Jun 19 2013

Boots Off

Eventually, every athlete leaves the field of play. Last year, watching Didier Cuche take his ceremonial final run at World Cup Finals on wooden skis, leather boots, and a wool suit, all borrowed from a nearby ski museum, was not only entertaining to watch and one hell of a way to retire, but also beautiful. Few athletes get to leave the sport when they want, and even fewer get to leave with their boots on. Didier got to do both, and although I was healthy at the time of his retirement, still five days before my next big knee injury, I knew the significance of what he was doing. A week later it was only more apparent, and writing this exactly a year since my last ACL surgery, it’s nothing short of inspiring.

 

I’m headed to business school in the fall. I was able to tell a story to the admissions committee at the Tuck School of Business about an independent skier who set his goal on being a part of the White Circus, even if it meant having to operate outside the development system of the US Ski Team. I spoke about holding fundraisers and landing sponsors, and how no two years were funded the same way. I explained that I was in charge of budgeting, coordinating, and executing my own international travel schedule to support a world class training and racing program, and that even with all the meticulous planning, that the ability to change plans on a moment’s notice had just as much value. I wrote about the team aspect of ski racing and how individual world ranks, while they are the measuring stick of success and the gatekeeper of career progression, are anything but individual. Those rankings are the hard work of coaches who have dedicated their lives towards making others faster, and of other athletes who genuinely have your best interests at heart.

 

Anecdotes and stories from the road spilled onto my application. Situations that didn’t seem like a big deal at the time turned into great vignettes for life as an independent skier. For one, the cost-efficiencies Adam Cole, Dane Spencer, and I employed in Alpe di Suisi, a valley notorious for steep hotel prices, by seeking out guesthouses on local farms. Greeting the farmer’s doorstep with bad German and big American smiles, we found comfort in large lofts above the barn that were a fraction of the cost of a hotel, had a full kitchen, wifi, and were immaculately clean (we were in Südtirol after all). During my interview, I argued that the cadence of ski racing and the inherent downtime creates a great environment for entrepreneurial thinking. I talked about rooming with Jimmy Cochran at the World Cup in Bansko, and the time we spent tweaking his delivery methods and operations for his growing maple syrup business, Slopeside Syrup, back home in VT. I could have just as easily talked about the countless chairlift and t-bar rides spent with Warner Nickerson and others comparing marketing strategies, sharing creative ways to land sponsorships, or my personal favorite: how to beat the airlines. There are a million stories like these in the ski world.

 

All of those experiences pale in comparison to the ones shared while working as a youth mentor with In The Arena. Any time I wanted to feel sorry for myself about the opportunities I might not have had given my independent status, I could point to the Hazen Union Track and Field team in Hardwick, VT that I coached one Spring after breaking my collarbone at NorAm Finals. With no track and no field of their own to train on, the team was ecstatic when I laid down a 200m oval around the school parking lot with sidewalk chalk (turns out high school geometry does come in handy). With training shirts that read “No Track, No Field, No Problem”, the Hazen team held their own at plenty of meets, including the Vermont state championships where they recorded 18 personal records to round out the season. Some of them now compete in track and field at college.

 

In short, it wasn’t hard to find things to talk about. Ski racing and everything that goes with it prepares you for a lot more than how to get down the hill quickly.

 

The choice to make this pivot in my life wasn’t an easy one. I don’t know that anything will compare to being a ski racer, but I am excited about the new challenges in front of me and I feel lucky as hell to have taken the ride this far. I’m still not able to completely hang them up, I did after all get my FIS license for this upcoming season. I’m just going to have to pick my races carefully, as my uncontested streak of victories over baby brother is unblemished and I’d like to keep it that way.

 

I’m looking forward to continue representing the athletes as the Alpine Athlete Rep to the USSA, that hasn’t slowed a bit. Just because I won’t be in the starting gate as often doesn’t mean that the problems affecting the sport go away, or even that they get put in the rear view mirror. We don’t all get to walk away from the sport on our own terms, but I’ve realized through this last year of rehabbing and trying to get back that you never truly leave the sport if you don’t want to, and that this cuts both ways. The same people who supported me when I was racing were the same people encouraging me to get back on snow, and they’re the same people offering their support now. Ski racing is the community I feel at home with, the one where conversations from the previous spring can pick up the next fall, or a year later, on a dime without pretense or formality. The sport is about skiing your best, but it requires working with others and giving honest feedback, as well as receiving it. No [Charles], you didn’t have a good run. Yes, I actually did ski out of my mind. Those are some of the best conversations I’ve ever had, with my friends and competitors (I’m looking at you Greg Hardy). What more could you ask for.

