Corralco Chile, September 20, 2014: I am sitting on a couch that is thoroughly less relaxing than it looks. The lounge at the Hotel Corralco is filled with a number of very inviting, yet very uncomfortable pieces of furniture. Scattered among the coffee table and couches are a couple of uniquely milled wooden stools. They are mesmerizing to look at, but they simply have no business pretending to be adequate replacements for the socially acceptable forms of furniture that typically provide comfort for a visitor’s gluteus buttass.
Like many of the blogs I have written, I am coming to you live, from a beautifully dismal day off. For Ski Racers, there are generally two kind of days. A “day on” refers to each day we are skiing, training, or racing. And a “day off” refers to a day when we are resting for the next “day on”. “Day offs” are typically nothing to write home about. Certainly nothing worth putting on the internet… haha wups… But when all is said and done, they are necessary to reach the peaks of elite performance.
Beyond the basic physiological gains provided by a day of rest, the real benefit can be most drastically observed within one’s own mind. Sometimes, in the heat of competition, it’s hard to remember why you are lucky to be friends with the men or women on your team. When the future of your career is based upon how fast you ski relative to those who surround you, it is easy to let the trivial insecurities, resentments, and tempers build up to the breaking point. Sometimes it takes a little bit of fun on a “day off” to remind you why you are rooting for your team mates to succeed as much as you wish for your own success.
The typical “day off” starts with a failed attempt at sleeping in. No matter how willfully we aspire to sleep till midday, inevitably we find ourselves wide-eyed and restless by 7:00 a.m. Resenting the consciousness that evolution blessed us with, and wishing for the peaceful chaos of our dreams to resume. After putting off the inevitable for an hour or so, we find our way to where ever the nearest pot of coffee is most likely ready.
I am reminded of a certain scene from my favorite Disney Movie, “The Jungle Book”. Scope this un-embedable video on youtube to see what I’m talking about. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZDo-udXmgQ
What that reference was referring to is that sometimes there isn’t a whole lot to do after breakfast. Watching movies, reading books, or losing ones self in the infinite virtual landscape of Facebook or Instagram are the most popular choices. Some days are not so Ho, Hum however. There are days when the weather is nice, and when we are not forced to stay miles away from civilization withing the confines of our hotel. These are the days when the pressures of ski racing are as intangible as the fleeting memory of last night’s violently entertaining dream.
In Europe, some “days off” begin the night before with a couple laps down the Rodel track. Rodeling might be the single most accessible, entertaining, and dangerous “sport” ever invented. It involves steering a wooden sled with steel runners down a casually maintained cat track around obstacles that include impossibly sharp switchbacks, jumps, bridges, cow pastures, and (perhaps the most dangerous obstacle of all) British tourists. All of this at speeds between 0-40 mphish depending on your courage, skill, and how much alcohol you’ve consumed.
In New Zealand we are constantly smothered by breathtaking scenery. The stunning sunrise and sunset’s are a maddening compliment to the island’s unique brand of cute and cuddly native wild life. A “day off” is a good time to ignore all that bullshit in order to search out even more adrenaline. A day of Sky Diving or Bungee Jumping is a popular way to not only forget you’re a ski racer, but to forget that there isn’t anything worth doing in life except falling to your near death out of planes or off cliffs.
The first half of our camp in Chile this year was epic. Blue skies and fields of white snow greeted us each morning as the stars faded into the rising sun. Little did we know… the mountain was teasing us. Showing us the picture of what could be. In the days that followed, I have never seen it snow slash rain more consistently in my entire life. We were miles from civilization with nothing to do… the perfect criteria for an un-blogable series of “days off”.
Due to weather, previous “day off” activites like biking, hiking, frisbee golf, and volleyball were not going to be possible. So, we turned to the Ping-Pong table. Marvin the French-Duchman quickly established himself as the man to beat. Only Thomas Biesemeyer and Head Coach Sasha Rearick managed to steal a win or two from him. But everyone’s game improved immensely by the end of the camp.
If more people wanted access to the only entertainment system within our temporary prison, we would play a game we called around the world. The video’s below detail the rules and outcomes. Enjoy!
Also, check out the slide show below for more pics of our chile trip and some other day off adventures. Thanks To Jonathan Selko for taking the sweet Frisbee Golf Pics. Scope his website at http://www.selkophoto.com/ for more action.
I was recently asked to write a piece for T2’s Athlete Blog about what it means to be a Ski Racer during the summer. I had been waiting since mid-March for a chance to unveil another one of my over-long rants that I specialize in putting on the internet. So, this was my chance. I sat down to get started, but after 20 min… 45 min… an hour had gone by… I hadn’t accomplished much. The large scab I received from “super-manning” off my bike had been picked to half its original size and was now bleeding. And the blank word document with its infinitely blinking cursor was taunting me. Besides, what does it mean to be anything ever anyway?
