Taking a time out here for a quick shout out to our US Ski Team. Another fabulous season with Ted Ligety adding another World Cup Giant Slalom Title to his resume and establishing himself as the undisputed King of the discipline. Lindsey Vonn, even though out with a horrific knee injury, won yet another World Cup Downhill Title even though she didn’t finish the season. Lindsey had successful knee surgery and vows to be back better than ever for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. But the revelation of the season was 18 year old Mikaela Shiffrin from Vail, Colorado. She is pictured above with Ted Ligety and the rest of their hard working coaches and Ski Team staff. Mikaela was 17 when she won her first World Cup Slalom event and when she just turned 18, she wrapped up the World Cup Overall Slalom Title. An amazing feat for someone so young and against such stiff World Cup competition.
What does it take to ski and win at this level? Hard work and dedication. I have had the wonderful experience of skiing with some of the US Ski Team members in my past. As I mentioned in my heli- skiing post, I had the good fortune to ski with some old school members Max Marolt and Dave Gorsuch. Even though these guys were older, they were in fantastic shape and their technique was world class. Their stories were great and they came from the generation where not many people outside the ski world had any clue of their accomplishments. Moving forward, I had the great experience of taking a race clinic with Dianne Roffe who was a World Champion and Olympic medalist. The interesting thing about Dianne was that she taught in a ski instructors clinic. Nowadays, the PSIA ski instructors organization is embracing race technique taught by the US Ski Coaches Association. The connection now is that the instructors organization is recognizing that ski instructor technique is not always fast in a race course. However, after viewing a lot of footage of slow motion racing, PSIA is coming to the understanding that World Cup Ski Techique is really founded on good technique taught at an early age. To glide well on skis is something that a racer either has or does not have. It is a feel thing that really cannot be taught. But other than that, good technique coupled with a good feel for the skis can win races. That is what Dianne taught that day and it was an interesting lesson to me whose experience was limited to ski instruction.
Fast forward to another race clinic at Killington,Vermont with Christin Cooper the TV analyist, former US Ski Team Member and Olympic silver medalist in slalom. Coop was fun. She had a great sense of humor and was still dedicated to the sport by working with instructors and masters racers. While viewing our initial run, I caught an edge,blew out of both bindings and flew headfirst down the hill sliding on my belly. As I came to a stop at the edge of her ski boots, I looked up and said,” How was that?” She said,” Not what I had in mind but you can try it again.” She was another one who joined good technique with teaching us about line through a race course and how to ski fast.
One final experience was with Phil Mahre, the World Cup Overall Champion and Olympic gold medalist. I had the good fortune of being his host for the day at our home area of Seven Springs. I learned a lot about the Ski Team and his training that day and when I skied behind him, he laid trenches in the snow with perfectly carved precision . There was no skid detected at all and his flawless technique was marked by his amazing strength. Phil was racing on the Pro Tour at the time which was where retired World Cup racers finished their careers. The only reason Phil was racing and doing these clincs was out of gratitude to his life long racing sponsor K-2 Skis. He and his brother Steve trained hard and set their own courses every day even though they were technically retired from the US Ski Team. Training was in their bones and they did it out of respect for a ski company that was faithful to them all through their career. K-2 made a lot of money through their association with the Mahre brothers, but the reverse can also be said. It was , and is to this day, still a good relationship. The common thread in all of this is hard work, dedication , understanding of good ski technique and respect for those who brought you to the dance. In this age of entitlement by athletes, I look at the example of the US Ski Team and their hard work. Look at this picture. you see two champions flanked by a cadre of coaches and staff who have one goal in mind- winning. They and all their predecessors did it in similar fashion without any sense of entitlement. The clock doesn’t lie and you can’t hide behind a team when you are in the starting gate. Very impressive to me for many years and still today when I look at this picture and look at the accomplishments of the team. Please make a donation when you can to the US Ski Team. They work hard and deserve your support. Thanks for reading.