Have You Raced? When? What Did You Learn?

Billy Kidd making his move.

We are curious how many of our readers have actually been involved in ski racing in the long arc of their skiing careers. Did you race in college? High school? World Cup circuit? Olympics?  Or just the odd NASTAR race at the local hill? 

Regardless what level you raced or your degree of success, what did you learn from the experience? How has what you learned changed your skiing experience, or, for that matter, your life and your outlook? If you didn’t race, what do you think you might have missed? Or, if you didn’t, why not?

What did you learn from your racing career that still sticks?

Please write your comments in Leave A Reply below.

 

 

18 Comments

  1. Avatar Marc Liebman says:

    One word – confidence. Racing gave the confidence to know that I could ski any condition and any slope at pretty much any speed. I was a pretty decent downhiller & GS racer (I still can’t run a slalom course worth a damn) and racing honed my ability to carve turns round precise, round terms.I raced in college and after NASTAR came out, I had a low, single digit handicap (2 – 4) well into my sixties.

    That “precision” helped me as a ski instructor because I could easily control the skis to demo maneuvers/exercises to students. As an instructor, I used to encourage the more adventurous advanced intermediate students to “run gates” to build their confidence because the race course forces you to turn to get through rather than turn when one wants to turn.

  2. Avatar david miller says:

    I have been racing NASTAR since the late 80s, I was of younger then and a intermediate skier,,Since that time,every place I go ( I ski 3-4 times a year about 4-5 days each trip ) I always seek out the local Race area and run as many lanes as I can..I feel it has made a better skier out of me over all . Racing has taught me edge control , balance, controlling speed, and especially teaching me to turn when I have to, not when I want to.. I have averted many a collision by turning on a dime when I caught someone or obscure object coming up too quickly upon me from behind…I’m 79 and still looking for the next race course which will be Park City in 2 weeks. I live in Florida so it is a little harder so that is why I ski/travel with my local ski club..

  3. Entered my first race, the Wednesday “Men’s Day Race “ at Stratton VT in spring 1968. My family had started skiing a lot in 66-67 (I was 12, and still freaked out by the spiral fracture I’d sustained as a snowplow beginner in Mar ‘65). As I improved, I realized turns in one direction were much easier than making turns the other way. So on sunny days the bunny hill chairlift cast shadows of the chairs on the snow…and I skied around the shadows pretending they were slalom poles; Killy had just won 3 gold medals at Grenoble…and I caught the racing bug.

    I entered the race, finished, and felt like I’d just won a gold.

    Did a few more races then raced in high school, and a couple weeks of summer racing camp at Red Lodge, MT. The headwall where we raced from 8:30-12:30 , way up top of Beartooth Pass was SO incredibly steep going over the cornice, that’s where I realized I could ski almost anything.

    No more racing for me since Nastar days in the 80s, but have been ski instructing for 11 years in VT & MA and still loving the process of helping folks of all ages to get better.

  4. Avatar Ernest Ashley says:

    My first race was at Stratton at age 15. I lucked out an rode a the chair lift with a racing instructor who told me to turn before the gates (and ice). I won a silver and was hooked! I raced through prep school then went to college in Colorado. Running gates gave me the confidence to ski the trees. I later became a ski instructor and racing was the foundation good technique. While working in the oil business, I represented the Tulsa Ski Club in the Flatlanders Ski Races. I still occasionally race NASTAR and an annual Water Pumpers Ski Races.

    • Avatar Mike Rector says:

      Ernest, just curious when you were racing the Flatlander races. I raced them from the about 1977 to 1979 with the St. Louis Ski Club.

      Mike Rector

  5. I grew up skiing in Western Pennsylvania, on our school’s informal ski race team in the early 1970s. Our “coach” was a handsome young teacher who wasn’t a skier himself, but he’d take us to race while he spent quality time with the ladies in the bar. He mysteriously obtained free-of-charge racing lessons for our team from a 20-something year old Austrian instructor. I think his name was Helmut. Helmut’s teaching method was to choose a point at the bottom of the hill, and tell us to get there as quickly as possible. He’d then scowl and yell “go down the ****ing hill, no ****ing svooshing!” We only later realized we’d learned short swing turns. Helmut would clip our gloves together to keep our hands out front and “make you little ****s do vat I ****ing tell you”. That was proper poling technique. Helmut didn’t use those technical terms. His vocabulary consisted overwhelmingly of four-letter words. Helmut had anger management issues. I later realized that our “coach” had acquired free lessons from Helmut by hooking him up with ladies in the bar, because Helmut was too rude to succeed on his own. Since then, I’ve been privileged to ski all over the world. And now, at age 65, I still start each run by picking a spot in the distance, saying to myself “go down the ****ing hill, no ****ing svooshing”, then I short swing my way down with my hands out front. Hey Helmut, ****ing thank you.

