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5 Things You Didn't Know About Ski Racing From Team USA

By Brianna Tammaro | Jan. 11, 2019, 4:23 p.m. (ET)

One of the most popular sports during the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, it’s easy to see why alpine ski racing is such an exciting sport to watch. Between the fast speeds ranging from 70-80 miles per hour, year-round training, hard crashes and the surprises of Mother Nature, ski racing isn’t for the faint of heart. To learn more about what it takes to compete at the elite level, U.S. Paralympics caught up with five skiers to explain what the public may not know about their sport:

Ski racers compete all year


“Ski racing is a year-long sport. We travel, train and compete all around the world during all seasons in order to prepare for the Paralympic Games, as well as our other competitions that happen during the winter time. Just as any sport, we spend a lot of time in the gym. The majority of our summers are actually spent in the gym. We also travel to different places, such as Chile in South America or down in Australia and New Zealand, where we go to seek the snow when we don't have any here in the United States. We also go to Mt. Hood, Oregon, on a glacier. The majority of our time, though, is spent in Europe going back and forth to different slopes in order to prepare when we're not in the gym.” – Thomas Walsh, U.S. Paralympian

The conditions aren’t always favorable


“Unlike an indoor sport, our conditions for our competition change daily. You get to the race and six inches of powder is on the ground. That completely changes how you're going to set up for the race, your mental preparation, and how you're going to ski, because you can't ski all out. You have to conserve a bit and feel the snow.” – Spencer Wood, U.S. Paralympian

Not all skiers like the cold


“You might not know that we don't all like the cold. We don't always enjoy being out in the cold. It's just something that we have to deal with so that we can go fast.” – Tyler Carter, Two-time U.S. Paralympian

Different skis are needed for different events


“There is very specific equipment that you need for ski racing. You can't just go out on your regular all-mountain powder skis and race. You have to have specific racing skis that are much stiffer. The edges have to be sharper and it's a much higher edge angle. If you've never been on a race ski before and you get on a race ski, you're going to feel like you're going to tip over because the edge angle is so high. They're really stiff, so they're difficult to turn and you need some speed in order to make a race ski. They're not for just cruising around the mountain on.” – Anna Benihati, U.S. national team member

“Despite popular belief, we have many different skis that we use for different events. Our shorter skis are used for slalom and our longer skis are used for downhill. Athletes can own anywhere between six to twelve pairs of skis for their entire competition series.” – Thomas Walsh, U.S. Paralympian

Ski racing is as intense as it gets


“It’s an action sport that takes a lot of commitment and a lot of dedication; it's just as technical as it is high-speed and sketchy, which is probably why it's such an action sport and why it's so fun to watch. You never really know what's going to happen next or what will happen on the next turn. There's a million different variables that go into each and every turn, and a lot of people don't really see or understand that. A lot of times, it comes down to the course, it comes down to the skis, it comes down to the racer and trying to perfect each and every turn, and how we can analyze and assess each of those different situations.

I think that it's a great sport for people to watch and for people to get in tune with action sports with, because crashes don't really get much better; the speeds don't really get much higher. There's not many other sports where you can go 70 plus miles an hour on your feet.” – Andrew Kurka, Two-time Paralympic medalist