MWC Report -- Rune Harkestad

Photo of Seefeld shamelessly stolen from Cara Battles' Facebook page because, I mean, look at this!

Rune's race report and expert strategy commentary from the slush fest of Seefeld, with a bonus commentary at the end from Boulder Mountain Sports' Nathan Schultz on the importance of ski selection.

Seefeld 2023

Rob Corkran's photo

Augustina and I are now sitting at the airport in Oslo, 4 weeks into our 5-week Europe trip. Normally we would head back to warmer temperatures at the end of March but not this time; now we are heading to Tromsø in Northern Norway where the temps are still in the 20s, with daily grooming and more than 4 feet of snow on the ground.  More about that later but first about Seefeld.

I would like to summarize the skiing in one short sentence “searching for crust and avoiding dirt." This was exactly what we have seen from ski competitions in Central Europe this winter: no snow anywhere in sight except a strip of manmade snow on which the skiers go loop after loop. Even though the temps at night rarely fell below freezing, there would still be a thin layer of crust which proved to be much faster, hence the term “searching for crust” until it all turned to slush mid-morning.  As the week went on, the dirt piles were more and more visible and would stick to the klister, destroying the kick.  All in all, not a particularly pleasant skiing experience but it was still racing, and the conditions were the same for everyone.  

Nathan’s mid-week report summarized the technical aspect of the skiing very well; ski selection was hugely important.  Unfortunately, I picked skis that didn’t work very well the first two races; I finally had good skis on the last race, where I came away with a very important lesson. Two of the top skiers in my field chose to double pole, which means they would just herringbone up the technical zone (no double pole).  I skied on klister and had excellent kick and glide and was in medal contention after the first two laps.  Then the skis started slipping on the third lap (dirt in the klister) and I fell out of medal contention.  It was interesting that I lost several seconds to the double pole guys on the moderate uphills.  What happened is that when the kick started to slip, I still used as much, or even more, energy trying to get the skis to kick, but the result was less than half the speed, hence, dropping several spots.  The lesson:  when the skis start slipping, forget about striding, just go to double pole on moderate hills.  Short, steeper hills are still worth “running” on the skis but mentally, put striding out of your mind; it is not worth the effort.  You think you are working really hard trying to kick on slippery skis (and you really are!), but the result is lousy.

All in all though, I ended up in 6th in the last race; that was a few spots less than I was aiming for but I thought I had a pretty good race and that is how I want to remember Seefeld, not the dirt and slush.  Augustina asked me an interesting question on the flight back up to Norway. If I had known the conditions would have been what they were, would I still have gone?  The answer is no.  I would have stayed in Norway for the Birkie instead. 


[Sneak preview: Rune did another race this weekend in northern Norway and the conditions looked sublime!  New race report coming soon.] 

Some ski selection insight on conditions at Seefeld that we at Snoqualmie Pass are very familiar with, from Nathan Schultz, founder of Boulder Mountain Sports and wax tech at the World Masters:
"... warm overnight, slightly harder in the morning, turning to soup around 10AM. What we are noticing is that ski choice is really huge. Those with special white base or warm skis, especially with softer flexes and softer tips are having great skis. Those with universal or cold skis with finer grinds are struggling. We have been adding extra hand-structure to those skis after feedback from the first day of racing, but even when we do, it still isn't making up for having a wet grind on a wet ski, unfortunately."