Posted by Josh on March 30th, 2012
March has flown by. So far, it’s consisted of racing, more racing, and living out of my suitcase.
It started with the North American World Cup in Winter Park, Colorado. This is one of my favourite hills on the circuit, and I was feeling like I had a bit of an advantage over the European and Japanese racers, having raced there many times over the years. The first races of the week were doubleheader Super Gs, in which I finished eighth and fourth respectively — not too bad, but the truth is I was hoping to finish on the podium.
The next two days were giant slalom (GS) races, which, unfortunately, went sour fast. I’m not really a good GS skier on the best of days — yet, I skied especially poorly.
I had a super tough start. First, the snow was really aggressive. But it went downhill from there, literally. I was eons off pace which was quite discouraging. The last race of the series was the slalom. From what I remember, I was pretty good at slalom the last time I raced in the World Cup. This time around, I finished my first run and felt good about it, only to realize I was in ninth place and way off pace. Nonetheless, I did improve my second run and moved up to sixth overall for the day.
It was a real eye-opener to see the level at which everyone else was racing. For me, to come in mid-season with high hopes was like trying to run a car hard on a cold winter’s day. But Colorado was far from being a bust; I left feeling inspired and motivated to bring my best to the World Cup finals in Panorama, B.C.
The momentum had started building up for me in Winter Park, where I was getting charged up for Panorama. I love being back home in the Kootenays and feel so at peace in the mountains there. I came out strong and won the first Super G event of the week. I was close to winning the second one when I hit a nasty bump and lost traction, which sent me off course.
The next event was the Super Combined, which started with a Super G in the morning (in which I finished fourth) and then the slalom in the afternoon (which I completely blew and finished ninth overall, combined time). The final day of the World Cup finals was the slalom. I was motivated to do my best, and I did.
In the first run, I was in fourth position and in striking distance of winning. I started off my second run feeling smooth and aggressive through the tight turns and bumps, when, out of nowhere, I blew my ski off! I was furious, and perplexed by how this could have happened, and so disappointed to be disqualified from the race.
I put my ski back on and raged down the rest of the course (it was the best I’ve ever skied slalom, hands down); but it cost me dearly. I was fined for continuing down the track after being disqualified and had to pay for my unsportsmanlike behaviour. Not only did I pay the fine, but I apologized to everyone for my actions (and I tell you, it was money well spent as I needed to blow off my frustration in a constructive way).
This whole experience has reminded me of how much I enjoy the action of ski racing — the pure beauty of flying down the mountain while trying to balance on that fine line of skilled control and insanity.
Just on the perimeter of that line, just beyond your comfort zone, is where the magic lies — where you’re free to explore your potential. Racing is also a game of attrition; you need to be wise with how you push boundaries and expand your experience. But, like any job or pursuit to be the best you can be, safety must always come first.
After a tight few weeks of World Cup races, filled with some magnificent moments and hard lessons, I wrapped up the season ranking third overall in the World Cup Super G standings. It was a super nice cherry on top of an already amazing winter!
Less than 24 hours after the race, I found myself in a nice little Euro chalet, on the slopes of La Clusaz, with the Salomon Freeski Team. It’s dumping outside and I’m sitting fireside, eating cheese and drinking wine.
LIFE IS GOOD.