Wednesday, January 26, 2005


My back hurts. That's because after super G training this morning, some of us decided to go to the terrain park and hit some jumps. I hit two of the big ones that I'd never hit before, and I got huge air and landed them perfectly. I've never been that high off the snow before. Then I got cocky, and the next run I hit the top jump with even more speed. I landed almost all the way at the bottom of the landing ramp, and I was way in the backseat. (I did stick the landing, though.) I think I hit my upper back on the backrest and really tweaked it. It knocked the wind out of me for a while. I think I'm gonna take the next two days off from skiing... it's OK though, there was no training scheduled anyway. Plus, Abby's coming to visit, arriving tomorrow night... yay!

Some cool news about our team was announced today.

Monday, January 24, 2005

good news for people who love good news

I made the team of 10 U.S. athletes selected for the European World Cups next month, and I am very happy and very relieved. (See my last post for an explanation of why I was doubtful whether I'd make it.) Now I can't wait to get up early tomorrow morning to train super G and keep tweaking my new monoski. I'm very glad to report that Nick made it, too. We are skiing so equally right now that it wouldn't feel right if one of us made it and the other didn't.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

back home

Before I forget, there's a new website up for the disabled World Cup (replacing the defunct, which is It's still under construction, looks like crap, and seems to make Safari crash, but hopefully they'll fix that soon.

So I'm back in my condo in Winter Park now. Yesterday was a long travel day: a 4.5-hour drive from Kimberley, BC to Spokane, WA, a 2-hour flight from Spokane to Denver, a 30-min. bus ride from the airport to my car, and a 2-hour drive home to Winter Park. Today I pretty much spent reading the newspaper at the bagel shop and watching skiing and snowboarding on TV... yay for Outdoor Life Network.

The last day in Kimberley was a huge bummer for me. We had spent two and a half days doing basically nothing as our races got cancelled left and right, and we finally had a clear, cold-ish day with decent, firm snow. There was a good chance, though, that we would start breaking through the firm, fast top layer after several dozen skiers went, yielding a rough course with soft ruts in between icy sections. Because of this possibility, the race organizers moved the start up as early as possible (before the sun had time to bake the course), and an unusual decision was made to run all the monoskiers before the blind and standing women and then the blind and standing men. (Usually the order for downhill, super G, and GS goes: female blind skiers, monoskiers, and standing skiers; then male blind, monos, and standing.) Long story short, my class ran much earlier than normal, and on top of that I drew a very early start number within my class. Everything was set up for me to have a perfect, fast run. The first three-quarters of my run weren't quite perfect, but it was feeling really nice. The hill was running much faster than it had earlier in the week, and I had done a pretty good job of memorizing and visualizing the course. As I was skiing, the course was just unrolling in front of me like a video game, and my mind wasn't wandering as I skied like it sometimes does. I exited the most difficult, technical section carrying good speed, passed the final "coaches' knoll," and promptly got lost for a split-second. It was a blind gate, meaning I couldn't see where the next gate was as I crested a small knoll, and I suddenly couldn't remember from inspection exactly when I would have to start my next turn. I hesitated briefly, the gate came into view, and I started my turn, but it was too late. If I had stayed calm, I still could have easily made the next gate and then the final few after it without dumping too much speed, but instead I panicked and went into defensive mode, letting my shoulders drift out of parallel with the hill. I spun into my turn, and my ski threw up a huge rooster tail of snow. On our coach J.C.'s videotape of the run, just as I go out of view, you can see me starting to get thrown sideways, and you can hear J.C. say, "uh-oh." I tried to get my ski back into the fall line, and I made the next gate and soon regained some speed, but the damage was done. A mistake like that will cost you an eternity — 3 or 4 seconds. In racer terminology, I just "pooched it." I was so pissed off that after I crossed the finish line I didn't even stop at the scoreboard to see my time and turn in my bib; I just straightlined it to the lift. On the ride back up to go get my jacket, I calmed down a lot, but I couldn't shake the feeling of anger at such a stupid mistake. In the end, I somehow finished a respectable 7th, but without the mistake I would have finished probably 4th or 5th, which would've been my best World Cup result and would've probably secured me a spot on the team that will head over to Europe next month for the rest of the World Cup season. Now I'm waiting to see if I'll make it or if I'll have to pay my own way to go there. So you can understand why I'm still kinda upset.