For most kids, summer takes place during the months of June, July, and August. It is a time to free the body and mind from the shackles of the schoolroom; a time to relax with close friends and reunite with those whose lives have taken them on a different path; a time to revel in the boundless, unappreciated naivety of our youths. Or, it could just be a time to sit in the basement and binge-watch the full seasons of “Breaking Bad”, “Game of Thrones”, or “How I Met Your Mother” on some idle Tuesday afternoon.
For the devoted Ski Racer, summer is a tad more complicated. The competition season takes places between November and March, but being a Ski Racer is a year round commitment. It is mind-bottling trying to find the formula for success amid the sea of thousands. Having the right balance between dry-land training, mental fortification, on-snow camps, and relaxation time during the summer months can be the difference between reaching your goals this upcoming season, or having to set new ones that involve going to college… or getting a real job.
If you have aspirations of earning a college scholarship or qualifying for the U.S. Ski Team, you probably have a few priorities during the summer. Getting strong is one of the most important and obvious of these priorities. I’m not advocting for everyone to spend 5 hours a day locked inside a gym. But an easy way to ensure that you are not completely wasting your limited time on snow making tired turns is to spend some quality time getting fit during the summer. What is the proper amount of time? HaHaHaHa! That’s an excellent question. The only answer I can give confidently is — enough time so when you look back on your career, you don’t wish you had done more.
Getting strong is a priority and a challenge, but perhaps the biggest obstacle to overcome for many Club, College, and Ski Team athletes alike is paying for the addictive yet erroneous sport.
Allow me to paint you a picture of my past:
I am 12 years old. Today is going to be the best day ever because today, the coaches have decided that it is time for me to start learning to cross block!! I’m ecstatic because all the big boys crossblock, and if I can crossblock the maybe I will get to ski with them! I have just mounted my first pair of brand new “Spyder”, see-through, half pol guards onto my “Scott” “Series 4 Aluminum World Cup” Poles, which are both missing pole baskets. The guards are new and unmarked. It isn’t cool to have pole guards that look new because that means you haven’t hit any gates with them yet. So I take the guards into my garage and whack them with an old broken gate so the other kids think I know how to cross block.
At twelve, everything I thought about skiing, about ski racing, and about life in general crossed through my mind as I tried to deal with the excitement of learning to crossblock. The only though that didn’t cross my mind was that if I learned to crossblock, I would get better. If I got better, I would start skiing more and going to more races. And if I went to more races, it would get more expensive for me and my family.
Like a lot of ski racing families, when I was coming up the ranks as a J2 and J1, my parents didn’t have 15,000 dollars a year to spare on my sport of choice. They had car payments, mortgage payments, insurance payments, taxes and you know… like all the stuff that people in the real world have to deal with. So, I began writing sponsorship letters to my closest family, frinds, and friends of friends in order to raise the funds I needed to continue ski racing.
At first I was embarrassed to write the letters. I tried to keep them simple. I focused mainly on the cool places I had been, tried to include a funy story or picture, and listed my results. Then I’d tell everyone about my goals for the upcoming season;how my dreams of being on the U.S. Ski Team were possible because of their contributions, But I could not make the next step without their continued support. I HATED telling people this. It opened me up to a level of vulnerability I had never experienced before. It felt like lying, because I had no idea if i could achieve the goals i was broadcasting . If I didn’t achieve them, then the money these people gave to me, that they trusted me with, was all for nothing.
I became a bit more comfortable with asking people for money after I learned I wasn’t offending anyone by asking for their help. I would get responses from a distant acquaintance, apologizing that they couldn’t donate but to keep sending the letters because they loved being a part of my journey. Now, in my 5th year on the U.S. Ski Team, I have qualified for the B-Team and will be paying approximately-exactly 20,000 dollars in various expenses. It seems the fundraising experience I gained in order to make the U.S. Ski Team has come full circle now that I am on it.
As I get older, I am becoming more insecure about reaching most of my goals as an athlete, and still not making enough money to move out of my parents basement… or buy my own clothes… or food. But, I realize that I’m also lucky. Lucky because, even though it may be hard to justify the meaning of your own existence to a grandma, or cousin, or local business, in the end those who do support you will become a part of that journey.
Maybe that was the most important lesson I learned from the responses to my letters– that our journey is so unique. People who have never skied will follow us to the ends of the earth. Not because we’re trying to be “ski racers”. But because we are chasing a dream, “the dream”, that we are violently passionate about. That is something everyone an relate to, and something that everyone will support.
