Yesterday's warm temperatures and rain combined with the same today are making conditions for the MIAA Boys'/Girls' Nordic State Ski Meet quite wet. But teams have the answer to keep the additional moisture from slowing their athletes down.
It's called high fluorocarbon.
"Your skis are just crazy fast. They're so much faster than when you just use normal wax," said Hoosac Valley senior Danielle Beauchemin, who has used them sparingly in the last four years. "If you're not experienced enough on your skis, it can be dangerous because your skis are a lot faster than usual."
The Berkshire County League has a gentlemen's agreement that prohibits the use of these high-end waxes to keep the cost reasonable. That rule doesn't apply in the winner-take-all state championships.
"I've looked at a couple different ones that I have in my box, and we'll probably use them," Hoosac Valley coach Alicia Gwozdz said. "If the weather stays the way it's going to be, it'll be a likely scenario, but one never can tell until the morning."
The girls will be the first to hit the course, starting at 10:30 a.m. at Notchview Nordic Ski Center. The boys will follow at noon and the award ceremony is at 1:30 p.m. Both races will be a wave start, not the chevron it was originally scheduled for.
Nineteen schools are supposed to be on hand, bringing the skier count to about 240 racers, according to Tournament Director Joe Miller.
With so many racers, the top skiers will be able to use the extra speed to pull away from the pack and earn valuable team points. Of course that's all dependent on the weather, which is supposed to hover around freezing and make waxing choices a bit of a challenge.
"In certain conditions, it's definitely a noticeable difference," Mount Greylock girls' coach Hillary Greene said. "For example, if it's very wet, if it's warm and the snow has a lot of moisture in it, the fluorocarbons are designed to repel moisture and you can actually sort of see the snow will bead off of the ski. So in those conditions, you can really notice a difference."
The science behind it is quite simple. The fluorocarbons are extremely negatively charged. When it comes in contact with water's negatively charged oxygen molecules, it forces the water off the ski.
These fluoros can come in either powder or block form, but they don't last long. Greene said one bottle of the powder (120 grams), which cost about $150, is enough for only about 10 pairs of skis. With 16 racers (eight boys and eight girls) allowed from each school for states, that means about a $300 wax bill for the fast additive. Gwozdz prefers the block because she's more comfortable with it.
"I don't think it makes a huge difference to a new skier who's still got so much work to do on their technique," Gwozdz said. "But the kids who've been skiing for a number of years, who have really good technique, they can definitely tell when they're getting more glide out of their ski than if we were to use low fluoro. They're going to be able to tell the difference."
It will be the first race action at Notchview this season, which was originally scheduled to host two Berkshire County League races. The course, chosen by Gwozdz, will be totally new. It will feature the new trail "Berkshire Trail," a hill called "Spruce" not typically used for racing and two others.
The hills have North County skiers and their coaches excited.
"We haven't raced at Notchview at all this season and that's our home course, so we're accustomed to that course and we're used to Shaw Road," Beauchemin said. "It's always good to race Eastern Mass. kids there because they usually don't have hills out there."
The hills leave much of the course as a downhill, and that's where the gliding comes in, which is where Greylock's Matt Wiseman, making his first appearance in the state meet, says he's noticed the biggest difference in his limited exposure to high fluoros.
The skiers won't have to worry about the speed leading into a sharp turn, like the last race at Prospect Mountain Nordic Ski Center that sent more than a few skiers scrambling for balance.
"On the corners you notice [high fluoros] the most when you're trying to step turn," Beauchemin said.