 

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May 20 2013

Hammertime at the Congress

The USSA Congress is absolutely nuts. It’s 5 days of back-to-back-to-back meetings that addresses every conceivable area of the sport of ski racing, from the width of a slalom pole (and the designation that it shouldn’t be referred as a gate) to the size of the collegiate quota for US Nationals if the NCAA champion doesn’t attend to disciplinary actions if an athlete at a USSA-affiliated camp uses marijuana in a state like Washington or Colorado after it is legalized (sorry hippies, it’s still a no-no) to my personal favorite, a request for more involvement with ski racing with Big Ten schools. I’m envisioning a night slalom in the Big House now…Add in the equally, if not more, important meetings and meals with the constituency, USSA coaches and officials, trustees, college coaches, etc., and it makes for a very involved couple of days. In all, the Congress was a fantastic experience and I think it was useful in creating policy to shape ski racing in the US in a more positive way.

 

Working with Chip Knight and Gina Gassman, the athlete reps to the USOC and USSA, respectively, we staffed many of the committees to hit the minimum 20% requirement of athlete representation as mandated by the Ted Stevens Amateur Athletic Act. I am now formally an athlete rep to following alpine committees: Executive Committee, Development and Education Subcommittee, Collegiate Working Group, Quotas and Selections Committee, and Judicial Committee. I’m told this is a lot of work, but each of these subcommittees is important, and I can’t think of one that I shouldn’t be on. Besides, I sat in on each of these committees this year, many of them had 2 or even three sessions, so if I didn’t collapse this time then might as well keep chugging!

 

Also, it has been recommended that there be athlete representation on each regional board. The current alpine athlete reps and I have been asked to submit recommendations to the USSA to fill out these positions (we might even choose them, it’s yet to be determined). I think the idea of athlete involvement on the regional level is a great one, and necessary to ensure that the end-user of the product of USSA ski racing is being considered in every decision making process. One only needs to have competed in the last 10 years to be eligible, so I encourage any and everyone who takes the future of their sport seriously to contact me (charleschristianson@gmail.com) and I will explain in further detail what being an a regional athlete rep would entail, and all the ass-kicking that you can do with a voice and a vote.

 

One of the best parts about the Congress was the amount of engagement that the USSA officials expressed and wanted to have with myself and the other athlete reps. Scott Macartney said it best last fall when he stated, “there is no ‘man behind the curtain’ at the USSA.” That is not to say that I agree with all of the policies of the USSA, we certainly have more work to do in a lot of areas, but I never experienced a moment where the opportunity to engage the appropriate people wasn’t available. Luke Bodensteiner, USSA Executive Vice President of Athletics, was very helpful in directing me toward which parties would best handle each concern that I brought forth on behalf of the athletes. Through this process I was able to address certain issues off-line, like billing practices for unfunded USST athletes, creating opportunities for collegiate skiers to train with the Team, and putting in requests to expand quotas to certain European January races that are historically oversubscribed.

 

In terms of formal motions put forth during the Congress, it was fitting that Gina and I sponsored a motion to support a student USSA license for USCSA athletes, specifically, “to support Student License with USSA and collegiate head tax component program for affordable collegiate ski racing”. The USCSA, a group of 178 colleges across the country boasting a 4,700 member group of largely self-organized, funded, and coached collegiate ski racers and snowboarders, left the USSA last year after a shift in the head-tax policy increased costs by a factor of 3-4. I, along with many others, believe that our sport’s national governing body is most complete when it represents all groups of the ski racing groups in this country. The task force charged with deploying the findings of the McKinsey report is going to take on assessing the viability of this proposed USSA license tier, from the cost structure to the access that this type of license will provide. I look forward to learning these findings and moving one step closer toward including the USCSA back under the umbrella of the USSA.

 

I want to thank everyone who helped me get up to speed and allowing me to be a more effective athlete rep than I otherwise would be. It was great to learn that many issues can be discussed in an open and productive setting, and I look forward to more opportunities to represent the athlete’s voice in these discussions. Time to do some serious follow up!

