All the pre-season snow in Colorado has me fired up. Copper Mountain and Loveland have been open for weeks. Friday was FIRST TRACKS with the U.S. Ski Team, a pep rally and the official announcement of the Men's and Women's U.S. Alpine Ski Teams for 2013/14. The skiers are gearing up for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi Russia. Every year Copper hosts the U.S. Ski Team at their Speed Center. It's the best full distance (downhill) training facility in the World at this time of year. Copper pulls out all the stops and devotes the entire Eastern side of the resort, the Super Bee area, to the USSA racers. In an Olympic year, things get a little bit more serious.
Click for pix: FIRST TRACKS
Make some turns, shoot some pix, interview Olympians...hellz yeah. 120 miles door-to-door from Aspen to Copper. So I loaded up the cruising vessel, threw the dog in the back and rolled over to Copper. Boots; check, poles; check, gloves; check, goggles; check, rogain; check. In addition to hosting the U.S. Ski teams, Copper is probably the epicenter in the U.S. for early season amateur race training. 1000's of kids from all over the U.S.A., Canada, Japan and other places converge on Copper in November. It's probably the largest collection of speed suits in the free world. Some of the kids skip 2 full weeks of school to hone their ski racing skills.
Once the sun came up, a beautiful Colorado bluebird day greeted us. Walking over to the lift I was surprised to see some familiar faces from Aspen. Racers, coaches and crew who were at Copper for training. It felt great to be back on the Mountain.
Booting up for the first day of the season is never pretty. My feet don't really enjoy the super-tight fit of a ski boot...do yours? Soon enough I was in the lift line...what a lift line? It went pretty quick...but lift lines in Aspen are almost unheard of. First turns...yeeeeeah, back on snow, albeit man made and wind blown....wooooooooooooooot. The white ribbon of fear was moderately crowded...but it could've been much worse. A couple of quick top to bottoms...and ski season 2013/14 was underway.
I decided to forgo the advice USSA media contact who said "you should probably take the bus to the East Village, you're not supposed to ski over there from the top". Not supposed to ski over there??? I came to shred girl?? Not to ride the shuttle. So, at the top, I ducked under the rope and pointed 'em downhill towards the Speed Center at Super Bee. Eventually I got to the starting gate where some of the U.S. Ski Team dudes were preparing for training runs. One of the guys milling around at the start happened to be MR. BODE MILLER. Wut up, Bode?
An offical looking man, a coach type with a walkie talkie asked me sternly "what are you doing up here?" I answered in my best Spicoli "skiing laps and takin' pix" and I flashed my super-cool media credential. "You're not supposed to be up here" he said. Ooops. For a split second he thought about making me hike back up the hill, but then Bode jumped into the starting gate, pushed off and all eyes were on him. After Bode ripped out of sight, the coach-type said into his walkie " I got a media guy up here, he's lost...can i send him down?" The response took a few moments "O.K. let him ski it...but tell him to keep his head up". So while I didn't get to ski the gates...I did get to shred the longest training course in the U.S....which I enjoyed immensely. At the bottom the entire U.S. team was hanging out doing interviews, taking pix and generally chilling. Uncle E was there taping an episode of Snow Globe...his show about the U.S. Team. It was casual and fun. I actually got to rip a few more laps before the ladies took over the speed course.
Later that day the entire U.S. Ski Team, Alpine Division was introduced to a huge crowd at Burning Stones Plaza at the base of Copper. Everybody was there, Bode Miller, Ted Ligety, Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin and more. The U.S. Ski Team has very high hopes for Sochi 2014 after their record setting season last year. It was the best results of all-time with 5 World Championship medals, 33 World Cup podiums from 10 different athletes and 18 victories. See the official roster here. U.S. Alpine Team. 90 days to Sochi and the team looks ready. U.S.A. ! U.S.A. !
I was a great first day. Click for Pix: FIRST TRACKS