How to Watch a Ski Race : Find a Perch

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This isn't a basketball game, so you can't cruise to your seat just in time for tipoff. The best way to grab a prime position is to arrive early and hike up or ski down. Before Picabo became a star and her parents had access to VIP areas and hospitality tents, they trudged up the mountain like everybody else. "If you're a skier, of course, you can ski down. But I wasn't a skier," Dee says.

On most mountains, spectators are permitted to watch from any spot they can reach, provided they don't interfere with the race. "Depending on the resort, if you can ski, you can get anywhere. If you're into thrills and spills, hang out where they're catching air. If you're cheering for one racer, be near the finish." To expand on that: For action, stand where the coaches-or photographers-stand. "Coaches' knoll" tends to be the spot that affords the best view of the course or, at minimum, marks the most technical-and thrilling-section. Failing that, pick a spot behind the fence that lets you see as many gates as possible above and below you. If you're an air junkie, stand near any jump with a name that might pass for the title of a B-grade horror flick. And, as Dee suggests, if you're cheering a single racer, take a seat in the bleachers at the finish. The excitement of the crowd is contagious and you'll be able to watch the clock, listen to commentary and, often, watch the race from start to finish on a giant mobile monitor.