Looking back at the 2003 ski classic
The constant smiles were almost as bright as the pupil-searing sun at the 2003 American Ski Classic Legends Downhill race. The competitors were having as much fun as the crowd, and everyone was enjoying the temperate weather and the soft snow.
Although the sun was out, and shining snow into water, it was too little, too late to fill out the shortage in racing bibs, considering the airport and highway closures. One of Jarle Halsnes’ brothers was still stuck at Denver International Airport. Jarle lives in Steamboat, and he and his three brothers were scheduled to participate in Thursday’s event.
“The course was very good today after it softened up. It was rock hard this morning, but it ended up being a fun course.” Halsnes said.
“The course was difficult, but fun. The event is always a good time.” said Edvin Halsnes, professional racer from 1980-1990 and one of Jarle’s two brothers who live in Norway.
The event did not follow traditional FIS rules. The idiosyncrasies included age handicaps and a combination of two times. But nobody seemed to care.
Laurie Graham-Flynn won the women’s downhill, representing Canada. Pam Fletcher, winner of six national titles, former Olympic team member and winner of the 1986 World Cup, came in a close third.
“The crew worked hard to make an originally rough course fun.” said Fletcher.
Toril Forland of Norway, member of the Norwegian National Team for five years, the University of Utah’s team for three years and raced professionally for seven, was disqualified after her first run.
“It was really fun. I’ve done this event for a number of years. I do it for the chance to race, to meet wonderful people. It’s a chance to have a reunion for us,” Forland said, “It’s like a big family. For the people I don’t know, it’s a good chance to meet them.”
Franz Klammer, “The Kaiser,” of Austria won the men’s division with a combined time of 140.16 seconds.
“I had to slow down on the first run in order to react and correct in the flat. But I let it all hang out on the second run. I barely had to move at all because the course was so smooth by then.” Klammer, winner of the 1983 downhill title, said, “It feels great when you’re out there in competition. And, when you win, it’s a special feeling.”
Otto Tschudi of Norway tried as hard as he could to make that special feeling his with a gutsy second run (49.99 seconds) in which he slammed into the protective padding past the finish line. Tschudi came up with a sore knee, which he promptly applied a handful of snow to.
“It’s (a run and crash like that) not from practice, I’ll tell you that much.” said Tschudi.
Felix Belczyk of Canada came in fifth with a second run of 52.21 seconds.
“This was only my first downhill of the year, but it feels really good to go that fast, to get the wind in your face and go for it. We don’t get that chance too often, so it’s always a pleasure to come here.” said Belczyk.
Carol Walker, a teacher at St. Clare’s in Edwards, was among a contingent of grade-schoolers that came out to watch the race. They sat in the stands, waving American flags and crying out the names of celebrities milling around the finish area. One of those was Vail’s own Ryan Sutter, who was Trista-less at the time.
“It was a lot of fun, especially watching the movie stars,” Walker said,
Then came the cowbells, the noisemakers and one large movement to the restrooms after a little too much excitement.
Did it beat homework?
“It’s much better,” said Ian Hamina, a fifth-grader.