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May 06 2013

Gearing up for the USSA Congress

In a little more than a week the powers that be in US Skiing will meet in Park City, UT for the annual USSA Congress. The 5-day event is open to all USSA members and features meetings of sport committees and subcommittees, as well as the USSA Board of Directors. Here is a link to the schedule. Over the past couple of months, I have gotten the chance to meet or speak with a number of people involved in the USSA, most notably Dexter Paine (Chairman, Board of Directors), Bill Marolt (CEO), Luke Bodensteiner (Executive VP, Athletics), Darryl Landstrom (Chairman, Alpine Sport Committee) and various trustees, all of whom have been helpful explaining the complexities of the USSA and what they see as the most pressing issues. I consider it a privilege to engage the top executives in the sport as the Athlete Rep on how to continue moving US Skiing in a positive direction and share the feedback that I have received from USSA members on this topic thus far.

 

My tentative schedule at the Congress is to serve on the Athlete’s Advisory Council, the Board of Directors, and focus on the subcommittees and working groups within the Alpine Sport Committee that are most relevant to my role as Alpine Athlete Rep: the Development and Education Subcommittee, the Collegiate Working Group, and the Quotas and Selections Working Group. I have been in touch with the chair of all three groups to announce my intentions and learn the best way I can serve in these meetings. This may involve presenting in front of the group or simply advising on issues, each group has their own format.

 

As you might have guessed, navigating what committee or working group to sit on or speak at is no easy feat. A lot of the alignment of working groups and subcommittees has come under review, not just within the USSA but their regional structure and partnership with local clubs. The latter was  addressed in the McKinsey Study released a little over a week ago. The consulting firm proposed a more streamlined approach of governance in accordance with a best practice NGB model, as well as suggestions for improved communications and strengthened club and member value. I support any type of process that achieves these goals, and I am excited to see what the result of the actions the USSA takes to make this happen. However, I was disappointed to see that out of the 100 interviews performed by McKinsey, only 8 were with parents or athletes of the USSA. More alarming was the fact that this “perspective” of USSA stakeholders was not evaluated using traditional interviews, but through their own analysis of a 2012 USSA general survey. McKinsey also groups interviews with Board members and other USSAs who were parents or athletes into this bucket (I was not interviewed), bringing into question how relevant they saw this group in providing input toward building a better organizational structure. Therefore, it is all the more remarkable that the need for a broader communication with the members was still an outcome of this report. Also impressive is the fact that the USSA has already sought to implement these changes to strengthen the communication and transparency between them and the regional and club levels. It’s good to hear that people are listening, should make for an interesting week!

 

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Apr 25 2013

Mammoth Invitational

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Every year I try to ski my last day of the season at Mammoth Mountain, in California. While other mountains are shutting down operations for the season, or should be shutting down from poor snow coverage, Mammoth is different. The mountain boasts 100 percent open terrain, cold temps at night, lots of April sun…and it’s in California. This makes for a perfect time to host the Mammoth Invitational, a 3-day fundraiser benefiting the Mammoth Lakes Community Fund, which provides funding for educational and athletic programs for the local youth. The participants, mostly from LA, are paired up with a professional skier as a coach, and compete in numerous activities from a biathlon to an alpine ski race to casino night.
 

The pro alpine race can get rather serious (Dave Chodunsky got me by three hundredths for the overall…damn him), but with about 13 ways to “win” each event, having a good costume can be just as important as having a fast time. As one of the pro coaches, my job is to make sure my group is having a good time, and maybe teach a thing or two about ski technique. This being my third year volunteering at the event, I’ve worked with groups that wanted to train gates and do one-ski drills during a snow storm, and others that simply wanted someone to go big mountain skiing with.
 

This year’s group, the Go Go Glacier Girls, were definitely into matching outfits and having a good time, but also happened to be some of the best skiers at the event. Armed with some, shall we say, loud team clothing options, we skied all over Mammoth for two days and had a great time at the accompanying events.
 

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I was a little hesitant to wear this costume, and really felt that I could have taken the title without my technicolor fur leggings (the headdress was gone by the time I got to the top of the lift)…
 

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But if this is what the winner’s team is wearing to banquet night, then I’m not so sure I lost after all, haha, nice look Dave!

