The ski whisperer
A glance around the ski cellar leaves one impressed: Marco Odermatt’s skis are neatly arranged. It’s not clear yet which he’ll be using during World Cup. But what is clear is that he has lots to choose from. And one person is responsible for ensuring they’re all really fast: Christian Lödler, Marco Odermatt’s service man for almost seven years.
Admittedly, watching Chris at work doesn’t have much to do with whispering. He’s currently focusing his attention on the skis for the downhill competitions. Filing, grinding, waxing, screwing. He has 15 pairs for this discipline alone. “As a rule, we have around 10 pairs of skis per discipline. Even more at the World Cup, because you have more time for testing in situ and finding the best match.” They’re also the most important races of the season, so he wants to leave nothing to chance. If you add the giant slalom and Super-G disciplines, you can see around 50 pairs of skis here. As already mentioned, an impressive sight. And it’s clear that Chris is anything but bored.
But if you think that Chris is in the ski cellar 20 hours a day, you’d be wrong. “Of course, there are days when I don’t see much daylight,” admits Chris, somewhat ironically. “But the work we do on the snow is just as important.” This includes, for example, final finishing work on the skis, getting feedback from Marco and assessing the snow conditions in situ.
And that’s always for three different disciplines. Chris can’t say exactly which one is the most time-consuming. “When it comes to speed in the downhill, we don’t get much training done in the summer. That means more work in winter. As for the giant slalom, we can do a lot of testing in the summer, so come winter, it’s all about fine-tuning from race to race.”
And that’s when things can come and go relatively spontaneously. Chris always prepares several skis for a race day. Early in the morning, he goes on the inspection visit to check the conditions, but also assess Marco’s state of mind. How’s he doing today? How’s he feeling? They then select a ski model together. “Fortunately, Marco’s very decisive. That makes my work easier, plus it means he can put all his energy into the main thing, which is to ski quickly.” Then it’s off to the ski cellar for the finishing touches. “Everything that happens from that point on is a secret,” says Chris with a wink. Here we probably get a little closer to the “whispering”.
But what’s becoming increasingly clear is the importance of the personal relationship between the service man and the athlete. “The know-how in the ski cellar is one thing. But you also need to know the athletes, so as to be able to prepare the skis to perfection.” Here too, Chris knows what he’s talking about. He’s been a service man at Stöckli for 12 years. First for Fabienne Suter, then Viktoria Rebensburg. And now for Marco Odermatt. As a service man, Chris has to re-familiarize himself with his athlete every season, not only in terms of their technical skills and skiing style, but also on a personal level. “The equipment should make the racer feel secure and confident. It's the only way they can exploit their full potential.”
But there’s very little time for this. A few tests in the summer, then everything has to be right. So the fact that things worked so well with Marco right from the start is a stroke of luck. Or perhaps not? “It was lucky that Marco and I were at Stöckli at the same time,” says Chris. “The rest is the result of good chemistry, mutual trust and hard work.”
Hard work, which the pair, now in their seventh season, put in day in, day out. Exactly, Chris has been Marco Odermatt’s service man – accompanying him on his journey – since the 2016/17 season. A journey that steadily took them to the top of the world rankings. That makes Chris proud, of course. “What I’m most happy about is the development we’ve worked on together. From the junior world championship titles to establishing a place in the men’s World Cup, including winning the Olympic Games and finally winning the overall World Cup last season.” So now they’ve achieved all they want to achieve? Not at all! “We want to maintain this high level and make further progress, especially in the downhill.” Who knows, maybe that will happen at the World Cup with the next step. One thing’s clear, with Chris working on it, it surely won’t fail.