By 1979 things were going so well with the BC Ski Team that Glen Wurtele (the coach) asked me to accompany the team to the Pontiac Cup finals and the Spring Series in Quebec. The Spring Series are especially important for provincial teams because it gives junior racers a chance to compete against National Ski Team and US Ski Team racers. But spring is also a time when warm weather can bring out the worst in ski boots as racers’ feet swell. Because of the importance of these races, most provincial teams brought extra coaches along. But in his typical ‘take the enemy by surprise’ fashion, Wurtele brought a boot technician. Little was he to know that this bold move would set the stage for a successful Canadian assault on the European Juggernaut of World Cup racing, the World Cup Downhill title.
Although I was getting good results with BC Ski Team racers, most of what I was doing, aside from ramp angle, cuff canting and forward lean cuff adjustments, was what I considered band aid boot work. Where the boot allowed, I was starting to do foot alignment. My challenge was that the construction of most boots didn’t allow for significant modification. But in those days any modification was usually an improvement over a stock product.
After the Pontiac Cup finals at Mont St Marie the team moved on to Sutton, Quebec for the Spring Series. The opening race was a GS. The men and women were running the same course. As usual, DeeDee (Diana) Haight was blowing her competition away. She was even beating a lot of the men when the times were compared. For the first run of the men’s GS I was standing about half way down the course at a position beside some National Team coaches. When an National Team racer in a white downhill suit came zooming past me I was taken by how good this guy was skiing. I knew right then and there he could win World Cup races. I turned to one of the coaches and asked, “Who was that racer that just went down the course?” “Podborski“, the coach replied. I had to meet this Podborski. I asked Wurtele to introduce me. He agreed and gave me a quick introduction during lunch. After the second run of the men’s GS, Pod and I retreated to the base lodge to discuss my ideas on ski boots. I rambled on for what seemed like hours. Most would have thought me possessed or perhaps more than a bit eccentric. But after I finished my spiel Podborski calmly said, “When can I come out to Whistler to work with you?” I replied, “As soon as you can get there”. It was game on.
A few weeks later Pod arrived in Whistler. He was skiing on the Austrian Dynafit boot. In those days, it was the most successful boot on the downhill circuit. But it was bloody awful to work on. The large cuff hinge made altering the cuff cant to align with the racer’s leg, something I considered essential, impossible. During the day Pod and I worked on his Dynafits. At night we listened to his favourite group, Steely Dan……..at concert level volume. Working with Pod was a new experience for me. I likened our working relationship to my favourite race car team, Roger Penske and Mark Donahue where results sprung from a collaboration of the crew chief (Penske) who tuned the race car based on input from the driver (Donahue).
I did the best I could with Pod’s Dynafits. As an exceptionally talented skier with the right foot structure (his foot was US men’s size 6 and what was I referred to as ‘stiff’), he could ski in gum boots and probably be competitive. Still, I wasn’t satisfied that the Dynafit allowed me to make the modifications necessary to enable him ski to his full potential. Pod had an OK 1979-1980 season culminating in a bronze medal run in the downhill at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Seeing a photo of him airborne with his skis oriented on their outside edges convinced me that he needed to change boots for the next season. Besides, I had a new idea that I wanted to try.