 

With World Cup victories, Olympic medals, or X Games golds all represented within the pool of coaches at the event, the opportunity to be included with the amazing group of other athletes and professional ski coaches is humbling. I hope to continue working with the program in the future, and can’t think of a better way to spend time giving back to the sport that has provided me with so much. Here’s to a wrap on the ski season!
 

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Oh hey Glen Plake, nice bus

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Apr 18 2013

Final Four

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Here’s to the nerds.
 
Especially those that win awards, like tickets to the Final Four. The NCAA, in an effort to promote their student-athlete objective, recently established the NCAA Elite 89 Award, an award that honors the top GPA earner in each sport competing in his/her NCAA national championship. The prize: two tickets to the Final Four men’s basketball tournament. As I am almost 5 years removed from my college career, I never had the opportunity to win this newly created award (that, and my freshman fall econ grade quickly put an end to this ever happening to me). However, Andreas Haug, a good friend from Norway and current student at Colorado University, was in fact the winner of this prize, boasting an impressive GPA of 3.98 as a starting member of CU’s 2 national skiing championships in the last three years. And as a displaced Norwegian, he needed an energetic friend who had an intimate knowledge (or at least a baseline) of basketball knowledge and enjoyed big time competitions. Guess who he asked…
 

That’s right, this weekend Andreas and I enjoyed all that was Bracketville in ATL. Outdoor concerts from Zac Brown Band to Ludacris, watching a basketball game with a capacity crowd at the Georgia Dome, and lower bowl tickets to two a night of great competition, the trip was all that we could have hoped for. Big time collegiate sports are alive and well.
 
I had a lot of fun just playing tour guide for Andreas, as he had never before been to the South, and didn’t really follow basketball. I prepped him throughout the week with video clips of everything from crunk music of Lil’ Jon to the ESPN documentary on the Fab Five. By Saturday night Haug actually knew some of the college basketball greats being honored at halftime (as a newly minted Michigan fan he booed Christian Laettner) and had enjoyed meals from chicken and waffles to fried catfish.
 
I’m really hoping that Andreas keeps his grades up this year, and most importantly that that he needs a tour guide to next year’s Final Four in Dallas. We both agreed that skiing has allowed us to travel the world and experience so many different things that we would otherwise never be a part of. An out of season weekend trip to the South certainly fell into that category, and we were lucky to be a part of such a fun experience.
 

Finally, not everything can be taught in a classroom. The morning after the Final Four, Andreas and I agreed that hitting some golf balls at a driving range would be the perfect amount of activity before we departed the Peach State. As children of the 21st century, we simply entered “golf driving range” into our iPhones and chose the closest pin to our location. With our head down and attention focused solely on our directions, it wasn’t until we were about 3 tenths of a mile away from our destination that we realized we were in a strip mall, and that a golf course would be a tight squeeze for the area. Not to mention it was Sunday in the South and everything was closed. Our suspicions were confirmed when Siri told us we reached our destination…Here’s to a higher education!
 

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Mar 25 2013

Business Trip

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Conference Room A

 

I love California. Especially in March, and especially in the mountains. This last week Squaw Valley hosted the US Alpine Championships, putting on a great event with all the flare that one would expect from a Cali destination ski area known for big mountain skiing, a deep passion for ski racing, and having fun in the process (name another ski area that throws pool parties…at the top of the mountain).
 

US Nationals is the last time of year when the majority of the ski racing community is gathered in one spot, making it an ideal venue as Alpine Athlete Rep to meet with athletes and learn about current issues. These meetings took place on a chairlift, at the race finish, at the banquet, or later at night. I selflessly threw myself into as many of these social situations as I could, and got the chance to speak with a lot of athletes who shared their experiences from this season. I also got the chance to speak with USSA staff members, most notably Bill Marolt for almost an hour.
 

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 College athlete and industry meeting with Robby Kelley’s brother Tim, and Super Rep Ethan Korpi

 

With the USSA Congress less than 2 months away, this was a great way to start formalizing thoughts and opinions to communicate on behalf of the athletes during these meetings. I am also in the process of learning as much as I can about the Alpine Sport Committee, the branch within the USSA in charge of discussing current and proposed policy, and notifying which subcommittees I plan to speak at. Darryl Landstrom, the Chairman of the ASC, has been very helpful instructing me on the procedure and format of the meetings throughout the week . At first glance the organizational structure can be a bit confusing, but with proper guidance it has become much clearer.

