Head to Head, Flat Out Racing

As I licked my wounds from skiing another day in the rain locally, and longing for my upcoming western ski trips, I settled into the Olympic Channel DVR and watched the World Cup Women’s Dual GS Races from Sestriere, Italy. It has been so much fun to watch and is a real spectator friendly format that is re-igniting interest especially the night events in recent seasons on the World Cup. The World Pro Skiing Tour has also had a resurgence with a nation wide televised schedule. Ted Ligety, our Olympic giant slalom gold medalist and World Cup GS champion,  even competed recently in Eldora, Colorado during a brief respite from his World Cup schedule. Head to head is exciting and today I want to go back a few years when I had some brief experience with this format.

A number of years ago, my mother’s cousin, Bill Carroll, was working for one of the beverage companies at the time. They were sponsoring the Peugeot Pro Skiing Tour stop at Camelback over in the Pocono Mountains of Eastern Pa. Bill told me that he wanted my sister and I to attend and enter the Pro-Am event. We were of course thrilled and were treated to all the amenities of the event with Bill holding court along with his sons, Jack, Patrick, and Jimmy. All characters from Philly who made us laugh the whole weekend. Fast forward to the event day, we saw the course and it’s two massive jumps. The amateurs who were entered into the event were told by the Peugeot Tour representatives that they did not have to ski the jumps, just go to the side where alternate gates were set up. For the event,my sister and I were paired with Kurt and Kent Belden, two pros who hailed from Pico, Vermont and were regular winners and competitors on the Tour. After being introduced before the event, the Beldens asked Molly and I to ski with them and they told me on the chair lift that they wanted me to ski the jumps. I was of course hesitant but they assured me that they would train me and give me the nuances of trying to negotiate the jumps and make the next gate without crashing and burning. My sister, who is an excellent skier, bowed out and decided not to do the jumps. However, I was shamed into taking them on and off I went with the Beldens for my training.

Slovakia’s Petra Vhlova (L) clears the gate on her way to win, during the final against Sweden’s Anna Swen-Larsson in the Women’s parallel slalom race at the FIS Alpine ski World Cup in St. Moritz, on December 15, 2019. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

Believe me when I tell you, running the course with the first jump looming, was quite intimidating but Kurt, who was my partner for the event, just said to suck up the jump in a low position with my knees bent,hands forward, and then rise slightly and hold the position after memorizing where the next gate was on the course. I took it easy for a couple of runs until I got the hang of it and barely escaped full carnage until I sort of figured it out. The training was eventually over and now it was put up or shut up time for Paddy as I launched myself out of the starting gate. Coming up to the first jump, I did what Kurt said and successfully negotiated the next gate. Feeling good about myself, I thought ” one more jump.” It came swiftly and suddenly seeing that Camelback does not have the vertical of the New England areas where the Tour was contested regularly. As I approached the lip of the pro jump, I got into a low position and sat back slightly which was a mistake because I landed off balance and barely made the next gate. However, luck prevailed and somehow I managed to finish with Kurt in the finish line cheering me on and giving me a smile and a thumbs up. He was beside me on the other course and was finished well before me. Amazing how that guy could accelerate in the flats. My sister completed the course as well with Kent beside her and because there was not much competition, we ended up as the winners. The Belden brothers got a nice additional paycheck and my sister and I got a rather large, obnoxious  trophy which sat as a hat holder in my house for years. Fun times for sure and I learned something that day. However, the main lesson for me was not the jumps and completing the course with Belden approval, it was seeing the pros and how they handled the course.  They go flat out and the jumps are not even a consideration.  Amazing skills well beyond my comprehension. I will never forget that weekend, especially the heart shaped tubs in the rooms in the Honeymoon capital of the east – the Poconos. The Carrolls and I all laughed about the tubs and the pink shag carpets.  Yikes!  Long time ago and in a galaxy far far away.

I am happy to see the dual format and the excitement that it creates at the World Cup events as well as the World Pro Skiing Tour. Fun to watch and helps to get through all the rainy, sleeting, slushy days on the hill so far this season. Can’t get out west soon enough. Thanks for reading.

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19 thoughts on “Head to Head, Flat Out Racing

  1. Mark A Hutchinson says:

    Remember the Belden boys well from the racing circuits up here in Vt. Their dad, Bruce, owned Pico for a number of years. Kurt in particular was really good in the pro format and won a lot of pro races in his day. I think he still is involved in coaching at Boreal in the tahoe area. Head to head racing is really fun to watch and better yet, to participate in!

  2. Bill Day says:

    Good one Pat, take care!

  3. Wow. Thanks for the memory. Dual GS on Tyrol back in the late 60’s doesnt quite compare to your Pro Am. The only trophy was bragging rights. I can’t remember all those who raced, but I do remember our now famous surgeon to the stars, Niel El Atrache. Tall, fast! As for jumps, I also remember the Tyrol head wall while the Ski Patrol provided cover. Andy Michanowicz always won. Today the head wall is gone. Too dangerous. Just like the lower lip on Avalanche. Try blocking off a hill now at Seven Springs.
    You were always good in the gates. Precision carved and tight. Take that loss Reginald Zipko. Ha!
    I haven’t skiied since I was 25. I’m probably better off not trying again or it would be my first ride in the Ski Patrol toboggan.
    Michanowicz is applying pressure for me to come back and ski with him and Angel. Maybe!

    • patmccloskey says:

      Tommy- you were one of the best skiers around for a long time. You need to make that comeback. You were too good. Anytime- call me. Remember- you skied the headwall at Tuckerman Ravine!!!

      • Where do I send the check to pay for your compliments? 😋
        Skiing the head wall at Tuckermans is a tremendous memory. When I get a little down, I say to myself, I climbed the highest mountain in the Eastern United States 2-3 x. I don’t know of anyone who can say they did a 360 in The Shute? You probably do! Although the person who gets the most kudos is Rich Monty. Brave and coregious.

      • patmccloskey says:

        Rich Monty was definitely the MVP that day- crashing into the puckerbrush on the other side of the valley floor. To the sounds of wild applause from Lunch Rocks.

  4. skimeister says:

    Greatpost Pat! Love the part about the heart shaped tubs! I do enjoy the dual race course format. I also add my encouragement to Tommy to come on back and have some fun. No need to get crazy, it’s a lifelong sport and like riding a bike for anyone who was an expert skier no matter how long ago. The advances in equipment makes it a lot easier on the body!

  5. Art Bonavoglia says:

    What a great story and memory for you and Molly! I’m thinking now of the dual slaloms on Stowe at 7 Springs with the crashes from all the big ruts, then Lars would come out and shut it down. Great post, thanks.

  6. Lisa Allen says:

    I felt like I was there. Well written. Glad you took the jump. You should add a picture of the trophy. Nice blog

  7. Lisa Allen says:

    HI Pat,I want to go skiing after reading this. I am not nearly as good as you. Such a cool memoryHere is my latest blog.Its about cooking or should I say NOT cooking Thanksgiving.Day 353- No Stress Thanksgiving-Order it-Beattie Career Center-Culinary School

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    | | | | Day 353- No Stress Thanksgiving-Order it-Beattie Career Center-Culinary …

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  8. edietmorgan says:

    I am with you…so glad dual racing is back at all levels. Happy to WATCH as they go off the bumps!

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