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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