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Winter Ends, Spring Begins (6/6/13)

BY MARCO SULLIVAN

Some of the spectators hanging out at Arctic Man
Fellow Arctic Man competitor Nate Holland scopes out some
possible sled-accessed ski lines

I guess now that we have officially turned the corner into June I can say that the winter of 2013 is over. 

I did have my skis on the last weekend of May, though. I was in Mammoth with teammates Steven Nyman and Stacey Cook. We coached 60 kids for a three-day downhill skills camp and had a blast. It was very fun to see all the young rippers still being fired up to ski on Memorial Day. We had them pushing their limits off some intimidating terrain and it was great to see them conquer their fears. For some of the kids I think a new door was opened into an adrenaline-fueled world. I think that is a good thing, right?

I know that for me that door was opened a long time ago and it has resulted in many great adventures. One event along that road that I have competed in every year since 2008 is called the Arctic Man. The Arctic Man takes place in the middle of nowhere in Alaska. For one weekend in April, over 10,000 people gather near Paxson Lake and watch a ski race that has been held for the last 28 years.

The race is a five-mile ski track and teams of two tackle the course vying for the fastest time from start to finish. The catch is that one of the team members is a skier and the other is a snow machine driver. The skier starts at the top of one peak and points it down a narrowly groomed track for about a mile and a half. Once in the canyon below, the terrain flattens out and the snow machine driver, who has been waiting anxiously, hits the throttle and runs up alongside his partner handing him a rope. This is known as “The Hookup” and once the rope is in the hands of the skier he does nothing but hold on for the next two miles as he gets yanked behind the sled at speeds of over 80 mph. Again the course flattens at the top of the canyon and the skier whips off the sled and over a blind jump aptly named “First Aid”. The legs are screaming at that point and it is only one more mile to go until the finish line and the racers maintain the tightest aerodynamic position that their aching bodies will allow.

The race is a blast and my teammate, Tyler Aklestad, and I were fortunate enough to win it this season and set a track record in 3 minutes, 52 seconds – the first time in 28 years that the 4-minute barrier has been broken. To the right is the video from the “pull” section of the course as I do my best to stay upright while Tyler is putting the pins to it heading up the canyon.

Since the Arctic Man race, I have been hunkered down in Utah and getting after it with my team in the gym and taking classes at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. It has been a great spring and the mountain biking and camping seasons are just getting under way.

 
Summer camping season has begun in southern Utah

I can’t wait to soak up a couple hot summer months before we start chasing the snow again in August. My next blogs will detail some of the training regimens that the U.S. downhill team is doing to get ready for next season and Sochi 2014. Until then, enjoy the heat and dream about the snow.

You can also follow my journey on Twitter: @MarcOsullivan