Thinking of ice on this hot day



“Water has a brain. No one knows this.”    Christian Steinbach

What’s the context?  It’s from an interview done by The New Yorker about this man, nicknamed “the magic ice man.”

Here’s a bit of it:

It’s often said that Alpine skiing is an outdoor sport, a no-duh remark intended to account for the disruptions, delays, and inevitable instances of unfairness caused by wind, fog, warmth, snow, rain, and drought. The Hahnenkamm downhill has been cancelled eight times since the Second World War. On numerous other occasions, the course has been shortened, almost always by moving the start lower. (In those instances, victory comes with a hidden asterisk.) Owing to climate change, natural snow—winter—is less dependable than it used to be, especially in this part of the Alps and at this relatively low altitude. (Even so, the president of the International Ski Federation, the sport’s governing body, known as fis, has denied the existence of climate change.) But the advent, decades ago, of snowmaking and then of other snow-preparation techniques has made the course, and the entire World Cup tour, more reliable, more uniform. Advances in safety precautions have also tamed the trajectories and the consequences of the skiers’ wipeouts, even as better equipment and fitness have enabled the athletes to reach higher speeds.

That evening, at the K.S.C., I met one of the most significant instruments of this transformation, Christian Steinbach—“the magic ice man!,” as McBride called out upon seeing him. Steinbach, a native of Kitzbühel, is the inventor of the system, now all but universally implemented in competition, of injecting water into the snow. Previous means of firming up a racing surface, so that it won’t rut up and fall apart, entailed spraying it with a fire hose or having large groups of people stomp on it—the Austrian Army still deploys to Kitzbühel for this purpose.

The Steinbach “injektion system” consists of six connecting yellow tubes, each five metres long and perforated with nozzles at intervals of ten centimetres. A crew arrays the tubes on the snow in a zigzag pattern and runs water through them. The nozzles can shoot water thirty centimetres deep. Evaporation cools the snow; capillary action distributes the water. The goal is a durable surface—“Not icy, but hard,” Steinbach said. This system was essential to course prep at the Olympics in Pyeongchang, Sochi, Vancouver, and Nagano, whose mild temperatures were not naturally conducive to a firm racing surface.

Here’s the link to the article:,en,pid,34878,nid,110581,type,newsdetail.html


I was fascinated by that quote that water has a brain. Still thinking about it.






Published by ahiggins2013

poet, birder, senior citizen, cancer survivor, Catholic sister. Eight books of poetry published: At the Year’s Elbow, Mellen Poetry Press 2000; Scattered Showers in a Clear Sky, Plain View Press 2007; chapbooks: Pick It Up and Read, Finishing Line Press 2008, How the Hand Behaves, Finishing Line Press 2009, Digging for God, Wipf and Stock 2010, Vexed Questions, Aldrich Press 2013, Reconnaissance, Texture Press 2014, and Life List, Finishing Line Press, 2015.

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