Do Europeans really treat their pro skiers like royalty?

Ask Dr. Flake

Not in the least. You're probably just thinking of Marc Girardelli, the Austrian medal-hoarder who, during the 1990s, raced as a one-man team for the moneyed principality of Luxembourg and flew to summer glacier training in his own private helicopter. Or maybe you're referring to Hermann Maier, who received the Gold Cross, Austria's highest honor, from the country's president in a ceremony broadcast to more than a million of his countrymen, and at which Maier skied through laser beams past a crowd of 10,000. Or perhaps you mean Alberto Tomba, who received an honorary police badge as a gift from the Bologna, Italy, carabiniere. This is the same Tomba who was greeted at the finish of the Olympic giant slalom at Val d'Isère with a banner proclaiming, Alberto, thank you for existing. OK, so the doctor stands corrected—Euro skiers do get the royal treatment. But there's something to be said for Americans' laid-back approach to ski racing: After all, no one bothered Bill Johnson when he celebrated his downhill gold at Sarajevo by heading to Lake Powell with a jet-ski and a bag of mushrooms.