Chris won the race by a mile, by the way. He had an amazing run. Full race results are here.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

scrubbed again

For the third day in a row, today's super G in Kimberley was cancelled because of soft, unsafe snow brought on by warm weather and rain. Blecch. We'll try again tomorrow — last chance.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

nowhere again

Rain today, and the snow is soft and weird. We took warmup runs and got up on the hill to inspect, and they called the race right then and there. So now we're chilling in the hotel for the day, watching movies and having snowball fights with the Austrians. They're going to try and pull off two more super Gs tomorrow if the weather cooperates.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Fogged out.

We tried to run a super G today here in Kimberley, but the race was cancelled partway through the men's monoski field because of fog. The fog did indeed come on little cat feet, covering up the lower-middle quarter of the course within a matter of minutes, but unfortunately not moving on... at least not over the course of the 45 minutes or so they waited before calling the race. It's a shame because I had a solid run, within less than a second of Chris and Tyler. I was in 4th and probably wouldn't have finished worse than 5th or 6th. Ah well... so it goes.

Yesterday we DID race super G, and it also went pretty well. I tied my best World Cup finish with a 6th place, and I was close enough to the winning time that I did score World Cup points this time. It was a fun course, although a lot of people didn't finish, including Chris and a newly-out-of-the-hospital Kevin Bramble. (Full results)

In Steamboat I picked up a copy of a surprisingly well-written book about Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, which has been keeping my occupied during all the delays each day.

Oh, and I got the stitches out of my nose today... very exciting. It's healing up nicely.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

kimberley, pt. 1

Word of the day: amygdala

Writing from Kimberley, B.C., Canada, where we have come to race in four super G and downhill races. The recent temperatures here have been really, really cold. I skied for about two hours today, and it just took a lot out of me. The race hill is unusual, really roll-y and not particularly steep, meaning we get air a bunch of times but never really get going that fast. My favorite kind of hill for speed races is basically the exact opposite of this, but hey, what can you do. Tomorrow is the first race, a super G.

I guess I should tell you about the last couple days in Steamboat, the slaloms. My slalom technique is so... original (okay, maybe "bad" would be more accurate) that in Austria this fall I got the nickname of "Six-Guns" because when I ski it, I look like I'm riding a bull all the way down the course while shooting a pistol from the hip. I should logically be the slowest guy down the course. Nonetheless, somehow I finished sixth in the first slalom at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat — partially because a lot of monoskiers got tripped up by the first run and didn't finish. (Full results) The next day, I skied a little better but I finished 12th, right in the middle of the pack, more or less. If it weren't for a big mistake at the top of the first run, I would have finished higher. I would even say I had moments of brilliance, so I was happy with my skiing that day. (Full results)

OK, time to brave the cold from the (amazingly, wireless Internet-equipped) lobby/trailer building to our crappy condo. It's supposed to get much warmer (and rainier) soon. If it gets above, like, zero degrees F here, I'll be happy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


I just spent literally hours writing the most thorough blog post known to mankind, and then I lost it all. So here's the basics: I was 12th in the GS yesterday (full results) and 6th in the slalom today (full results). My nose is slowly healing. Howelsen Hill, our slalom race hill, and F.M. Light & Sons, a store here in Steamboat, are both really historic and cool.

Monday, January 10, 2005

things that happened today:

  • Chris and Tyler went 1-2 in the sitting division in today's GS, and Laurie won the women's sitting division.

  • It rained. You have to understand that it never rains in Colorado in January. Until yesterday and today, I had literally never seen it happen, and Steamboat is nearly as high in elevation as Winter Park, like 9000 feet. As a result, everyone got really wet and cold really fast, and it was pretty hard to see where you were going.

  • I hit a hole on a steep pitch and crashed halfway down the second run. I sliced my nose open, on what I'm not sure — the snow, I guess. I also snapped the tail off my ski. My nose was bleeding everywhere, and it needed 12 stitches at the local hospital. Now I will be looking pretty ugly for the next week, but I think the doctor did a good job sewing me up, and it's nothing that will keep me from racing tomorrow and trying to snap my 2-race streak of DNFs in GS. I don't know what's in the forecast for tomorrow, but something other than more rain would be nice.


