Snow Sunday: Ski Like A Girl

jesse-2 Remember when statements like, “You throw like a girl,” were insults? Back before Title IX, the Education Amendment in 1972 that gave equal opportunities and funding for women’s sports? Back before strong women represented dominant US women’s teams in sports like softball and soccer in the Summer Olympics? Back before the cute little Tomboy down the street kicked your ass in a friendly foot race?

Well, I never played softball or soccer at a high level (except of course for Telluride Town League), but I did ski race. And my goal was always to ski like a girl. Where I spent my time, there was definitely no shortage of them to look up to.

In high school, I attended Burke Mountain Academy, the same ski academy Mikaela Shiffrin, the gold medalist in the Sochi slalom and the youngest person to ever win an Olympic gold medal in alpine skiing, attended. The school is co-ed, but we trained in individual ski groups: J2 girls (fourteen and fifteen-year olds), J1 girls (sixteen to eighteen-year olds), J2 boys and J1 boys. (The age groups have since changed.)

With these groups you endured grueling dry land training sessions in the fall combining strength, agility, power and endurance. When the snow fell, you spent endless hours on-snow –first practicing focused free-skiing drills, then day after day training on giant slalom and slalom courses. You traveled the East Coast with your group, then the nation, and possibly, if you were really good, the world. These were your teammates, the athletes that pushed you every day, but also the ones you would have to beat to make it to the next race, the next level.

And, when you weren’t training, you were often watching video — of course in your groups. We knew each other’s skiing so well that during video analysis we could tell who was on course before they completed the first turn. Hands are low, must be Michaela. A little in the backseat, it’s Jen. Stance is narrow, Jesse. Straight at the gates and pulling it off, Christie.

When we weren’t analyzing our own skiing, we were watching our heroes on the World Cup. Back then Tamara McKinney, the shy, dark-haired girl from Squaw Valley dominated the slalom. Then there was Vreni Schneider, a small, Swiss woman whose skiing was marked by precision and finesse. Still today, she is the third most successful female ski racer behind America’s Lindsey Vonn and Austria’s Annemarie Moser Proll.

But, we didn’t have to look to the World Cup to find idols. They trained amongst us. Burke is unique in that the training hill is accessed by a Poma lift. A Poma lift is a one-man ride. As you ascend the mountain, you are by yourself watching the nation’s best junior ski racers come down the hill. Visualization is a powerful learning tool.

Julie Parisien and Wendy Fisher were seniors at Burke when I began as a sophomore. Both had made the US Ski Team (the coveted goal at Burke) by their senior years and were roommates. Both went on to successful skiing careers.

Fisher competed in the Albertville Olympics in ’92 and continued with the US Ski Team until ’94 when she began in illustrious free-skiing career. Parisien won three World  Cups between 1991 and 1993 and competed in three Olympics. In Albertville, France in 1992, she was winning the Olympic slalom after the first run.

jesse-1In Sochi last week, Shiffrin was winning the Olympic slalom after the first run.

Parisien posted on her Facebook feed, “22 years ago, I stood in the same position as Mikaela  Shiffrin is standing right now. I am betting she wins this thing.”

Twenty-two years ago, I, along with every young female ski racer, watched Parisien who raced with two teeth knocked out and a broken wrist due to a fall in an earlier race.

She finished fourth and still influenced my generation.

Last week, I watched Mikaela Shiffrin with my seven-year-old and four-year-old daughters. She won and is influencing their generation.

Suffice to say, in my house, we aspire to ski like a girl.

 

 

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