BY MARCO SULLIVAN
|"Julia's Gold," the course in Squaw Valley named after Olympic
gold medalist Julia Mancuso
|(L-R) Squaw Valley CEO Andy Wirth, ME!, my girlfriend/U.S.
slalom champion Anna Goodman and her dad Russell Goodman
|Squaw Olympic sign at the base of the mountain|
The ski racing season has come to an end for me. I get so caught up in the excitement of racing and traveling that I am always a little bit confused when I look at the calendar and it is empty for the next three months.
I had a good year. I ended up ranked 14th in the World Cup downhill standings. I had a lot of fun and I think that I learned a few things about myself, and about my sport, that are going to help me get better next season.
Unfortunately I had to skip the last race of the season, the U.S. Championships at my home ski area, Squaw Valley, Calif. I could not race because of a small knee injury that required a few weeks of rest, but I was at Squaw for the races and it reminded me of all that is good about our sport.
The weather in Squaw was beautiful apart from a little snow/rain squall that postponed the first day of racing. For the remainder of the events, it was lovely California days. The Tahoe and Truckee locals came out to soak up the sun and enjoy some racing action. Several hundred people crowded the finish area and the sides of the racecourse each day. It made me proud to be a Tahoe local and to see the appreciation these people have for the racers. Being a spectator gave me a new perspective of the events and I was nervous for my friends who were chucking themselves down the hill in hopes of a national title.
The best racers in the country over 15 years of age get invited to compete at the U.S. nationals. The youngsters get to share the starting gate with the World Cup stars that they idolize. It is a place for racers to make a name for themselves and this year Squaw Valley put on a great event for them to showcase their talents. Tommy Johnston (aka “Cowboy”), the U.S. Ski Team’s hill preparation guru, was in town for a week prior to the events making sure that the slope was hard and ready for racing. Live music was playing on a big stage near the finish line every afternoon and the village was abuzz with ski stars of past and present.
Local companies Big Truck Hats and Arcade Belts outfitted all of the competitors with gear and Susan at Wildflour Bakery was giving out free cookies to anybody who was accompanied by a U.S. Ski Team athlete.
The races were all close battles, aside from the men’s slalom, which Ted Ligety pretty much ran away with. Overall it was a really fun few days of racing. Everybody left with a smile and talk of what the summer will bring.
There are still more adventures this spring. I will be going north to Alaska to defend my title at the Arctic Man Ski and Snow-Go Classic. Also, the spring is always a time for ski racing gossip, with equipment switches and coaching changes. We will see what this year holds.