For the first time in 10+ years, I attended the West Yellowstone Ski Festival without the primary goal of racing and training as fast as possible. I attended as a coach, retailer, and dad, but I still squeezed in some skiing and racing.
Because I was hosting an expo booth, on-snow demos, grind testing, coaching and presenting at the festival, the only option was driving out this year with hundreds of pounds of gear, plus my entire family of five! We had a very efficient drive out most of the way but blew a belt just south of Bozeman. We missed a day and a half of skiing but we made it!
As a retailer/coach, the festival was very successful. I coached for the 5-day race clinic and gave two presentations on dry-land/technique to over 200 clinic goers. The highlights of the week included my presentation on ski fit/flex, handing out hundreds of Gear West Bumper stickers to excited junior/master racers at the expo, and helping Salomon sponsored athletes pick out the best race skis from a large inventory of race stock skis. I was very excited to have the flex test equipment with me. See Gear West Fleet Analysis HERE.
As an athlete, this was probably my lowest total training I have ever done in WYS. The combination of everything left not much time for longer skiing but we did have some great opportunities for grind testing. The highlight of the week was a very solid 9th place finish in the 15km skate race against a very strong field. I had no expectations for the race but to have fun. The late nights of expo duty and early mornings of coaching had left me running on empty in addition to only 5 days of acclimation for a race at 7000 feet. The night before the race I was up until 1 AM packing up my expo booth (Thank you Sven and Evan for helping!).
Race morning was equally un-relaxing as our family packed up the condo for the long drive home. On the way over to the venue I managed to slam my race pole in the car door but thankfully I ran into many people that offered me a replacement on the way to the start line.
The race it self was actually very good considering all things. Chris Hall waxed a few pairs of skis for me to try. I had one of my favorite Speedmax skis with an LZ2 grind and a test pair of Carbonlites with a P5-1. I ended up choosing the P5-1 because it had a higher top speed although the static release and slow to medium speed on the LZ2 was better. My thought was if I am not going at top speed, I’m not racing fast anymore so why bother moving slightly faster at a slow pace. Unfortunately, I wish I had chosen the better climbing/acceleration ski because there were many working/climbing sections on the course. Also, it was very warm (36F) and I left many of my warmer race skis at home because I did not have room for them with all the expo gear.
Wax-wise, Chris and I choose HF8X and FC8X powder. We tested HVC warm and it was very good but it was just starting to snow and I was worried about changing conditions. It never did completely start dumping snow during the race so I wished I had applied the HVC as other racers with liquid had good luck. Hand structure was also very important on the day. Here is a link to my 2 favorite/safest/low liability structure tools of choice. Swix Double Steel Roller Swix Structure Kit
As soon as I finished the race, my wife and kids picked me up at the trailhead and we immediately started the 20 hour drive home in a raging snowstorm. It is going to take a while to recover from the week/race at West Yellowstone, but I am very glad that we are home safely and feeling very blessed I was able to spend Thanksgiving with my family.
-Posted by Matt Liebsch on Dec 5th 2014