 

I encourage any USSA athlete to contact me directly about any issue he or she might have regarding their position within the USSA organization or the USST. The earlier that I can learn about the issues the better, in order to give each issue the time it deserves.

 

Cheers to all of the athletes on a great season of ski racing. I am looking forward to being in Vail next weekend and then rounding out the season back in Mammoth Mountain at the Mammoth Invitational in April. If anyone would like to meet during these times, maybe discus things between ripping some turns, let me know!

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Feb 19 2013

World Champs, Baby!



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What. A. Week.
 

Last weekend, I ran into Trace Smith, fellow Burke racer, current member of the Dartmouth Ski Team, card-carrying member of the USSA (for those keeping track), and dual citizen of the USA and Estonia. Trace was leaving the next morning for Alpine World Championships in Schladming, Austria, and mentioned that as the sole representative of his Baltic nation, his national ski federation wasn’t sending any support staff his way for the event. He already had Eddie Hauck, Dartmouth assistant coach and ex-pro skier from Back in the Day, who knew the area and many of the people organizing the event, but all the moving parts of such a large event can stretch even the most seasoned coach pretty thin. Trace told me that he could use all the help he could get over there, kicking off a 24-hour am-I-really-going-to-do-this process that involved getting the go-ahead both at work and by the Estonia and WC organizers in time. There was also the issue of lining up a flight to Europe and transport to Schladming on 24-hours notice, but I had more experience in this area than anywhere else. By Tuesday night, I had a flight booked to MUC leaving the next day, and I had a credential waiting for me as a coach for Estonia at World Champs.
 

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As an athlete ranked outside of the top 50 in the world, Trace had to compete in qualifying races the day before the WC GS and SL. He also had to finish in the top 25 if he wasn’t ranked in the top 25 in that race. This meant that he would be racing full-on for 4 days in a row, making for an even more hectic schedule.

 

I originally assumed that the qualification races would be easy course sets on a moderate hill, in order to accommodate all 139 competitors from a record 55 countries, and the wide (wide) range of ability level. Not in Austria. The race venue for the qualifying races, held at the neighboring hill the Reiteralm, was fully injected, included a 46 degree pitch, and was in the shade. The course was icier and steeper than the WC race hill; it was an eliminator. My ”Marcel Hirscher package” of rental skis and boots, courtesy of United Airlines failing to send my bags all the way to MUC, had little chance of stopping on the pitches during inspection. Unfortunately for some of the competition, they couldn’t hold an edge either and slid down the pitches with me.
 

Trace punched his ticket to both the WC GS and SL, making for a fast-paced trip. The Men’s GS race was an incredible day, living up to its billing as “Ted vs. Hirscher”. The course had a ton of terrain and ended with a steep last pitch into the finish, providing an intense final 25 seconds of skiing. Trace went out first run so we all caught the second run from the bottom of the hill, and witnessed the intensity of the crowd when Hirscher came through with a time that people thought might challenge Ted’s eventual victory. This much is true: ski racing is alive and well in Austria.

 

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Trace’s skiing and results kept building on themselves, culminating with an impressive performance on the final day at the WC SL. Having qualified the day before by finishing 20th from bib 38 (and snapping a DNF streak that stretched back to 2012), Trace responded to the truly incredible atmosphere on Sunday and placed 36th from bib 74. Any time you can cut your bib in half it’s a good day, but to do it at World Championships it’s almost unbelievable. Trace heads from this event straight to World Junior Championships, and will hopefully build off the momentum he created and extend his new SL hot streak.

 

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With all 4 Austrians in the top 8 after the first run, the crowd was pretty jacked up…during inspection

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Even while everyone on the course was at a stand still, it was nice to see that Hirscher was still able to properly execute the Austrian inspection with classic form

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And speaking of classic, I was able to get a shot of Pranger going over the course at the bottom of inspection. Just too good to pass up!

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A big thanks to Tiina Smith and everyone involved with making this experience what it was; a great time at World Champs that produced impressive results. Eddie was a blast to work with and I was honored to join him on the Estonian coaching crew. He let me play to my strengths as a coach and provided me with laser-focused course reports that I’d then relay to Trace at the start. There are so many small stories to explain in one blog post, but I’m sure the pictures will do a better job anyway. Crush WJRs in Quebec, Trace!

