The Opening Ceremonies happened and the flame is burning in the Olympic Plaza. The only part of it we saw were some fireworks in the distance as we were focused on perfect classic tracks for the Ladies Skiathlon. Not sure where all the people suddenly appeared from but there were thousands of busses coming and going, to and from what was our quiet little town of Daegwallyeong-myeon. Seoul is one of the world’s largest metropolitan cities with ½ of Korean’s 50 million people living there and it is only a 2 hour drive away. Around midnight, after we were finished and trying to get home, our usual 3 minute route was blocked by a line of empty busses ½ km long. With no way to get through, my Norwegian, navigationally challenged, grooming partner, says, “turn around, I know another way back” It certainly was another way back. The police at every intersection were directing traffic and we were somehow shown the way onto the main 4 lane highway. Not exactly what Lars had in mind and I wasn’t overly concerned. There has to be an exit in a km or so where we can get off and turn around. Well almost 50 km later we are near coast where the indoor half of the Olympics are hosted, we finally see an exit. But then, to add to the excitement, there is a toll booth. Do groomers carry wallets when we are working a 5 minute drive away? Not me. Shit…what do we do now? Thankfully we must have looked innocent, foreign perhaps? Or driving a KIA with Pyeongchang Olympic logos? She let us through, and we turned around and got home an hour later than expected. Thank god for Google Maps!!

More about driving in South Korea. In general it is surprisingly civilized and the roads leading in and around the venues are all restricted to VAPP holders. But Korean’s and Roundabouts. May as well call them “Straight-throughs” as that is what they do…from all directions. There are also what we have nick-named “Korean Turns” – a U-turn basically done anywhere. The local groomers also like to do zero radius “Korean Turns” on the race courses. Which nicely augers a big divot into the ski surfaces. And “Korean Parking” – stop your car, leave it running and go into a store in the middle of the street. There are many marked pedestrian crossings, but pedestrians definitely do not have any priority when it comes to cars, trucks, or busses. Either you have to be very bold, or very careful.

We are in Day 3 of the Games and are noticing the increased demand on us. After yesterday’s Men’s Skiathlon, at 19:30, the Jury asked us to do a test grooming setup of the Classic Sprint course in advance of today’s official  sprint training day. That was chaos! It was also Nordic Combined unofficial training at the same time. Nordic Combined Skiers only Skate so it resulted in a slightly heated discussion between the various TD’s. We had a quick dinner onsite and then headed back out around 21:30. A couple hours in, it started to snow and the wind picked up, basically obliterating all of our work. We shut down at midnight, planning to restart at 06:00 in advance of 09:00 course opening time. It was a good call and conditions are beautiful this morning…except for the wind and cold.

Due to the very hard and icy artificial snow, compounded by the constant wind blowing lighter and looser snow off of the courses, we have been asking to use the elusive renovator for 3 weeks. The renovator lives and is being guarded by the Biathlon crew. We finally negotiated borrowing it and it was delivered and installed on the PB 400 which I have been using. It is a very old Bachler renovator with hydraulically operated trips in case you hit something other than snow. The leaky and mismatched hydraulic fittings were quickly repaired and I did a test section of non-race course last night. Together with the Jury we will decide whether I do the entire course tonight. The Korean Biathlon groomers have never used it, so once we do our courses, I will give them a hand to do theirs. I feel it will make a significant improvement. We have done close to 75 laps of each course and there has been lots of skier traffic. That combined with very little new snow, a few days above freezing, and the constant wind, it will be good to cut down and mix the top 10 to 15 cms of surface.

1/ Tracks after a night of wind. This is how they were in one section before the men’s Skiathlon. Forerunners and leaf blowers to the rescue.

2/  Crates of several unopened YTS Ginzu Groomers, with fertilizer spreaders on top. Hopefully we won’t need them.

3/ Assistant Chief of Course and another driver with 2 Ginzus ready to scrub a 250 meter section of classic track after the Classic portion of both Men’s and Women’s Skiathlon.

Need to get some sleep now before we head up for dinner and groom tonight for tomorrow’s Classic Sprint. Hopefully the Jury doesn’t have any last minute changes for us.

Cheers Dirk