Before I start, I should warn you that this blog does not expound upon my non-existent experiences at the Sochi Olympic Games. I feel that by including the word “Olympic” in the title, I may have unintentionally slash strategically suckered some of you into reading this ramble with the hopes that it’s content might be about my ragingly unique experiences at the 2014 games. Trust me, I am just as bummed as you are that I didn’t ski well enough to qualify for the games… but my not going provided for an opportunity to write something about the Olympics from a perspective other than the usual topics of “how unique your experience was”… or how janky everything was in Russia” … or for that matter, “how Un-Janky things actually turned out to be”. No. This blog is simply about watching TV.
I’ve had ample time to contemplate a great many things in the last couple of days. (or at least when I wrote this it was the last couple days) Unfortunately, this was because I was sick. And because I was sick, the majority of what ran through my mind was nonsense and therefore a byproduct of my body’s first attempt at warding off the sore throat, ballooning headache, chills, and fever that kept me in bed for three days. On the bright side, I watched more of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games in those three days then of any other Olympic Games in my entire life combined! I don’t want to scare you, but there were a lot of “In’s”.. a lot of “Out’s” … and a lot of “What have you’s” that had to come together for this to happen. The first: I had to have a TV that connected to basic public television. The second: I had to be in Europe.. and that’s it.
That’s right ladies and germs. In Europe, the Olympics are broadcast on one of multiple public channels almost ALL DAY long. I know, I know. I just said “in Europe”, like everything in Europe is the exact same. But the funny thing is… it actually is. I’ve spent a significant amount of time watching live broadcasts almost all day long of the Olympics in Germany, Switzerland, Bulgaria, and Austria. Ok, so maybe not all of Europe, but I’d say that’s a pretty solid sample size to base a blog post off of right?
Anyway, in the Bobsled, they didn’t just show the Germans or the Austrians… In the slalom they didn’t just show the medal contenders and the “Super Star” European skiers like Marcel Hirscher, Felix Neureuther, or Bernadette Shild. No. They aired almost every kid, whether they were from the home nation of the broadcast you were watching from, or from a country I didn’t even know existed. Like the kid from the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste who finished 22 seconds out. I may have only taken one geography class in my expedited time at school, but if you can take a blank globe or map and point to where Timor-Leste is, you deserve a medal, or a parade, or at least a high five.
I was skeptical at first of such an overwhelmingly unbiased display of the greatest winter sporting event known to mankind. It challenged the basic knowledge that is apparently passed from generation to generation in our country that the Olympics are to be broadcast between 7 & 10 P.M. Recapping the day’s highlights by showing the pre-fabricated stories of the Americans who were expected to win medals and did, an international medal winner/contender or two, and maybe a couple other Americans. Cheers to NBC for providing free live coverage of all the Olympic Competitions online. But the coverage was only free to those who subscribe to a cable provider. So even if you wanted to sacrifice your circadian rhythm to catch up on the un-aired midnight action from the curling rink, you still had to pay 50+ dollars a month for cable to have the option.
One example of NBC’s failure to capture the true spirit of the Olympic Games came when they failed to show any of the four runs Jared Goldberg, the youngest member of the Men’s U.S. Olympic Alpine Ski Team, took in his first Olympics. Jared qualified in possibly the mot unique and volatile event in alpine ski racing, the Combined. It takes one run of Downhill and one of Slalom. Smashing them together in order to create one chaotic hurricane of a race where any combination of variables can can determine the winner on ay given day. Because of the format, the winner is usually an established Tech skier who skis just slowly enough first run to have a good start position from which to make up the deficit second run. Or, he is an established speed skier who skis just fast enough first run to preserve his lead through the second run and escape the onslaught of tech skiers who are gunning for the lead.
Either way, the Combined event takes an extraordinary amount of athleticism. Jared showed the world he had plenty of it when he finished 11th, second for Americans. Ted Ligety, a medal favorite in both the Combined and the GS events, finished 12th in the Combined, one spot behind Jared. In the GS, Bode Miller, one of the most decorated Alpine Ski Racers of all time, finished 20th. Jared finished 19th, third for Americans. One place in front of Bode, and four plaes behind Tim Jitloff, who finished 15th, second for Americans. Both Bode and Ted’s runs were broadcast, but in the competition created for the sake of competition, Jare’ds spirited efforts were not included in that nights American Olympic Coverage. (side note: Tim Jitloff’s runs also were not broadcast)
I know that writing this sparsely organized piece of writing for my blog, that maybe 100 of my friends and family will read a couple of sentences into, will not change anything. (Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to each and every one of those 100 who care enough to see what I’ve been doing and thinking.) And I know my views are biased, given that my life revolves around the sport of Alpine Ski Racing. There are plenty of other athletes whose Olympic Journey deserve the exposure and recognition for their efforts that they largely won’t get from an American fan base due to the shortcomings of NBC. But the point is. For all of Europe’s frustrating and unimaginably nonsensical and ironic qualities in relation to the everyday conveniences of America, they sure do know how to broadcast the greatest winter sporting event in the world.