaching the lederhosen kids how to line dance to it.
·     Trusting David Evans enough to try the lemon beer and finding that it really is good. Thanks, David!
·     Finding Piston Bully groomer toys in the local store, including one that was radio controlled! We wanted to bring it back for Nick!

·     Skiing the warm-up trails on a hill and looking down to see a guy getting a roller-ski lesson on the asphalt path below.

roller ski track in the foreground!
·     Seeing the masses of tiny pale purple crocus buds poking up in the fields along the track as I raced.
·     Sitting in the banquet tent, watching streams of rain go down the windows, and understanding that nature truly closed down not only the races, but the season.
·     Asking an Austrian waiter in a local brewery if a tip in USD is ok. YES! He said. “I’ll use it when I go to New York for the final Kiss concert!” He was a true fan.
·     Going to Red Bull Hangar 7 and seeing all the racing vehicles Red Bull has sponsored over the years. 

·     Walking out to our plane on the tarmac in Salzburg at 6:00 am to discover there was an inch of snow on it and waiting an extra 20 minutes for the plane to be deiced. (Same latitude as Seattle, 1,391’)

Will we attend next year? We’ve already made plans to attend the World Cup races in Canmore and Calgary, which would give us two days to fly to Finland for World Masters, so not sure about that.

one last Austrian cake and coffee