I woke up several times last night, which is rare for me, but when I did sleep I slept well. And I remembered some of my dreams, which is also rare. My favorite one was about a Christmas present that my grandpa received from my grandma. It was a set of four long, flat cardboard boxes that fit together on a kind of rack. Inside each box was a bunch of multicolored sand and pebbles of different sizes. When you turned the rack and then carefully poured out the contents of each box onto a tabletop, the sand and pebbles somehow formed themselves into different messages (I remember one was "Je t'aime"). The whole family was gathered for Christmas, and everyone was amazed by this invention. No one could figure out how it worked, myself included. But my grandpa was clearly moved by the ingenuity and thoughtfulness of the gift.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

warning: excruciating detail contained herein...

I like ski racing because it means I never have to stay in one place for too long, which means I never get bored. But as much as I like to insist that I thrive on change, I have to admit that, like most people, I really am a creature of habit. Whenever we check into a hotel, I always do the same little anal-retentive things.

First, I've got to put my huge Ski Team duffel bag up on one of those luggage racks. If there isn't one, I call the front desk. I just can't unpack with my bag on the floor. And by now I've learned it's always worth unpacking; otherwise my stuff's a mess by the second day. Shirts and jackets (including all four Ski Team jackets) get hung up in the closet, and everything else goes in the drawers. Next, I unpack and set up my little mobile bundle of wires and electronics: laptop, cell phone, iPod, iPal, chargers for all these things, and cables to connect my laptop to the hotel TV for watching DVDs. Being able to listen to my music while getting ready in the morning is the key to getting started on the right foot. Then I find out the local Earthlink dialup number for wherever we are and maybe check my email. Finally, I pack my backpack for skiing the next day. This will include two or three pairs of gloves, a helmet (with face guard if we're skiing slalom), two pairs of goggles, some basic wrenches and screwdrivers, duct tape, water bottle, sunscreen, spare lenses, Clif bars, an extra layer of clothing, and chest & shoulder pads if it's a slalom day. If it's a race day, my iPod goes in my jacket pocket so I have something to listen to while waiting around in the start during the inevitable delays.

Only then am I ready to go to bed.

I just finished doing all this stuff here in Steamboat Springs as we get ready for tomorrow's GS, the first World Cup race of the season. All the Europeans, Canadians, Kiwis, and a South African are in town, and it's shaping up to be a great race. For the past few days, we've been seeing commercials advertising our races on Colorado cable TV channels, and everyone in town seems to know what we're here for. This afternoon some of us skied the hill we'll be racing on tomorrow. It's a real world-class hill. Temperatures today were so warm that it was raining on the lower part of the mountain, which means that tonight the snow should freeze up and get nice and firm — just how we like it. My goal for tomorrow is the same as it is for every race day: to ski two runs as well as I would if it were just training.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Park city race days #2&3, etc.

I've been slacking with this thing lately — I know. So here's what's been going on since last time I wrote:

Monday: Giant slalom race in Park City. I felt great and the course looked sweet, but as soon as I went out of the start I began getting really late so it was harder and harder to make each gate. I don't know why it happened other than bad planning. Around the sixth gate, I hit a divot or rut that had been building up on the course, got knocked even a little later, and suddenly couldn't make the next gate. It just passed right by me and I threw up my arms and skied out of the course. That's about the most anticlimactic way to end a race, but sometimes it happens. The guy in the finish writes "DNF" (did not finish) on the scoreboard, and you have the rest of the day to go ski by yourself, watch the rest of the race, and beat yourself up for skiing out. It sucks.

Tyler couldn't continue his streak; Chris beat him both runs.

Tuesday: Super G race in Park City. Super G stands for "super giant slalom," but no one ever calls it that. I don't know who named the event anyway -- probably some Euro who was like, "Ja, ja, dis neue race, ist super, ja?" It's the newest of the four alpine disciplines, first run in the 1980s. It basically blends the high speeds of downhill with the technical turning skills of GS. Like downhill (and unlike GS), it is only a one-run race. Like GS (and unlike downhill), there are no training runs held on the course before the race. Like every event, you get to sideslip down the course, stopping wherever you want to inspect the placement of the gates and the terrain features of the hill, but that's all you get. It's pretty weird skiing 40 or 50 miles per hour down a hill you've sometimes never even skied on before that morning during inspection.

