First-timer addicted to the mountain
VAIL – When he arrived in the Vail Valley last summer, Brian Chapman was pretty adamant about not skiing.Now, it’s tough to keep Chapman off the mountain.But Chapman isn’t like most first-year skiers who fall in love with the sport.With nearly a foot of powder on the ground last Thursday – the first big snowfall in weeks – Chapman didn’t head straight for Vail’s back bowls. His first destination was the Black Forest NASTAR course.Chapman put on his racing suit, moved to the starting gate and made his way down the piste in full racing gear.”I can’t believe it because I never though I’d ski,” Chapman said. “Back in the 90’s, when I was snowboarding, we always thought skiing was kind of old-school. …And boy, was I wrong.”At 30, Chapman finally found out he was wrong, but not without the help of a friend.CoercionOn Christmas Day, Tom Cigno took Chapman up to Vail.
“I was reluctant, but I did it anyway,” Chapman said. “It felt so natural. I felt like skiing was much more streamline – going down hill and flying. And I fell in love with it.”In only a few runs, Chapman said he was out of the wedge and learning how to make parallel turns.After that day, Chapman went on vacation for two weeks, but was already practicing what he’d learned.”When we were driving, for instance, my girlfriend was turning the car left, and my right foot wanted to stomp down,” Chapman said.On his second day skiing, Chapman was linking turns on his first run. After that, Chapman became a ski racing junkie.”The past couple weeks, it’s all about the gates for me,” Chapman said. “It’s all I’ve been doing.”Chapman split his time between Vail and Cooper, where he trained on a longer super-G course.”On an average day, I do about 12 (runs), which is a little more than I should be doing,” Chapman said.From the start, Chapman was ready to make the investment and buy all the equipment.”I got a lot of the equipment on sale,” he said. “I bought race gloves for $40 that were $140. I got my poles, from Buzz’s – the give me discounts, because they like my story – for $80.”Chapman got hooked up with a pair of skis for free, and found a padded suit for $400, half the original price.
Although Chapman has spent most of his almost 30 days on the mountain in the gates, he does explore the mountain. Thursday, after some runs on NASTAR, Chapman met up with Cigno, who took him to through some powder.”If hopefully I’ve taught Brian anything, it’s a passion for skiing,” Cigno said. “That’s what it’s about. He got that the first day, as soon as I got him out of the wedge. He loved it off the bat, and is committed to it. What he’s doing is (so) cool.” SpongeIn addition to getting tips from Cigno, Chapman absorbs all he can.”A lot of the people at NASTAR are really helpful, because they know how long I’ve been skiing,” Chapman said. “The skiing community is great.”Chapman has gained an appreciation for skiing at it’s highest level.”I’ve watched one or two races on TV,” Chapman said. “If four months ago, I saw it, I wouldn’t have been interested.”Knowing how all the body movements play into the sport, Chapman had a different perspective.”My eyes were wide open,” he said.After cutting his times down and picking up gold medals on the NASTAR course, Chapman headed to NASTAR nationals two weekends ago in Steamboat. While inspecting the course, Chapman got a taste of something he hadn’t seen before – an icy course.
“I couldn’t stop,” he said. “I’m thinking, ‘How am I going to do this?'”Chapman missed a gate on one of his runs, then once he got the hang of the ice, made good time on another pass.Need for speedLike most skiers, Chapman craves speed.”I used to drive sports cars … and we used to do super-curvy roads, and I love the rush of turning and going fast and cutting corners. I’m addicted to it,” Chapman said. “I’ve driven an Indy car going 185, and it reminds me of that. But what’s cool is that it’s not someone else’s automobile – it’s my body. I’m using my biomechanics and turning my body.”When you’re starting out and taking chances – just like driving a car – there will be some crashes.”(Two weeks ago) one instructor brought me aside and said, ‘Put your knees closer together,'” Chapman said. “I focused on getting my knees together and did a big face plant after that.”Even with the progress that he’s made, Chapman understands how much there is to learn.”Every run is something a little new,” he said. “The biggest focus now is carving turns, hitting gates and keeping my upper body straight. Being new, I want to turn my body to the direction I’m skiing, and I want to smack myself when I do it.”And this was a guy who never wanted to ski.