By Rory Carroll
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – American Alpine skiers have walked away from Pyeongchang Games without major injuries but the same can not be said of their skis, which were severely damaged by the extreme weather conditions in South Korea, a U.S. ski technician said.
The frigid temperatures on the South Korean mountainside, especially during the bone-chilling cold days leading up to the Games, were unlike anything veteran U.S. ski serviceman Ales Sopotnik said he had ever encountered.
“We burned through so many skis. They have to go to the ski doctors,” Sopotnik told Reuters.
The “doctors” are specialists at ski companies like Atomic and Head, who he likened to Formula One mechanics, who work to rebuild skis mangled at the Games.
The damage was caused when cold temperatures and gusting winds created sharp ice crystals in the snow, which quickly dulled ski edges and burned out bases, giving skis used in training runs and competitions a short lifespan.
Austrian racer Marcel Hirscher said early in the Games that the ice crystals created friction that burned out the bases of his skis.
“Every run is a different pair of skis,” said Hirscher, who managed to ski away with two gold medals despite the challenging terrain.
Sopotnik said efforts were made to protect the skis with wax but said even the specialists were dumbfounded.
“It was driving the wax companies crazy,” he said.
“Everything they were trying wasn’t working so they just put the hardest wax that exists on the skis.”
(Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)