Don’t Slip Kids
Don’t Slip Kids
Considering the army of people it takes to put on a World Cup, it is not surprising that some of those folks are young and talented kids. When I slid tentatively onto the Birds of Prey ice rink of a course I witnessed these up and coming racers floating on air as they slipped the race track past me at a high rate of speed. That is, doing a snowplow faster than most will ever ski, on steep ice. I was on a self appointed photography assignment to my third World Cup in Beaver Creek, Colorado and this time I had a media armband that allowed me to be anywhere on the course that is safe.
Not many of those places, so I had to pick very carefully and stay put until the race was over. Crampons are required if you are going to take off your skis due to the steepness and hardness of the snow; one wrong move and you will slide down the course like a marble on glass. But, not if you are on the slipping crew.
The slippers are made up of about 100 kids and coaches that make laps down the course before and during the racing every day. During course prep, the Talon Crew directs the train of slippers to move and smooth extra loose snow off the race line. Right before the fore-runners, the strongest of the slipping crew come through on their “high speed slip” which is just like what it sounds; snowplowing at 40+ miles per hour.
This all on an extremely steep and hard slope remember; one of the world’s steepest and hardest in fact, the Birds of Prey. During the race and in between every pro racer, one or two student athletes slip the race line and post up at various points along the course behind the protective fencing. Many of the slippers were Coloradans from the I-70 corridor and many of them were European and Scandinavian kids training in the states or traveling with the National teams.
What amazed me the most about the young adult slipping crew was their confidence. Mine was missing due to the butterflies from being on a World Cup downhill course, or, me completely blowing the equipment choice with dull edges. I froze immediately upon taking my backcountry skis out on to the course; it is by far the steepest groomer I’ve ever skied. I whimpered across the main start slope which led instantly to a fall away roller that disappeared from sight. From the other side of the course I side slipped my way down the fence line until I had a clean shot across the course again. I bee-lined for a hole in the fence on shaky legs and flailed as I tried to gain the icy entrance positioned downhill so the racers can’t crash through. Once in place I strapped on my crampons and felt much better sticking my talons into the snow.
The kids, however, came through on their race gear pushing and scraping the course in all angles. Conditions were perfect but there was a still lot of snow to move. There was lots of communication between the course crew, the coaches and the teams of young racers to slip in this way or that at just about every speed including fast. Every time the crews slipped through they nailed it, no crashes, no mishaps and very professional. After making the most of my run down the course I arrived at a finish area full of racers, spectators and the kids of the slipping crews. The racers were all signing autographs and the youth racing teams were happy to soak up the revelry. There is something in the air when you mix generations of ski racers, a steep pitch and participating in one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events.