Ski fans: No football fanatics |

Ski fans: No football fanatics

J.K. Perry
Shane Macomber/Vail DailyLocal Jake Dippy, 7, a ski racer with Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, gives the U.S. Ski Team's Ted Ligety a high-five after his downhill training run Wednesday at Beaver Creek.

EAGLE COUNTY – Jake Dippy digs World Cup racing so much, his parents pull the first-grader out of class each year for Birds of Prey.

“I like all the races and I like going to see them and stuff,” said the 7-year-old ski racer from Edwards.Jake missed school Wednesday because of an ear infection, but still managed to attend the World Cup training session at Beaver Creek. He’s excited to watch the races again on Friday. While mother Nina Dippy suspects teachers might not like Jake’s absences, she knows they understand.”They do respect the fact that World Cup only comes to us once a year,” she said.Jake is perhaps among the youngest local World Cup fanatics cheering Birds of Prey racers this week at Beaver Creek, but several older die-hard enthusiasts from the valley plan to risk frostbite to witness the races.And like Jake, the enthusiasts often have roots in ski racing.

Dick Vermillion aspired to reach the U.S. Ski Team while racing in the 1960s with Ski and Snowboard Club Vail. Now he’s content watching the races as a spectator.”To watch those guys is so amazing,” Vermillion said. “The level of expertise is just unbelievable. I don’t care who the stars are. What I like to do is just watch them ski.”Vermillion lives in Vail. Each year he and his friends rent a condo in Beaver Creek to immerse themselves in the race and related goings on.”We go to a lot of the parties the teams throw,” he said. “We like to be a part of everything.”Steve “General” Sheridan joins Vermillion each year at the Beaver Creek condo for a “mini vacation,” he said. Although he raced until he became an adult, Sheridan’s obsession for the sport began in the 1980s when he traveled to Europe to support friend, local and former U.S. Ski Team racer Mike Brown.”If it wasn’t for Mike Brown I wouldn’t have gotten as involved,” Sheridan said.The sport took a firm hold on Sheridan, who owns Performance Sports.”It’s the No. 1 sport in my life,” he said.This weekend, Sheridan predicted the No. 1 competitors at Beaver Creek – while he admires American Bode Miller’s tenacity, he suspects the Austrians will dominate the Birds of Prey course.”The Austrians look like they have a clear advantage – they love this course,” Sheridan said.

Vermillion doesn’t own World Cup memorabilia or a hat to show support. He once got a large cowbell signed by several international racers, but he gave it to his sister for Christmas. Jake Dippy is quite the opposite.Last year, Jake caught a Red Bull can Daron Rahlves drank from and then threw into the crowd. Subsequently, Rahlves signed the can. The year before the Red Bull incident, mom scored a leopard-spotted helmet from former U.S. Ski Team member Chad Fleischer.”My mom works at the races and he probably gave it to my mom to give it to me because he thought I really liked the races,” Jake said. “I have it in my room and I wear it sometimes.”Jake straps on the adult-sized helmet whenever he speeds down the slalom course – complete with starting shack – that he build himself alongside his house.”The helmet just makes him feel like he’s doing it,” Nina Dippy said.Amateurs skiing the respected and feared Birds of Prey course might also consider wearing a helmet. Vail resident Mike Charles learned years ago just how terrifying the course can be.”Once I had the occasion to ski down the Birds of Prey in the early days and it was one of the most frightening things,” Charles said. “It’s awe inspiring that these athletes can go as fast as they do in these conditions.”Each year Charles brings his son and daughter to the Birds of Prey races. He enjoys watching the rare television coverage of ski racing, but seeing the races in person is special.”The opportunity to be there when the event occurs – the energy in the air is something to behold,” Charles said.Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 748-2928 or Daily, Vail Colorado CO

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