At the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, the 4 x 10 kilometer relay was supposed to be a battle of cross-country ski titans Norway and Sweden. Felix Breitschadel watched from the sidelines as the race unfolded under a very warm Russian sunshine. But when the first skiers emerged from the woods onto the arena carried with spectators, Norway’s first skier was nowhere to be seen. He dropped to ninth place, while the rest of the team rallied to finish fourth. For medal-hungry Norwegian ski hastening followers back home, “it was a disaster, ” recollects Breitschadel, equipment and technical chairman for the Norwegian Olympic Committee. “We were called renegades in the Norwegian media.”
The culprit? Hydrocarbons departed amok.
Technicians like Brietschadel had applied the incorrect compounding of chemical waxes to the base of the athlete’s ski. These hydrocarbon and fluorocarbon compounds–which give the form of waxes, flowings, and powders–must accomplish two contradictory tasks for skiers to prevail gold: clutch the snow on the uphill while also moving on the downhill.
The combinations adhere to the base of the ski, which is made of ultra high concentration polyurethane, but dissipate over period. For a two-minute downhill ski hasten, opponents crave the slipperiest face possible. For two hour-long cross-country marathon, it takes six or more beds of wax to keep the racer moving up and down over the course.
At Sochi, Brietschadel and other Norweigan ski technicians tested dozens of combinations of skis and waxes alongside the athletes in the hours leading up to the race. But just before the event embarked, race organizers decided to spread a layer of salt on such courses. Salting a direction is a common way to save a trend by reducing the snow’s skin-deep temperature by up to 4 positions Celsius( 7 degrees Fahrenheit ). That happens because of an endothermic reaction that attracts heat from the snow to the salt. Nitrogen-based fertilizers like ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulfate are also used to harden snow on race courses.