Nordic combined 101: Equipment
The equipment needed for nordic combined – as the name would suggest – uses both the equipment for ski jumping and the equipment for cross-country skiing.
Ski jumping skis: The maximum length of a competitor’s skis is 145% of his height. However, if an athlete’s body mass index (BMI) is under 21, then the skier must shorten his skis in relation to FIS regulations. To calculate the BMI, multiple the ski jumper’s weight in pounds by 703 then divide that by his height in inches squared. Jumping skis are very light, but must have a minimum weight conforming to their length, in the ratio of 100 centimeters (39.37 inches) to 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds).
Bindings: The binding must be mounted parallel to the run-direction and must be placed so that a maximum of 57 percent of the entire ski length is before the bindings. They are meant to unfasten from the boots in case of a fall.
Boots: The boots used in ski jumping are designed to allow the skier to lean forward during the flight. They are high-backed, flexible yet firm with a low cut at the front.
Connection cord: The connection cord, which is part of the binding, attaches the ski to the boot and prevents the skis from wobbling during flight.
Ski jumping suit: All portions of the ski jumping suit must be made of the same, spongy microfiber material and must show certain air permeability. The thickness of the suit must be bewteen 4.0 millimeters and 6.0 mm (about one-fifth of one inch). The suits must conform to the body shape in an upright position with a maximum tolerance of 2 centimeters to the body size at any part of the suit. Exceptions are the anterior sleeve length and the anterior crotch length, where the maximum tolerance is 4 centimeters.
The most common reason for disqualification is having a suit with insufficient air permeability. At the 2006 Olympics, Norwegian ski jumpers Lars Bystoel and Sigurd Pettersen were disqualified after the first round of the normal hill competition for that reason. (Bystoel was later reinstated and went on to win the gold medal.)
Gloves: The inner side of most ski jumping gloves is made of goat leather, while the outer side must be made of the same microfiber material as the suit. They are fastened with a velcro tape around the wrist.
Helmet: Full head protection has been compulsory since the 1980s. The helmet improves aerodynamic flight and protects the head in case of a fall.
Goggles: All jumpers use eye protection to prevent tearing of the eyes.
Bindings: Bindings secure only the toe of the boot to the ski.
Boots: The cross-country boot is attached to the ski with a binding that holds the toe firmly in place. The back of the boot is built to prop up the ankle, which is under constant pressure in the skating technique.
Poles: Cross-country poles are long and straight and often reach up as high as a competitor's chin. The poles have a specially shaped basket that allows skiers to push hard and clear snow.
Skis: Cross-country skis are narrower and lighter than those used in Alpine skiing. The skis, which can be up to 2m long, have curved ends and rise slightly in the middle.
Suit: The suit worn in cross-country skiing is made of a stretchy fabric that hugs the body.
Wax: Technology plays an important role in almost all Winter Games sports, and Nordic combined is no exception. All the cross-country equipment – skis, boats and poles – are obviously crucial to the sport, but there is no doubt that another substance – wax – has as much impact on race results as any of the equipment. Without the right choice of wax before the race, a skier has no chance to be successful.
There are hundreds of kinds of wax — with more being created all the time — but every wax in cross-country skiing can be grouped into one of two categories. The first is glide wax, which decreases the friction between the fiberglass skis and the snow. The other is kick wax, also known as grip wax, which increases the friction between the skis and the snow. For races using the skating technique, which is the case for all Nordic combined events, only glide wax is used, because skiers use the edge of the skis to grip the snow. For classical races, both waxes are used. Technicians make wax choices based primarily on weather conditions, taking into account temperature, snow type and humidity.
There isn’t a simple chart for technicians to determine the wax, though most teams have a database system to store information from all the tests run prior to the competition. Then on race day technicians can match the current conditions to the conditions from the database to help pick the wax. Still, picking the right wax is as much an art as a science. And that’s why a ski technician who is able to consistently pick the right wax is as important to a skier as a good coach or great skis.
The night before the race ski technicians stay up throughout the night, monitoring weather and snow conditions and testing various combinations of wax. In the morning, they prepare several sets of skis, all with different wax combinations. The skiers test the skis, give feedback to the technicians, who make adjustments. The final call on the wax setup to use is the athlete’s.