The rhythmic scrape of the waxing tools against ski bottoms mixed with the easy banter of the young competitors.
The preparation that they made here in Bluefin Bay’s activities room could make the difference on the slope at Lutsen Mountains the next day, where the three boys were competing in a slalom race put on by the United States Ski and Snowboard Association. Brothers, Clay and Christian Erhard and their friend Nick Peterson, are students at Minnetonka High School that also compete with Team Gilboa out of Bloomington. They had already made it through the first day of races and were prepping for day two. For the boys, and several others on the team, Bluefin was the perfect launch pad for a big day at Lutsen.
The activities room allowed plenty of room to spread out. Christian Erhard worked with house waxing table, while the other boys set up a second one – large enough for two of them to get to work. Usually, ski waxing takes the skiers between 30 minutes and an hour. Then they wax one more time shortly before they make their run. It’s an exacting process.
They use the electric irons to melt the wax onto the skis and then glide the hot metal over the bottom surface, taking care not to burn or melt anything. After they’ve added what they think will give them the best performance, they use scrapers and brushes to remove excess.
If it looks like they put a lot of attention into their skis, that’s nothing compared to the countless hours of practice – all so that they could get in that perfect run.
“Your hours and weeks of training come down to 30 seconds,” Clay Erhard said. That’s about the amount of time that it will take to bomb down the course, while weaving around the flags. The group would get two runs to show their stuff, with their final score added from both their times. The narrow window leaves little margin for error. Hundredths of seconds count, Erhard said.
Training can help them build their strength and hone technique, but the pressures of race day can be their own challenge.
“You’re adrenaline’s, like, through the roof,” Erhard said. “You get thoughts of doubt in your head. If you let that consume you, your run’s going to be awful. “
Even more rattling, the race would have a total of about 50 gates, while they had only practiced on about 15 while skiing around Minneapolis.
Even so, Christian Erhard, had managed to pull finish 10thout of a field of about 70 on his first run, 18th on his second.
With a day of competition under their belts, the group got a chance to unwind with dinner at the Bluefin Grille and some hot tub time. It was a big plus for the group to have a room where they could apply wax, Clay Erhard said; many times they’d found themselves at hotels which had kept every room off limits.
After the Lutsen Mountains, there would be several more ski races throughout the winter. All of the boys had their eye on a qualifying race over in Marquette, Mich.. If they placed in that race, the next stop would be Nationals in Colorado.
Until then, it was back to putting on the wax and sharpening the edges, visualizing the perfect run down the snowy turns.
-Tom Fagin, Bluefin Bay Activities