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No Break for the Racers


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Gondola rising. The hour-long wind hold has yet to bottleneck the racers at the top of Aspen Mountain, sitting under the heaters and looking for the real bathroom. I’m in with Lindsay. She’s chatting. I’m thinking about how I skied from the summit almost to the bottom yesterday, down Spar Gulch and around Kleenex Corner and into the finish. My legs were toast. She’ll do it 80-odd times before it’s over.

In the last 24 hours, I’ve skied a few runs, sat in the hot tub, had some wine and cheese, went out for sushi. I’ve had some drinks, watched the news, had Cheerios at my B&B, hiked Highland Bowl. I’ve slept and woke up to my alarm and snoozed and woke up again. And every so often, I caught myself thinking, She’d still be skiing.

She’d still be skiing. Skiing so fast that you can hear her—skis on snow, or wind on helmet? I’ve never heard speed, a low sliding hiss, like this. I know what the Pumphouse Rolls sound like: pure velocity.

“It’s actually better to race at night. I can’t wait for the sun to go down. It’s so peaceful, and surreal, and the lights bring out all the contrast of the snow….You ski into the finish and it’s like you’re in the middle of a stadium.”

I nod, as if I have an idea of what it’s even like.

She’s wrapped in a blanket, a heat pad on each quad and one on her left shoulder, turning down offers of water, turning down GU, only asking us to radio ahead to ready a bucket of kitty litter for the next ride up. She’s smiling. She’s happy. Okay, She has a mini cramp. She’s only done 8 or 10 runs, and the sun is still in the sky, and she’s been going downhill for all of 25 minutes.

“I had a really close call last run—it was so windy that I caught huge air and my skis got lifted up. But you just move on. Every run is a new run.” Another big smile.

Each time I shiver, I realize I’m wearing about three inches more clothing than she is: the Michelin Man sharing a ride with a thoroughbred. Each time I yawn, I’m embarassed.

She switches heat pad from left shoulder to right. The top station is in sight. She stands up, leans forward on her poles, stretches forward like she’s in the start house. When the gondola doors open, she runs across the rubber flooring out to her 212’s, steps in, skates away. By the time I pull my skis out of the door and walk out, she’s at the bottom. It’s that fast. I can hear the crowd cheering for her over the loudspeaker. She’s back on the gondola before I can adjust my goggles.

And she’s still skiing.