 

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Trace, getting some media love by none other than Christine Feehan from Alpine Press

 

 

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What was supposed to be a dinner with the Shiffrins and Leevers turned into a media blitz after Mikaela was victorious in the SL. First stop, ORF!

 

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A rare moment of calm during the post-victory tour at the Audi tent with the Shiffrin and Leever family. Taylor and I ended up being bodyguards throughout the night to fend off over enthusiastic, picture-wanting fans.

 

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The big names of the week on the men’s side were Svindal, Ligety, and Hirscher… and Jamaica Mike. Outfitted with an unmistakable uniform, a small army of handlers (the over-under on the total was 10), and a team slogan that read “Mike vs You”, Jamaica Mike was a legit star at World Champs.
 

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 Estonia clearly needed a physio, and who was able to answer the call but medically certified Julian Schreib! Luckily we had no injuries so Jules was not in high demand, and he may have even been able to catch some of the race!

 

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 It’s not every day the you get time with the most popular coach in ski racing. It was great to see a lot of friends in the coaching world, all in all an unforgettable experience.

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Feb 11 2013

Stiiill Got It!

 

I planned to spend this week at the Dartmouth Skiway, meeting up with old friends from the racing circuit, speaking with the athletes about what, if anything, they felt needed to be addressed at the USSA Board of Directors meeting in May, and having an all around good time. Instead, Friday travel plans were a total bust, Nemo knocked out the power to the chairlifts at the Skiway, and the races were ultimately cancelled.

 

This would typically make for a blown weekend. As it turned out, it was anything but: Saturday proved to be a great day for flying into Lebanon, I saw plenty of skiers (just because the races were cancelled didn’t mean the surrounding events were), and I got in a truly memorable day of skiing up at Burke under bluebird conditions.

 

Apart from getting the first opportunity this season to really charge on my GS skis, the USST women’s Europa Cup team happened to be training in the morning and the coaches asked me to set the track for their course. This, easily, made my day. I certainly was not planning to jump back into gates on the trip, but this was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

 

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If I’m being honest, my first run left a lot to be desired. My timing was more than a little off, and before I knew it I was setting a track that definitely should not have been followed. However, I cycled back around, begged forgiveness, and ultimately skied a much better run. And if I’m being REALLY honest I was timing, and maybe did a few fist pumps afterwards when I saw that I didn’t get “chicked”…it’s a long road back to the top, but you’ve got to start somewhere!! Thanks a bunch to Seth, Prado, Chief, and the gracious USST ladies for letting me grab a couple turns in their course. My arms are sore as hell from taking on GS gates without any gear, my knee is a little angry at me right now after an entire day of skiing (an anomaly as a ski racer), but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Jan 28 2013

The Granddaddy of Them All

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I’m not sure another ski trip is ever going to compare to the slingshot tour I took last spring to race the World Cup in Kranjska Gora, but this journey across the pond was one I’ll never forget.

 

Like most things, it was people that made this trip such a great experience. Even before I left the States, I found myself sitting on the airplane from IAD-MUC next to long-time ski racer badass Resi Stiegler, on her own European trip to race the World Cup in Maribor that weekend. Hearing about her season, sharing ski stories from the past, and watching bad airplane movies (Taken 2 is borderline unwatchable) was a great way to kick things off. Our crew, a three-man team including my brother and a former Williams teammate, Alex Reeves, all shook off the jet lag and first stopped in Salzburg to grab lunch and pay an impromptu visit to my host family from my time abroad at Salzburg College. I didn’t call the host family beforehand, I simply knocked on the door and scared the hell out of them when I came in for the bear hug (it’s been a few years). Nothing like operating on no sleep to make snap decisions! That night, Nicholas got his first taste of ski racing, Austria style, at the night slalom in Westendorf. I think he had more fun than all of us combined.

 

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Grabbing some free wifi at the universal meeting spot for ski racers flying into MUC

 

Baby bro at Westendorf. Great to know the USST jacket still gets me VIP parking, just a great combination of shameless and awesomeness!

 

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Westendorf

 

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Kieffer and Nicholas showing Euros what Duck Face is all about…my family.

