Necessary Shout Outs

With the VARA Gala behind me, I want to give a heartfelt “thank you” to a few people that made that Saturday night really special.

I will never take for granted what alpine ski racing did to enrich my life. With the passing of time, like many of my peers, we work, have families and a very different routine.  Life is full of new challenges, and it is with no hesitation that I am immersed in rather normal mundane daily habits.  While I miss the Alpen sunrise at early morning training (the view is like no other!!), I am afflicted with a syndrome that constantly finds me making lemonade.  Whether it is my business, my 6 year old, my wanting golf game or training the dog, I make it fun and worthwhile.  I am not special or unique, but I am good with lemons.

This is not a negative comment.  Actually, making lemonade is at the heart and soul of ski racing and life in general.  I am quite proud of this ability.

I was touched by the kind words from Tiger Shaw, Finn Gundersen, Chuck Hughes, Tao Smith and Julie Woodworth.  Thanks for the really nice evening and for your relentless and passionate support of ski racing. So here’s to making some great lemonade and navigating the changes in our wonderful sport! Let’s have a great year, be good parents and send Tiger some chocolate chip cookies for sustenance.

 

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Race Season is Here! ALPINEOne is live!

ALPINEOneSports.com

Gear dryers, locker systems

With excitement building for Levi, CO training finally underway and a new business to run, I am pumped for this season!  I have to say thanks to Greg Nedell  and AlpineRaceConsulting.com for coming back on line and providing us great insight and information on the FIS Ski World Cup scene. If you have not seen his blog, take a long look. I appreciate his straightforward analysis. Thanks to Greg,  I quickly realized that I needed to dust the cobwebs off my own blog.

Some other new things are going on in this prep season. My company, ALPINEOne  is ramping up and launched our new website.  All the content has been managed by me, so your feedback is IMPORTANT. I am so close to this I am seeing boot dryers and lockers in my sleep.  Any of my editor friends with charitable interests, please use the contact page here on my blog for needed editorial and grammar changes. I am pretty excited about the business and we have some BIG announcements coming shortly.

We are busy getting the word out about our new, exclusive Sports Dryer.  There are many reasons to want this gear dryer, but to me the biggest reason is NO STENCH. My house is small, my mud room even smaller and attached to the kitchen. This dryer fits in my house, travels to our cabin, and manages gear from a family of trolls. (We are not the neatest and spend as much time as we can recreating outdoors and causing havoc.) The antimicrobial powder coat keeps me from the nightmares of imagining my running shoes touching the dryer where my husbands work boots were. Seriously.

I have to give another shout out to Eva Twardokens and her EvaT Strength and Conditioning SkiStrong ebook. As a working mom and sometime exerciser, I was thrilled to start a program I can fit into my day! Working out used to be my life. Now it is a luxury that I appreciate! Thanks Eva for the motivation to run rather than roll into this ski season!

The biggest news for October, or perhaps the most startling to me, is that I will be part of the interview, morning show and announcing team at Vail Beaver Creek 2015. I am honored to have been asked to be a part of this prestigious event! As always, a great time will be had, and I can’t wait to see some fantastic skiing! Get your red, white and blue ready for February!

Sochi Norge fans

 

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Burke Mountain Academy Reflections 2014

My apologies. It has been a while since posting. I was recently asked by Jodi Flanagan at BMA to send over some thoughts for the News and Views spring issue.  It has been 28 years since graduating from Burke in 1986. (holy cow!) I have recently been able to  spend some time back in our wonderful sport as a coach, and this past winter found me at the Olympics again for a different reason. Here are some reflections on the Sochi trip as well as a few reminders of that wonderful time in my life when I was a Burke Mountain Academy student.

Burke Mountain Academy Alumni Profiles

Diann Roffe Reflections 2014

Sochi Mascots

Sochi Alpine Skiing Venue

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Sochi and Russian Glory

Wow. All I can say is WOW.  As we all exited the Fisht stadium, Bill Marolt said, “That was the best opening ceremonies ever.”

photo

If President Putin wanted to have a greater impact on the 40,000 people in attendance, he could have rolled a few tanks into the stadium and done a few fighter jet passes. That was not really necessary though.  The ceremony was more impressive than any of us anticipated.

I am fortunate to be in Sochi with the US Ski and Snowboard Association.  The team is fortunate to have a committed group of supporters that have been instrumental in the ongoing success of our skiing and snowboard athletes.

Usually the opening ceremony has a focus on the culture and history of winter sports.  While the Russian culture was showcased in dance, the strength and the power of the Russian Federation was artfully delivered. President Putin assertively represented the power of the people and the glory of the Russian Federation.

http://youtu.be/xxmoYGCF2K4

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Sochi!

Just a quick update until later. I arrived in Sochi yesterday to spend the next week with US Ski and Snowboard Team Foundation members. Despite all the hype from the US media, the trip was incredibly smooth. The Olympic venues are well laid out in a tight proximity to each other. The Russian people are excited to have us here. It truly has been a great experience so far!

