24-Icing Up

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120901-aspen.german night start

Aspen, CO, Dec. 9, 2001, 7:00 PM--Seven hours, twenty laps, and twelve cups of coffee in, Team Germany has built a substantial minute-plus lead over Austria and Switzerland. The Swiss are the eye-catchers at the moment, having recovered from a second run crash which resulted in a 55 second deficit. An even bigger surprise is Team Vail's Eric Archer. Archer's teammate Chris Anthony injured his knee yesterday and had to withdraw from the race. Determined, Archer is skiing solo, without the benefits of a likeminded teammate or a slingshot, the equivalent of drafting in NASCAR.

After shameless SkiNet plugs on Aspen's Channel 16 and a botched attempt to get on course, I've reconvened to the press room in the basement of the Aspen Club Lodge for a bit of sustenance and to gain course access. I'll also make a stop at Of Grape and Grain for a draught of whiskey for myself and some Absolut for my new friends, Cara and Kathy.

With the sun down, it's getting chilly, but the wind is silent and the climate is bearable, even pleasant. At the summit, the Strudelthon is in full swing and that scene is gluttonous at best.

I'm amazed at how technical the race has been thus far. Wax is often the deciding factor in ski racing, but I did not figure it would play such an important role in a 24 hour long race. Besides hearing Canada's Aleisha Cline complain that "Ski Three is slow!" (racers typically rotate between three and ten pairs of skis) and technicians squabbling over wax and brush combinations, I had the opportunity to ride the gondola with a technician for Team New Zealand. He measures humidity levels at different parts of the course (temperature and snow quality are the two other factors in waxing). On this particular lift ride, Jim made an important realization-humidity levels were being thrown off in the gondola due to the enclosed space and his breathing and he cannot gain course access. Luckily, neither can any of the other techs.

It's a long road ahead. Time to put my boots back on and schmooze my way on course. But first I'll have to see about that draught...