Adding to the inherent challenge, I had never skied on this particular pair of super G skis before today, either. Monoskiers only use one ski at a time, so I did get to take a few warmup runs (on another trail) on one of the skis before I had to race on the other. (We can't ski on our race skis before the race because they're carefully prepared by our technicians the night before and then carried up to the start in the morning, and even one run on them would rub off most of the wax they've applied.) Luckily, my new ski felt great during warmup, and the other (theoretically identical) ski ended up working fine during the race, too. Park City's super G hill is relatively flat, so the course is usually set pretty fast and wide-open. That's not really to my advantage, since I'm better at steeper, technical sections rather than gliding sections where aerodynamics and weight are important factors. I laid down what I thought was a pretty solid run, despite a moderate mistake during a crucial middle flat section. I figured it would at least be good enough for a spot on the podium, but in the end I was 5th among the monoskiers. Chris spanked everyone by two and a half seconds, with the next three skiers clustered close together and me not far behind them. It was a little disappointing, but sometimes you just have to be happy with your effort and try to figure out what you could do differently next time.

Tuesday evening: long van ride home to Winter Park with Kevin (our head coach) and a few teammates.

Wednesday: Slept in, and then Hannah drove me into Denver so I could finally pick up my van and my new monoski, which finally cleared customs and arrived at the distributor that very day. Elitsa is staying with Josh and me until the Steamboat races rather than returning home to Idaho, so she tagged along with me as I ran errands in Denver, like buying some new lacrosse shoulder & chest pads for me to wear in slalom. I'm getting sick of nasty bruises to the torso.

Thursday: Everyone has been asking me, "So what do you think of the new monoski? Do you like it? Have you gotten used to it yet?" Today was my first day riding it, so I guess the answers are: "It's weird," "I like some things about it but not others," and "No, not yet." But I'm feeling pretty optimistic. The big question is whether I'll be ready to race in it at the World Cups in Steamboat starting on Monday. I'm going to train slalom in it for the first time tomorrow and then GS on Saturday, and then I hope I'll be in some position to decide.

Today I collected the mail from when I was away. I got some great Christmas presents from my friend Abby, some nasty bills, and a CD-ROM of "Jeopardy" that I ordered. I'm going to go play one more game of that now and then get to bed. Computer Player #2, you better watch out this time.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

park city race day #1

I was second in a Nor-Am slalom in Park City, Utah today. (Full results should soon be posted here.) Both runs were what we call a "rodeo": a really bumpy, rough ride where you just point the skis downhill as much as possible and try to hang on. A bunch of my main competitors crashed or skied out, but I laid down two ugly, not-too-slow runs and hung on for silver, with Tyler winning. He's now 2-for-2 this season.

People sometimes want to know how exactly a disabled ski race works, since there are people competing with a range of different physical disabilities. There are 15 basic disability classes (3 visually impaired and 12 mobility impaired), although some of these are divided into sub-classes as well. (My class is LW-11, the middle functional level of the 3 sitting classes. I think LW stands for "locomotor winter.") Every class and sub-class has a predetermined "factor," a decimal number (like 0.864438) by which a skier's time is multiplied. In theory, this equalizes everyone enough to allow us all to compete against each other regardless of disability. In practice, most people have come to agree that a 3-category system is best, with medals for the top sitting skiers, standing skiers, and visually impaired skiers (and factors applied to the different disability classes within each of these categories). After a recent decision by the International Paralympic Committee, all major races will use this format from now on. Previously, World Cups and Nor-Ams used a 3-category system while our biggest events, the Paralympics and World Championships, used a 15-category system (one for every single disability class). That made for a lot of medals awarded!

(By the way, if you understood all that, congratulations. You're ready to read more!)

Saturday, January 01, 2005

so this is the new year / and i don't feel any different

Bad weather in Utah... our two days of pre-race training here in Park City (live cams) have been a total washout. It's hardly stopped snowing since Wednesday, the day before we arrived. Add in high winds and a total lack of grooming or preparation on the race hill, and it was just impossible to get in any gate training, so we've been freeskiing a bit. I'm wishing I had brought my powder skis with me. Tomorrow we're supposed to run a slalom, with a GS and a super G to follow on Monday and Tuesday. With talk of even more weather rolling in, it seems unlikely right now that we'll pull off more than one or two of the races.

In Park City, we stay at the National Ability Center's dorms. They are very new and super-swanky. Last night eight of us went out to this really good Thai place. We vegetarians (Nick, Hannah and I) split the Spicy Mint Noodles and the Panaang Curry and ordered them "black diamond-spicy"; I highly recommend both.

In honor of the wintry weather, here's a link to The Onion's Winterizing Tips.