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Giving World Cup racing its due

Bob Berwyn

In one of those hell-freezing-over scenarios, U.S. Ski Team racer Bode Miller has taken the top spot in the World Cup standings, just as the premier racing league enters the heart of the season, with classic races like the Hahnenkam in Kitbuehel and Wengen’s Lauberhorn slated for the next few weeks. According to news reports, this is the first time an American man has led the World Cup since the Mahre era, about 20 years ago.My own racing experience is spotty at best, with a little bit of high school and college-level competition, as well as some training time with the U.S. Army ski team during a winter spent in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. My biggest claim to racing fame might actually be a spectacular crash out of the starting gate in a ski school race in Angel Fire, N.M., when I pre-released out of BOTH bindings on the start ramp, taking out the first few gates while sliding nose-first down the icy slope.Still, I’ve always been a big World Cup fan. The international circuit seems to exemplify the best of what skiing is about, with international camaraderie and spirited team competition, all marked by the ferocious individualism that characterizes top racers.I know that free- and extreme skiing are all the rage these days, and I certainly admire the skills and daring of some of today’s slope heroes, but it seems that racers just aren’t getting their due. Let’s not forget that hurtling down a slope at 100 mph-plus on an icy, bumpy downhill course is about as extreme as it gets, and stopping is not an option. One of the most memorable images in skiing – or any sport, for that matter is still Franz Klammer’s on-the-edge run to victory in the 1976 Innsbruck Olympics, when the master downhiller strayed close to the boundary of what is possible on twoboards and a snow-covered mountain.There’s something sexy about racing, too. It’s sexy in a suave, Jean Claude Killy sort of way, as opposed to the pierced navel, potty-mouth mode seemingly in favor these days. Racing is distilled blend of form and function, the very essence of skiing. Courage is important, but it must be synthesized with healthy portions of skill and tempered by experience and practice.Miller’s success is Big News in the ski racing world, but it just hasn’tgenerated much excitement among the general skiing public. Part of this is a lack of exposure. When was the last time you saw a promo for a live broadcast of a World Cup race? After all, in our modern sports and social landscape, it’s not important unless it’s broadcast in real time on a network, or at least on a major cable channel.I find it hard to believe that ESPN can show things like log-rolling competitions, but can’t find the wherewithal to show the world’s biggest ski races live.I may, of course, be in error here, and it wouldn’t be the first time. Maybe there is some channel that shows the races live, but I haven’t been able to find it. Someone please fill me in. Better yet, maybe some intrepid sports editor or reporter with one of our illustrious local papers could do a little piece on this topic.What I’d love to see is for the ski industry – including equipmentmanufacturers – getting together to sponsor these broadcasts and push one of the major networks or cable channels into carrying them live, or at least on the day of the race. Seems like it would be a great way to market the excitement of our sport to the American public, especially since we have a home-grown hero to root for once again, at long last. Go Bode!Author’s note: Due to space restrictions, The Vail Trail will no longer be able to carry Over The Pass. If there is some generous potential advertiser out there who would like to sponsor a page for this column, contact The Vail Trail. Otherwise, to read future editions of Over the Pass, log onto http://www.coloradoskiwriter.com/freshtracks, where the column appears under the Fresh Tracks header.


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