Behind the scenes, the wax room keeps winternational running smooth
November 30, 2015
Cheering from the bleachers of the 2015 Aspen Winternational World Cup ski races this weekend, it was easy to make a mental checklist of all the players who made the races possible: the skiers, the coaches, the course crew, the television crews, the trainers, the ski patrollers, the media — the list goes on and on.
But, tucked away in the underground parking garage of the Mountain Chalet was a whole other group of people who may well be the true heart and soul of the ski racing world: the ski techs.
"This is where the hard work really happens," said Demo, an Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard coach who Aspen Skiing Co. has tapped to run the Winternational Wax Room for the past two years. "Without the ski techs, the racers and all those other people couldn't do what they do."
With the help of fellow local Nick Mitchell, an AVSC racer himself, Demo was charged with making sure each World Cup racer and her tech crew — whether they be a "factory" crew, which means they come from the ski manufacturer, or a "national" crew, which means they are culled from the team's home country — had a secure space to get the job done. In all, there were 28 teams in 45 individual rooms during this past weekend's event working in the Wax Room.
Of course, the job wasn't nearly as simple as applying wax. With multiple pairs of skis per racer and each wanting a different tune — not to mention variations in tune based on the weather, snow conditions and more — the techs working in the Wax Room are often there around the clock fine-tuning and perfecting their racer's skis.
"What's interesting, too, is that even though two or three guys might be working for the same team, they're working for different racers," said Demo, a former U.S. Ski Team racer who then spent four years as a tech for Team USA (and was the tech for Snowmass standout Jake Zamansky). "So they're on the same team but also competing against one another. So this can make things a bit more complicated."
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Still, the Aspen Wax Room, which is built in and out by a Denver-based crew in a matter of days each race weekend, seemed as basic as could be — plywood closets, secured by padlocks, with printed signs denoted which country/racer the space belonged to. Inside, a tuning table, spotlights and the tools of the trade (irons, screwdrivers, drills, wax, brushes, etc.) complete the scene.
"Oh, this is a good place," said Michael Forster, a tech for the Austrian team and two of its racers. "It's warm and private; sometimes we are just kind of under a tent in freezing temperatures."
Demo gets that. And while he misses the camaraderie of being in the trenches, Demo isn't complaining about his job on the other side of the tuning table now.
"I've been on that side of racing; it's nonstop, high pressure, always on the move," he said. "Hard work, very hard work, … and sometimes a thankless job. But for guys who love the tech side of skiing, it's great. I'm lucky to have been able to do a little bit of all of it."