 

Basing out of Kirchberg, a racing and training hotspot located about 8 minutes from Kitzbuhel, turned out to be a great idea. On top of the apartment being a fantastic deal, it allowed us to escape from the madness of Kitzbuhel when we wanted to, and also meant we could meet with Kieffer and other racers outside of a pure competition environment. Our housing location got even better when I got a call from a good great Austrian friend, Julian Schrieb. He housed Adam Cole and myself more than a couple of times during our trips over to Europe, and I was planning to meet up with him sometime during the weekend to say hi and thanks for his generosity over the years.

 

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It was great to get in some runs at the old stomping grounds

 

As it turns out, Jules now works with Red Bull and was helping with one of the many pre-Hahnenkamm functions that surrounds the event. This one happened to be a dune buggy snow race, featuring various Red Bull athletes like 3-time Hahnenkamm champion Luc Alphand, Daron Rhalves, Mr. Stratos Felix Baumgartner, and a whole bunch of rally car champions. Daron was actually forerunning the downhill the next day, and confided that he only decided to jump back on the race skis a week ago. He casually mentioned that he hadn’t touched his downhill skis since retiring 7 years ago. Considering that the Hahnenkamm is one of the most dangerous races in the world, this is quite unbelievable; Daron is not only crazy, he really is the man. Nicholas is a complete motorhead so he was in heaven, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the completely ridiculous situation that we were in for no good reason. It was only appropriate that I was once again in debt to Julian.

 

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I really, really wanted to drive one of these things

 

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Mr. Stratos

 

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A Patrick Willis jersey for Julian as a small thank you, and just in time for the Super Bowl!

 

The day of the Hahnenkamm Downhill had bluebird weather, and made for great viewing. Kitzbuhel is rare in that it’s a big-time event which actually lives up to its billing. Scotty Veenis, another former racer, hilarious friend, and now a USST coach, got us credentials to watch the course from a great spot. Along with 70,000 other fans, Nicholas, Alex, former Burkie Kerstin Graham, and I watched about a half-dozen racers came off the Hausberg jump and onto the famous final traverse within a one-tenth of a second of the lead, making it all the more dramatic when a 23-year old Italian pulled the upset to take the W. The day was capped off with a fantastic dinner with Kipp Nelson, a USSA Board of Directors Trustee, where I got the chance to learn more about the Board and what to expect as Athlete Rep. It was big of Kipp to take time from his own vacation to reach out and meet with me, and I found it very helpful to hear what he had to say. I hope to work with him more in the future.

 

The trip was a success, and it was all because of the generosity and close-knit culture that the ski community provides. I didn’t sleep very much, but that was to be expected. Nicholas called me today and asked me if there were any other big ski races this year that maybe we should go to. I couldn’t help but laugh, he’s totally hooked!

 

kitz7

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Jan 14 2013

Road Trip!

January for American ski racers means heading to Europe, and just because I haven’t filled out any FIS Intent to Compete forms lately doesn’t mean that I will be denied my annual pilgrimage. This time,  I’ll be heading over to Euroland with my older brother, Nicholas. He’s never seen a European ski race in-person, and I simply can’t stay away.

 

While the trip will be short on days, only 4, we plan to go in with an assassin’s mentality: get in, execute, get out. After landing Thursday morning and shaking off jet lag, the night will be spent watching the baby bro, Kieffer, compete in the the biggest and best prepared FIS race in the world, the Westendorf Nacht Slalom. Located right next to Kitzbuhel and scheduled the night before the World Cup SG, thousands of fans flock to this tiny little hill to get their ski racing fix early. The details for Friday are unclear, but Saturday has a strict schedule of watching the vaunted Hahnenkamm, taking an afternoon nap, frequenting the Londoner Pub to watch the day’s athletes tend bar, and making it to the 11:40am flight out of MUC the following morning. That last part should be a lot of fun.

 

In true European-ski-trip fashion, no housing plans have been finalized as the perfect solution has yet to present itself. This is making Nicholas rather concerned, which he is slowly realizing is already an experience he’ll take away from the trip…any other groups heading over or if anyone has a housing option for Kitz, a town that will have an 80,000 bed shortage over the weekend, let me know!

 

Finally, a super big shout out to Robby Kelley and Dave Chodounsky for both having career days this weekend at the World Cup GS and SL in Adelboden. Their skiing was only slightly more impressive than the double fist pumps both showed in the finish area after their respective runs, Ray Lewis would have appreciated the intensity. Nice work, men!

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