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.