Sunday, November 28, 2010

On Course at the World Cup in Aspen

A racer speeds through the GS course
Its time once again for the Aspen Winternational women's world cup event! I'm working the course again this year, slipping the course in between racers to remove ruts on the course.

This year, the course was in incredible shape, Aspen got a huge dump of snow, nearly three feet, a few days before the race, and then the weather got cold, and stayed that way. We didn't have to inject the course with water this year, so it wasn't like sliding on a glazed, blue, ice skating rink!  None the less, the course is very steep, and the snow is very firm, and you have fourty five seconds to chase the racer as she goes by you, slip sideways repairing the course as you go, and get back off the course before the next racer is on top of you.

Looking down into the town of Aspen from the start.
You slide from slip station to slip station, doing everything you can to not only stay on your feet, but scrub out the ruts that these incredibly fast women are carving into the super firm surface.

The intensity is high, the pressure to do a good job, to not make a mistake, to help make the course safe and consistent, is constant. Its a huge relief to get out of the exit above the finish line and back on the chair. Riding back up to get back in line to get sent onto the course with your partner again is a welcome relief, but by the time you get back up there, you are ready to get back to work.

The world cup crew is incredibly hard working and dedicated, its about four days of fence building and shoveling, getting up before the sun and doing heavy physical labor until days after the race is over. Then there's two days of slipping and course maintenance during the race, there is the reset between first and second runs, and repair of the race course, at the end of the first day, the GS start is dismantled and moved to the Slalom start for the next day.

Georgie Bremner, Director of Buttermilk Ski School, helps coordinate.
After the end of the first day, when the course is dismantled and re slipped, the women get back out and begin to practice for the slalom before it is set for the next day. Then more side slipping, more shoveling, more fence and airbag moves and placed, and up again before first light to get on course and prep and check again.

Mike Haas runs the world cup crew with Squatty Schuller and Kirk Baker and Jim Schanzenbaker for the ski schools of Aspen/Snowmass, coordinating this huge effort. The 500+ volunteers it takes to keep this beast running perfectly, with no hitches, glitches, without holding anything up, is amazing. Its just awesome to stand on course and watch the best women in the world go tearing past you at 60 miles an hour, trying to go faster, trying to be more accurate, trying to hit it hard and stay on the edge of control. 

3 comments:

Is Dis Normal or Dysfunctional? said...

I love hearing your account of what it's like to be on course.

Thanks Kate!

Anonymous said...

I think the course crew works a lot more than 4 days! try a month and you might be a little closer to the mark nice try! work a little more on your facts next time

Kate Howe said...

Dear Anonymous,
I was referring to the four days of prep done by the ski school course crew, followed by the two days on snow. I spoke to many people who spent days and days building fences and shoveling this year, as well as folks who did injection last year, as well as writing an article for Ski Racing magazine on the 2008 crew experience, which I did over two dozen interviews for.

I'm sorry if you find my facts lacking or inaccurate. If you have some facts to add, or something you'd like me to correct, I'd be more than happy to pass that information along to my readers.

Thank you for taking the time to read,and for your input.

Kate