The Empirical and Metric standards of measurement have been battling each other for centuries. Kilometers vs. miles, centimeters to inches, or pounds over kilos. And forget about liquids. They even argue over the proper spelling of “litre.” Our international group of kids prank each other constantly by resetting the speed and temperature settings in our team trucks. Amidst the chaos remains one safe space, where feuding scales come to an understanding. Temperature. The intersection of Fahrenheit and Celsius resides at -40. This is a location no one wants to visit. On that, we can all agree.
Each day of camp begins and ends with a visit to the Government of Canada’s Environment and Climate website. I translate the C to F conversion in my head. All eyes are on a pulse of very cold air pushing southeast across the Arctic Circle from Alaska. Our temps have been favorable for the first week of camp, whether or not you believe in the metric system. Extreme cold, common to the Yukon Territory, has not been a factor…until now.
Friday’s clear sky and brilliant sun provided perfect conditions for full length GS. Hard snow, good visibility, and reasonable temps made for a productive day. But that same cloudless ceiling pushed by a north wind, escorted this season’s coldest air into Whitehorse overnight.
Minus 30 Celsius is the cutoff for Mt. Sima’s lone chairlift to spin, and Whitehorse International Airport was reporting -31 C on Saturday morning. Lucky for us, the mountain’s base area sits several hundred meters (or is it metres?) above town, and we enjoyed an inversion. At a balmy 28 below, in predawn light, we loaded four bundles of slalom gates over our shoulders and skated to the chair. Time to go to work.
The team turned their attention to short skis, slalom drills, corridors, and the art of keeping a wood stove burning at maximum efficiency. An important skill here in the north country. There are many things I love about the Yukon, but the unpretentious nature of Mt. Sima’s small lodge heated by wood is near the top of the list. We took breaks throughout the day and were careful to evade frostbite. Focus remained on turn shape, body position, and mechanics. Toes, even if they couldn’t feel them, needed to stay under hips at the top of their turns.
Today was day two of a short slalom progression, and Saturday’s -28 temps made Sunday’s value of -20 feel easy. We lapped run after run with only a few breaks to warm up. It’s a good group of athletes again this year. Tough minded, motivated, and hungry. But the NCAA competition awaiting is world class, and there is a lot of work ahead if we want to be in the mix. No time now for getting cold feet.