Race Day

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It was a cold crisp morning as I stepped out of the ski lodge at Gore with my friends Kelly and Ben. It was our last ski race of the season, the Gore Open. We were second years in the age group so we were expected to win. Next year we would be first years again, and then our chances of winning a race would be next to zero. So this would be the last ski race we could win for a year. Winning would not be easy though. One boy called Michael M. would probably beat me. But other than that there was no other good ski racer that could beat me. It looked like a solid silver today. The race was taking place on a trail called Twister and I had been training on it ever since I had been ski racing. There had been a fresh snow over night and it lay everywhere like powdered sugar on a frozen cake landscape. With the groomers packing down the snow, it was going to be firm for the race today. The only thing that could mess up this day would be if I crash, but I was not about to let that happen.

All we had to do before the race was bring our skis to the race course, inspect the course, and take a free run. That left us with a lot of time before the race started in two hours. So we had plenty of time to get extra skiing in. To waste time we went up the gondola, which went further up on the mountain than the alternative, the triple chair. When we got out on the top we were greeted by a cold blast of air, it was always windy on the top of the mountain.

Since it was a race day we all had two pairs of skis with us. One for free skiing, and one for the race. We had to carry the ones for the race on our shoulders to the top of the racecourse. We had to be careful going down; better skiers had broken their valuable packages because of carelessness. They were freshly waxed so we would fly down the course like greased lightning. Dropping the skis would damage them a lot so we really had to concentrate as we went down the mountain.

We took it easy down to “the cliff”. Our cliff. We had made the first tracks to ever go off the cliff, so now it was ours. Jumping off it every time we passed had become a ritual for us. Every time we went off the cliff we looked up at another cliff towering over us. Nobody had ever jumped off of it. Next season, we might once again be the trailblazers and be the first ones to jump off of that cliff too. Although the race was important, the cliff was more important, and we risked damaging our skis as we hopped of the cliff. After the jump we sped down to the top of the racecourse. Well, as fast as we could go with the skis on our backs.

To the relief of our tiresome shoulders, we stuck our race skis into the side of the trail, later we would use them, but now we had to inspect the course. We do this so that we can tell if there are especially hard turns or sections that we have to know about. In the past years there had always been key gates on this course, and it was important to know them. You cannot do good on a course if you do not inspect it well. Even the best skier will mess up if he does not know when to set up high, or when to drop into a tuck.

Since Kelly, Ben and I had the best chance of winning this race, the coaches went down with us, so that we could hear their expert analogy. We took our time inspecting it and soaked up what our coaches said like dry sponges. One point the coaches put a lot of emphasis on was a large right hand turn leading into the steepest part of the course. If you did not make that turn, you would not carry enough speed into the flats.

It was a Giant Slalom course so the turns were medium sized and we went about forty miles per hour. In Giant Slalom it is easier to make it down, but harder to make it down fast. The Giant Slalom courses are longer, so there are greater differences in the times. My specialty is Giant Slalom, while Kelly and Ben are better at Slalom.

We did not feel like standing in the line for the Gondola. So instead we went up the triple chair. There were no skis on our shoulders holding us down this time, so we jumped off the cliff without worries. Leaving the cliff behind us we sped down Wild Air. We cut into the woods for some fresh powder snow and then slalomed in between the trees. Coaches never recommend going off jumps on a race day, as you could get hurt. But there were no coaches in sight as we rocketed off knolls and rollers. It was our last day skiing together, and we wanted to have fun. But once we got to the bottom, the mood sobered up. It was time to focus, because the race had started. The ride up the chairlift was a quiet one since everyone was concentrating on the race ahead.

Even with the race looming like a mountain in front of us, we still went of the cliff. Not doing so would be a capital crime. We made the short climb to the top of the cliff and then launched off. We ducked and weaved through people like a swallow through rafters. We had to get down to the racecourse as soon as possible. Once there we snapped off our skis and laid them next to our race skis. Our goggles and helmets came off too and landed in the snow beside the..

We had arrived just in time. Our age group had just started sending down racers. We started hiking up and down the side of the race trail to get our muscles warm. My stomach was like a butterfly museum. I had nothing else to think about except the upcoming race. After ten minutes of that it was our turn. We took our jackets and snow pants off and revealed our sleek speed suits beneath. We had to make the transition from hiking to racing fast, since the speed suits did not hold us warm at all. So we quickly stepped into our race skis and buckled our helmets, it was race time.

Kelly was the first one to go. Just to clear up any misconceptions, he is a boy. Skiing out of the starting gate like a madman he started down the hill. From what I could see he had a good run. A short while later the speakers announced that he had finished with a good time that put him into third place. Ben did not have very high expectations for this race since he was not so good at Giant Slalom. He carved some nice turns on the top of the race course though. Then I had to wait for him to finish so that I could hear his time. He ended up finishing fifth which was good for him. Then it was my turn.

I did the highest kick start I could manage and left my butterflies behind me in the starting gate. Making turns at high speed I came crashing down the race course. The snow was perfect for the race. Hard enough so that I could dig my edges in without it giving away. But soft enough so that it was not a sheet of ice. I went speeding down through the first flat part. I could feel the air rippling off of my helmet as I became a blur flying past the gates. I kept listening to hear the boom as I went supersonic. As I neared the end of the flat section, I remembered the coaches advice to set up high on the steep section. I did exactly that and easily carried enough speed onto the second flat section. I ignored my brain and held my tuck longer gaining more speed. In the turns I carved deeper than ever before and took the most aggressive line possible. I arrived in the finish line out of breath, and then I noticed everyone else was out of breath too. I had the best time yet. I was ahead by a second.

The only person who could take this win from me was Michael M. He skied for Willard and in the past years he had always put up a good time. Better than my times. If anybody had told me that I would beat him, I would have called them crazy. Last year he had beaten me by a second so all I could do was hope for a miracle. Watching from the bottom of the hill was agony. I imagine it must be the same feeling that a felon gets while the jury decides his fate. It's a very important event, and all you can do is watch and remember that your mom doesn't want you to chew your fingernails. He looked like a bullet coming down the course. He was doing much better than any of the other racers had. His time was better than anyone else's. But not mine. He finished a twentieth of a second behind me. I was the winner. Luck had been on my side.





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