It all started when we thought it would be a great idea to get the kids out of the house in the winter months. No sitting around the computer screen or playing video games for my 4 and 6 year olds. They were going skiing!
We started renting ski packages, which included lessons with the local “Ski Wee” program. The mountain was little more than an overgrown hill with some manmade snow. Not only did they get outside, but so did I. The last time I had skied was 15 years prior and my skills were rusty. However, the kids took to the snow quickly. After 2 years of Ski Wee, the race coach approached us recommending that our kids begin racing.
Practice sessions became longer and more frequent, as did trips to and from the mountain. I too skied more frequently, but never as well as the kids. We still knew nothing about racing, tuning or waxing skis. This was about the time when skiers were transitioning from straight to shaped skis.
What is the USSA*? How do we join and what else do we need to do? This came as a surprise to us as parents. Having never competed ourselves, we were not prepared for the world of Ski Racing. We had to find out the hard way. Each racer had to belong to the USSA, NJSRA** and pre-register for the race. Coaches recommended that we tune and wax our children’s equipment, a completely new concept to us. Well now that was too late to pre-register, registration had to be done on race day. NJSRA does not look favorably on the same-day registration, and that day was nightmare. From that day forward, race day preparation could only get easier.
Their first race ever was held on a steep hill with an extremely icy knoll (what most racers would consider “bulletproof”). The majority of the athletes experienced difficulty navigating the icy course. One racer lost his balance and ended up falling off the trail and into the woods. He was taken down in a sled. In those days, less fencing lined the sides of trails, unlike the new regulations requiring the hill fenced in its entirety.
Now it is our son’s turn. I quickly learned an anxiety only experienced by a parent. It felt like my heart stopped for that minute. I paced back and forth, while my wife just panicked. Our son finished the skied slowly, but more importantly (for us) finished without a crash. From that day forward, he enjoyed competitive ski racing. The same anxiety feeling hardly went away. Every race my son a daughter entered from age 8 through 22 brought about similar emotions and worries.
As a family, we learned from the many experiences associated with ski racing. For example, ski a practice run just like you ski the race. Inspect the course from a point where you will ski it, not from the side of the trail. But one of the most important lessons involves preparedness. Prepare for the practice. Prepare for race day. Tune your skis well. Having properly tuned equipment allowed my children to focus on the course, confident that their skis are running fast and the edges are sharp. Remember the saying, “luck is when preparation meets opportunity”.