If you haven’t already learned from our excessive social media posting, the Phoenix Park Foreigner Ski School is now working at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. We’ve been officially crowned “National Technical Officials” (NTOs) and started our work on the Olympic courses on January 25. It’s now just 3 days until the Opening Ceremony on February 9 and course preparation has been intense.
There have been a lot of amazing moments so far, from getting our (sort of hideous) uniforms to watching the resort transform into an Olympic venue and seeing Australia’s top athletes ride our courses during training. There’s been plenty of curiosity about our roles so I thought I’d break down what we’ve been up to and where you can see more.
So what exactly have we been doing at the Winter Olympics?
Moguls: Since moguls is the first event to be held at Phoenix, our team has been building, shaping and slipping this course. It’s involved a lot of learning and adapting.
First of all, who knew mogul courses were built by hand? Yes, we have been shoveling and shaping every single one of those moguls you will see on TV. I’ve never used a shovel so much in my life. And I’ve certainly never used one while standing on a steep, icy slope in -25 degrees temperatures.
On the first few days we focused on shoveling snow to build up the moguls and chopping up the ice for the landings. This was seriously exhausting and I managed to sprain my wrist and strain both calves on the first day. Yet the vibe with our team was awesome – we played music while we worked, danced a lot and took a bunch of photos. I want to thank my team for making those grueling days fun. We really needed to prove to the Moguls Chief of Course that we could be useful at all (since we didn’t speak Korean and weren’t contractors employed specifically for that role) but we knuckled down and exceeded his expectations.
Then we moved onto slipping the course. If you haven’t heard of this term before it means sliding down the course sideways to smooth out any bumps and ruts or to help shape the moguls by sliding between them (a job best left to the skiers). This requires great edge control and nerves of steel as we were working on steep, icy slopes that were easy to slide out on. This happened to many of us and I narrowly avoided being hit by one of my friends who went zooming past me on his butt!
Aerials: The past few days we started to focus on the Aerials jumps. There were 3 jumps to build, each between 2 and 4 metres. If you’ve ever seen aerials jumps and wondered, “How do they make those?” Well, now I know. We built up a wooden framework for the outside of the jump, made out of wooden beams and boards nailed together. Then we got a snow cat to push snow into it and shape it from there. We’ve been working with an Austrian man and Dutch fellow who have been highly amusing, hard working and thankful to have some English speakers for company. I’ve realised that building courses seem haphazard from afar but are in fact extremely mathematical. The angles for the slope of the jump needs to be exact and my new Austrian friend was often scrawling numbers on the sides of the wooden boards to figure it all out.
Other roles: Our team of 17 international ski and snowboard instructors are a little different to the rest of the NTOs and Olympic workers here. We’re still employed by Phoenix Snow Park and thus retain the same salary, accommodation, meal benefits and hours. The other NTOs are contractors employed by the IOC who get their meals directly from the IOC (in a tent on site) and work according to tasks rather than time. Some days they will work 9am to 9pm if the job calls for it.
Since we’re the outsiders here it means we’re used more flexibly and have been sent to work on the ski/boarder cross course (featuring lots of shoveling) and the training courses (featuring lots of drilling and fencing). Meanwhile, three of our snowboarders have been permanently stationed on the halfpipe where they’ve been shaping the pipe and are now part of the slipping crew.
Just a few days ago I was asked to become the Assistant Chief of Training Course, a second-in-command to my awesome Foreigner Ski School manager. So now my new role is to help organise the use of the training courses we have set up for the ski/boarder cross athletes and parallel giant slalom athletes, as well as the wax testing area (where athletes make sure they have the right wax to go super fast for the conditions).
Where can I see more from you and the team?
Our team are excellent social media posters. The best place for all the behind the scenes goings on and shenanigans are our Instagram pages and stories. Here are some great profiles from our team:
- Alex (that’s me, duh) for general behind the scenes
- Ruth and Jack for moguls
- Mark for halfpipe
- Scott for a bit of aerials and skidoo action
- Lorna and Olivia for team shenanigans.
Wish us luck!