I will never forget my last ski race. It was 1998. I stood atop a frozen icy hill in Minnesota about to race my high school’s rival team. As the frigid winds blew the roar of the crowd uphill, I felt the cold air burn my lungs and exploded out of the starting gate. The course was fast. I felt fluid. “Look ahead,” I told myself. “Relax!” And, just at that moment... KABAM!! I was down.
“Oh no! Not at this, the biggest race of the season,” I thought. All my friends and family waited for me near the finish line as I hung my head in lowly shame. It was official, my future as a ski racer was not to be. Fortunately, my family moved to Utah six months later where I was able to trade the fast pace of chasing gates with the more relaxed pastime of skiing powder.
So, what am I doing here tonight? Back on a race course at Park City Mountain Resort for the first night of the Park City Town Race Series. Looking at the roster, I see names like “Ligety” and “Voelker” in the mix. Flashbacks from my Minnesota racing days flood my mind and stop my heart. My feet feel a familiar frozen numb. It’s official, I am ski racing once again.
When asked by my colleagues at Ski Utah to join them on team Yeti Spaghetti, I was thrilled at the chance. For the most part, our team has one goal and strategy in mind... FUN!! While other skiers visualize the course and strip down to their speed-suits, we spend our time socializing at the back of the line and wondering when we will be able to redeem our free beer tickets.
There are four of us. Piercey, Ski Utah creative director, raced out east years ago in college. B-ott and Luke “the Beast” Ratto are new to this discipline of ski-racing, but seasoned competitors in many other sports. As we near the starting gate, I get distracted from the conversation by my fear. “Why are you so nervous?” Piercey asks. “Get pumped. Get psyched. You’re gonna do great!”
There I am, back where I vowed to never be again...at the starting gate. 3-2-1-GO! I’m off. The course is icy with ruts in inconvenient places. Spoiled by The Greatest Snow on Earth®, I have forgotten how to use my edges. Familiar thoughts roll through my brain, “Look ahead. Relax!” Soaring through the finish line I smile and catch my breath. There, I did it! We did it!
Luke comes racing up behind me. “Team Yeti Spaghetti!” he cheers. “We may not win the race, but we’ll win the hearts of the crowd.” We all laugh.
Now where are those beer tickets?