  6. Avatar Bob Lushanko says:

    Spent 25 years racing GS beer league. Had so much fun raced 4 times a week . The best thing was the friends I made and all the fun. Most of the better racers were very secretive about race ski prep. Think I spent a lot more time preparing race skis than actually racing. Still ski about 60 days mostly teaching. Occasionally I am asked set a course teach introduction to running gates. Fun to get people hooked. Here in the Midwest racing is a big part of the hill’s business.

  7. Avatar Normand L. Reynolds says:

    My son started racing when he was nine in Mass. Buddy Werner league. His first day he came home and said, “You really need to keep your weight forward.” I had only been telling him that since he was about five. Race courses are usually icy, and having to turn where the gates are completely demands good technique.
    In my brief racing career around ’59 and ’60, I learned that 215’s are a little long for slalom.

  8. Avatar Carlene Tonini-Boutacoff says:

    I started recreational racing as a senior. It has been fun and safe. Before I started racing I was enjoying trees and out of bounds skiing. When I reached 65 years old, I thought it was best to ski on runs at resorts. I quickly found this approach very boring. Once I got involved in racing and race training, I realized that there were many exercises that would improve my skiing and balance as I age. It is never too late to start racing. Enjoy

  9. Avatar John Farley says:

    I used to race NASTAR frequently, starting probably in the late 70s and continuing until around ten years ago. Usually was happy to get a medal but happier if it was silver; only got gold once and that was on a night, in a local race league, when the pacesetter messed up and had a poor run. Lots of gold that night!

    I found recreational racing very helpful to my all-around skiing. It was how I really learned the techniques of carving, back before the days when you could get skis that pretty much do it for you. I once took a Steve Lathrup racing camp, and that was the best thing I ever did for my skiing – learned how to properly carve, and also learned some of the physics of skiing that I had never had a clue about. So all in all, racing was very helpful to my all-around skiing, as well as being a lot of fun.

  10. Avatar Mike Rector says:

    I first raced NASTAR my second season of skiing (1972-73). After several years of racing, I became a ski instructor for a few years then, when my kids get older and became interested in racing, I became a coach for the kids ski team at my local hill for the next 20 years. I think my skiing benefited from all aspects of my racing and coaching – technically, mentally and tactically, but I think the tactical part – looking and planning ahead, and adjusting as needed – was what I gained from the racing part of my skiing experiences that I didn’t get elsewhere.

  11. I started learning to ski at 43 and took up racing at the end of that season. My goal was simply to finish without falling! Racing built my confidence and helped me improve my skiing along with keeping skiing interesting. At 74, I am teaching my granddaughter to ski and she raced for the first time last year! She wanted to do what her Nana did!

  12. Avatar Eric Durfee says:

    My story is a little different. I raced NCAA in college. Twenty plus years ago I was skiing with my son (who was racing at NorAm level) and I had what I thought was a pretty solid run. So I said on the chair, “ what did you think of the old man’s run?”. He was silent for a moment and then said, “dad, you’re obviously a good skier…..but you’re old school”! So I made it my goal to transition to what was then the “new turn” and that in itself took me several years to get a handle on. I still ski a hundred plus days a year, and love the sport. So getting back to racing, my wife and I skied Masters in Vermont for several years before moving West. Racing gives you a solid foundation and from there you can ski most anything.

  13. Avatar Philip Brencher says:

    I fell in love with skiing and racing the first time I saw it on Wide World of Sports. Two of my sisters were dating, and eventually married, brothers who were avid skiers. I was much younger than them and could fit on the hump between the bucket seats of their Corvettes so they brought me along whenever they could. Money and proximity prevented me from racing but, as my nieces and nephews grew up their parents got them involved in racing. I raced vicariously through them for decades before time and money permitted me to actually join a Monday night league…at 65! I thought (and people said) I was a pretty good skier but, when I ran gates I realized:
    It’s a lot tougher turning where you have to than where you want to.

    I did a lot of skidding when I turned.

    Skiing with your ankles touching might look cool but it’s not very fast.

    Hitting the ruts at gates wrong can be disastrous.

    I asked my nieces and nephews for advice (one coaches at Okemo Mountain School) and since I’ve been intentionally skiing bumps and ruts, rolling edge to edge & carving my turns, and setting up above the gate (I was always late by the third gate).

    The results:
    I have lots to talk about with my nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews ( a new generation of racers!).

    I’m a much better skier.

    I actually took my first first place finish last week!

    I’ve met a lot of fun people.

  14. I have raced in NASTAR for decades and was always on the border between Bronze and Silver. I hoped that my technique would improve with age. But a fast start is also required, and if your upper body strength declines with age, good luck. Nevertheless, I have always appreciated having a quantitative aspect added to the scenery.

  15. Artski
    Ski racing let’s you ski trees faster. Raced from day one. High school ski racing and coaching was great.

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