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The Coaches Corner

The Saga Continues; the 2016/2017 ski racing Saga, that is!

But first, you might wonder why I write about racing all the time. The answer is simple – I am the Competition Director and the only competition our club participates in these days is ski/snowboard races. Furthermore, everyone who knows me knows that ski racing is what I do, it’s “My Thing” you might say. So, it is with the hope that you find my racing summaries interesting and informative that I will continue with this one as well as any future ones.

For the best club racers every ski/race season ends with the Far West Racing Association (FWRA) Championships. Of late, it has been competed at either Mammoth Mountain or Alpine Meadows on a two consecutive years alternating basis. Thus, last season’s races were at Alpine Meadows, for the second year in a row, and this season’s and next at Mammoth Mountain. Last season they were held a bit earlier than usual, i.e., in late March, whereas this season we returned to the early (first week of) April dates that have been customary. So it was that on the weekend of April 1st and 2nd, 100 of the top racers from the ski clubs of the Far West (mostly from northern and southern California) convened at Mammoth Mountain to determine the “Best of the Best” for the 2016/2017 season. Two-run, combined time races were run with the Slalom (SL) races held on Saturday and the Giant Slalom (GS) races held on Sunday. Each day, the top six skill classes (Skill Zero’s to Skill 5’s) raced in the morning, and the lower skill classes (Skill 6’s to Skill 10’s) raced in the afternoon. That is, Elite-to-Advanced raced in the morning, and Intermediate-to-Beginner raced in the afternoon.

Saturday morning arose cold and partly cloudy, but thankfully without the heavy fog of the colder previous day that had obscured the breath-taking views of the staggering heights of the Cornice Bowl, etc. The Fascination trail was the site of the SL races, so it was pegged with a staggered pattern of single-pole SL race gates. Viewed from the balcony of the Main Lodge, they resembled a downward winding line of stick-pins studding the sharp whiteness of the fresh snow that covered its steep upper slope and flat lower run-out. Near ice-hard at the start of the races, it quickly degenerated into heavier, wetter snow by the start of the second run of the morning racers, as well as both runs of the afternoon races. It had been gradually heated and melted somewhat by the early Spring sunshine that also warmed the racers sporting their colorful spandex race suits. After the 60 or so morning racers, and the 40 or so afternoon racers, finished their first runs, the course further degenerated into extremely deep ruts that, combined with the wet snow, rendered every racer’s second run much more challenging. Surprisingly, there were few second run DNF’s (Did Not Finish, i.e., skied off course, etc.) as most racers met the challenge, albeit with a much slower second run time.

Sunday arrived even warmer beneath a clear blue sky, and got progressively hotter under the blazing Sun. It soon became so hot that those wearing racing suits found themselves sweating profusely while standing atop the race course awaiting their start. On this day, the races were competed on the flat upper, steep middle and flat lower pitches of Terry’s Run. The double-poled, panel-draped GS race gates zigzagged roundly downward in a staggered pattern, then dog-legged right to the finish line. Although the far wider spacing of the gates facilitated fast turns and, therefore, shallower ruts, the challenge of negotiating the course’s winding path at high speed was no less daunting. In rapid succession, racers singularly pushed out of the Start position and accelerated to their top speed as fast as they could. Thereafter, they hung on while fiercely resisting the various physical forces threatening to fling them off-course as they rounded each gate. Upon completing their second run, each racer breathed a huge sigh of relief while gulping in fresh air to replenish their hastily spent breaths.

Following are the results of 4SW’s two racers, both of which will appreciate your congratulations on their racing well in continuation of our club’s stellar racing heritage (an asterisk denotes that a medal was won).

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