Kim and I left the house early morning on Friday the 5th of February. I had cancelled school to be able to volunteer at the World Cup but it didn’t really bother me… When we arrived we went to the volunteer center to check in. Here I got a very official nametag to put around my neck. There were also toques and some other free stuff for the volunteers, which I received happily. Next we went to the head quarter of the volunteers. It was also here, behind some sound isolated walls that the television commentators were talking out to audiences all over the world. After eating a couple of muffins there was a little briefing where everybody was told what they had to do. My job was to take off the transponders as soon as the athletes came in from their race. The transponder is the little automatic string that the athletes wear around their ankles and which is measuring the skier’s time.
After the briefing it was time to get ready with the snow pants. It wasn’t freezing out there but since it wasn’t us who were going to be skiing, the snow pants were not a bad idea! I came out and went to the finish line where I would be serving my duty. Kim was the starter and was getting instructions from some guys from Switzerland that was in charge of the timing. Soon the first ladies started to go to the start line to get their transponders on and to do their warm up. I was just watching the whole thing and taking pictures of it all. A couple of minutes later Kim send off the first skier and the long distance races had begun!
While Kim was sending off skiers with 30 seconds interval I was getting ready to receive the first ladies coming in. It happened after about 30 minutes after the first skiers had been send off and soon I was down on my knees taking transponders off the ankles of the skiers. According to the hardness of those skiers’ legs they were pretty fit… Most of them were going to the Olympics in Vancouver too so I guess that’s a useful skill. After taking off about 70 transponders from the ladies ankles it was time for a little break. There was time to go get a bag of lunch before the men started to move closer to the start line. The sun was shining and I was starting to get jealous about the fact that the pro guys were allowed to ski and I wasn’t. But it was exciting to see the athletes showing how to do “real” cross country skiing!
Soon Kim send off the first man on the course and the show was running again. I was catching all the good photos and before I knew of it the first guy came in from his 15 kilometer skate ski. Doing it in about 40 minutes I was stunned! Now I have realized that those guys’ bodies are more machines than actual bodies… Anyways I started the work with taking off the transponders as the guys came in. After a while the last skier had passed me and without really realizing it I had been close to the very best cross country skiers in the world! It was kind of weird to think about since I didn’t know any of the guys I was taking the transponders off. Anyways, soon I had done my job and as the winner was found (it turned out to be some Italian guy) me and Kim went up to the volunteer head quarter to collect our stuff and get going back to Bragg Creek.
After a nice sleep I woke up and got ready for the Saturdays sprints. My job today was not to take care of transponders. Instead I was the “false start controller” which meant that if there was a false start, my job would be to simply jump on the trail in front of all the skiers and wave with a big red flag until they stopped. A quite exciting job on the paper but when we arrived and Kim started shooting off the sprints I realized that professional skiers almost never make a false start… After a ton of sprints that included crashes and Swedish winners my job was complete. We started to pack up our stuff and after a hot chocolate we were on our way to downtown Canmore. Foothills Nordic Ski Club had a trailer on Main Street full of skis so that everybody could come and try cross country skiing. This would have been quite confusing if it hadn’t been for the fact that Main Street was covered with 20 centimeters of snow! A very local snowstorm had covered Main Street and nothing else in snow. The trailer was popular and there were lots of kids that wanted to try out skiing. Together with Vince, Darren and a lot of other skiers in the club, I assisted the kids on snow as well as I was able to considering my 4 months of practice. It went very well and at the end of the day there had been about 100 people at the trailer trying to ski. I spent the rest of the day in Canmore with Darren, Vince and Stephanie (a girl from foothills). I slept over at Darren’s hotel room in Canmore and the next day we went for a ski before Vincent gave me a ride back to Bragg Creek.
It was an awesome weekend and it was quite inspiring to see professional skiers do what they do!