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University of Toronto cross-country skier Erich Schultze sets SkiErg world record

Schultze set the simulated six-kilometre world record in the men’s 19–29 age group

University of Toronto cross-country skier Erich Schultze sets SkiErg world record

The machine that Erich Schultze is standing in front of is called a SkiErg. Schultze, a law student from Boston, is about to attempt to set a world record for the fastest time to complete a simulated six-kilometre ski course in the men’s 19–29 age group.

Visually, the SkiErg is an unremarkable machine: atop a fanned flywheel sit two metal rods in a V shape, both ends holding drive cords with strapless handles. It stands at seven feet tall, only slightly taller than Schultze himself.

Eamon Kelly, a second-year undergraduate student and coach of the university’s ski team, explains that the SkiErg is a one-motion machine: it simulates a move called “double-poling” which is a key component of cross-country skiing.

The machine is also valuable to the team because it allows them to train when the weather outside is suited for wearing shorts. Because the city’s snowfalls are sporadic and quick to melt, the University of Toronto’s Nordic ski team relies on the SkiErg to supplement what they lack due to climate. 

At exactly 10:00 am on Saturday, February 24, Schultz pulls at the handles of the SkiErg and the world record attempt officially begins. The whirring of the machine’s wheel is loud, and the sound bounces from wall to wall in the small, cramped training room.

Damian Langton, a newbie to the skiing team, records the attempt with his camera. If all goes well, this should last 20 minutes. Kelly, meanwhile, fills me in on the history of Nordic skiing teams in Ontario. He mentions that his team lost varsity status at U of T last year.

Varsity status is important to a university sports team: not only does it help with funding, but it also makes it easier to recruit members. As of now, U of T’s Nordic ski team has eight active members — all of whom stand at different levels. Langton and Schultze, who is still working away at the machine, are new to the sport, while Kelly has been skiing since he was very young. Langton vouches for Kelly, stressing that the coach is supportive and encouraging to everyone, regardless of their level.

Nordic ski teams are all but absent in Toronto. U of T is the only university in the city to uphold one — in the province of Ontario, there are only 10 university teams altogether. You would think that participating in a sport whose community is small and spread out would be discouraging, but all three members in the room assert that they receive nothing but support from other teams and alumni. In fact, Kelly tells me that there is an alumni ski event scheduled for the very next day.

Schultze is nearing his last two kilometres on the SkiErg. He concentrates on a small screen in front of him, which tells him his split, or time per metre, which is his favourite metric to focus on. He was originally only a member of the rowing team, but he decided to take up skiing to stay active throughout the entire year. Skiing seemed like a natural choice because its motions are similar to those of rowing — the teams even train on similar SkiErgs.

There are only 100 metres left for Schultze, so he speeds up and sprints to the finish. He completes six kilometres on the SkiErg in about 21 minutes — roughly 285 metres for every minute. Enough to set the new world record.

It’s an exciting, albeit calm, moment. This cements the end of the skiing season for the team, a nice send-off until next September. Outside, the snow is packed thick and high, a result of the city expeiencing back-to-back snowstorms, but U of T’s Nordic ski team is closing up shop.

Schultze, who broke this same record last year but was beaten later on in the year by a skier from Great Britain, likes to attempt records at the end of seasons to track his personal progress. The SkiErg is a relatively new machine, he explains. Records are in their infancy, only a handful of names deep. He expects his record to be broken within the coming years, but for now, it’s his.

Schultze won’t be returning to the ski team next year, but Kelly and Langton will continue to grow a team that, despite experiencing some shake-ups in the past year, has remained resilient and eager to compete.

“The surfing of the north”

The Varsity talks to U of T’s ski and snowboard club about the importance of winter sports

“The surfing of the north”

Although we’ve been enjoying an unprecedentedly warm February, it doesn’t mean that quintessential winter Canadian sports are out of the question for fun and exercise this season. A good old-fashioned Canadian winter isn’t absolutely necessary for many winter sports.

Alexander Magony and Layan Zananiri, co-presidents of the University of Toronto Ski and Snowboard Club (UTSSC), explained, “The conditions have actually been better than other years, surprisingly.”

Open to the public, the UTSSC provides the opportunity for everyone — from those who have participated in winter sports for their entire lives, to people who have never seen snow before — to partake in some of Canada’s favourite pastimes. The club’s upcoming reading week trip — five days at Mont-Sainte-Anne and Le Massif — is the UTSSC’s main event and promises authentic winter conditions.

The Varsity sat down with the co-presidents to discuss how the club plans on promoting winter sports and how undervalued winter sports are on campus. 

The Varsity: What are some of the benefits of winter sports that students may not be aware of? 

Alexander Magony: “I find that winter sports in general have this sort of vibe like you’re making something good out of a bad situation since its cold and everyone is sort of miserable so it gives a kind of excitement to the winter season and snow… I feel like everyone who’s into winter sports tend to be more easy going [and] tend to be more social, it’s not very intense. It really is like the surfing of the north.” 

TV: How does the UTSSC promote winter sports on campus without a crucial element of winter: snow?

Layan Zananiri: “Our club is only recreational… it’s not like we’re going out searching for people who are amazing at snowboarding or amazing at skiing. Our only purpose is to promote skiing and snowboarding and community feel. So a lot… of the things that we do involve group stuff — it’s all about making friends and building [a] community.”

AM: “Skiing and snowboarding is in and of itself a very social sport…I know for me, being in pre med there’s a very certain type of population of students [in my program] and when I came to the ski club it felt like I was meeting all the other students…or there’s a general feel to the socialization within class.”

TV: Do you find that the cost of winter sports could be a barrier as to why some people do not participate?

AM: “It’s definitely one of the biggest barriers. It just depends on how much value I guess you get out of it… so it just depends on how you kind of justify it. It’s definitely expensive in an absolute sense and I’m sure that’s a barrier to many people.”

LZ: “But for what it is, when you’re comparing what we offer [compared to]… how much people usually pay for going out for seven trips to a mountain it’s affordable for people who are really interested in it.”

TV: Do you get a lot of people joining the UTSSC that have never skied or snowboarded before? How do you ensure they have a positive experience?

LZ: “So we actually offer free lessons for the first two trips up to Mount St Louis and we’ve had people that literally have never seen snow before — they’re coming from the Middle East, like literally have never felt temperature below five degrees…and so we coach them through that. We’ll teach them… through the trails how to ski and [how to take a lift] which is not easy the first time.”

AM: “Skiing and snowboarding is kind of nice to because you can kind of go at your own pace so as long as you’ve learned to stop and turn, which is what we try to get down in the first weeks. You can pretty much self teach yourself just by doing it at your own pace, how you’re comfortable and just moving up slowly.”

LZ: “Yeah, après ski!”