Stay tuned for more later! I plan on a full review with pictures to come! Go USA!!!

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Olympic Selection: Joy and Heartbreak

The Winter Olympic Games at Sochi, Russia are fast approaching and, even as I write, the FIS is finalizing some last-minute, but logical changes to the Super Combined criteria. It’s crunch time. And while the outside world waits patiently for the Opening Ceremonies, the athletes are still trying to manage the turbulent emotions of the qualifying process.

The selection process for the US Ski Team is driven by the FIS International Ski Federation qualification criteria.  The team then takes these criteria into consideration with the competition calendar, runs it by legal and then posts the USSA Olympic Selection Criteria for the world to see. 

Calgary 1988 Team USA-Photo Lori Adamski-Peek

Calgary 1988 Team USA-Photo Lori Adamski-Peek

Many Olympians, me included, will tell you that qualifying for the right to compete in the Olympic Games is sometimes harder than actually competing. Competing is a mixture of hard work, talent and luck. Qualifying can be a lot more complicated.

For some athletes like Mikaela Shiffrin and Ted Ligety, selection is a mere formality.  For others it is much, much more complicated.  The depth of the current team’s talent, injury roster and performance all play a roll in the selection process.

I’ve competed in three Winter Olympic Games. I qualified objectively for 1988 and 1992. The Games at Lillehammer in 1994 was another story.

For the Lillehammer Olympics in 1994, I was on the cusp of not qualifying.  While I was experienced, strong and had a competitive history of rising to great performances at big events, I had not achieved any qualifying results that year.  Some of that had to do with equipment.  We were transitioning to the first wave of the shaped skies, not a bad thing, just bad timing.  Some of it was just my mediocre year on the tour.

With a final World Cup Super G scheduled in Sierra Nevada, Spain,  the week before the technical team was just coming off a Europa Cup Giant Slalom race in Austria .  I skied well and won.  I was pleased and optimistic about the uptrend in my skiing.

After the race, I went for a nice run along a trail and stopped to do a few plyometrics on a bench.  The toes of my shoes slipped and both of my shins slammed into the bench.  By the time I got back to the hotel, it was evident I had scraped the front of my shins badly.  It was 3 days before I could even think about putting my boots on.  Every day I tried to ignore the pain.

I had one more World Cup race, one more chance to qualify for Lillehammer.  The day before the last World Cup Super G, and my last chance for selection, I still couldn’t put any pressure on the front of my boots, so no training.  That night the coaches asked me if they should put my name on the start list to race the next day.  A subdued “Yes,” was all I could muster.  We all knew that this was my last chance to qualify for the Olympic team.

The next morning, brought fog on the race hill and a delayed start.  I was able to inspect and had a start number outside the top 30.  Great… When the race finally started,  I did not have much to say to anyone.

As start number 25 left the gate, the snow started to fall.  The top of the course  was extremely flat.  I was not a great glider.  Big fat, juicy, sticky snowflakes fell on the track.  It was the kiss of death for any chance of a competitive finish.  Olympic selection seemed out of reach.  I was’nt heartbroken-  I was furious.

Then I was in the gate. This was it and I was in go mode. I pushed out of the start, skating and poling like my life depended on it.  I was determined to tear up the course and I skied with unbridled abandon. I knew I was going to be slow on the top flats, so I attacked the steeps with grit and aggression.  Why not? I truly had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Crossing the finish line, I looked up at the score board and saw a 19th place finish. I was totally deflated. Today, I thought, was not the day for me to secure another Olympic berth.

All my teammates avoided me in the finish area.  I had nothing to say and no more anger.  Elite sports are often brutal. Results rule, period, a bitter reality for this World Champion and Olympic Silver Medalist.  My last chance for an Olympic berth at the end of my competitive career seemed unlikely.

I am sharing this story so you can understand the things that happen behind the scenes.  These are the stories that the press does not tell.  These are the challenges athletes face and the emotions that dominate every waking hour of a bid for Olympic glory.

The selection process is prescribed by our sport’s national governing bodies.  The Austrian women’s team had seven women in the top 13 places at Courcheval this season.  Every team wants to put their absolute best competitors on the Olympic start list.  However, not all teams have the luxury of Austria’s incredible depth.  For the rest of the world, after the objective criteria, there is a discretionary clause in the selection process for most teams’ final roster.

That day in Sierra Nevada, Spain, though I had given up all hope, I skied to a 3rd fastest split time in the technical part of the course, and defying all logic, found myself on the US Winter Olympic Ski Team on my way to Lillehammer for perhaps the greatest competitive achievement of my career.

Take a moment to watch my Gold Medal run on the Kvitfjell piste in Lillehammer.  As I tackled the course, you’ll hear Tim Ryan say, “Her best result this season was a nineteenth place in Super G.” He was right, but that was my day to shine!

As with every Olympic Games, there is controversy, heartbreak and joy as every country’s roster is chosen. In retrospect, competing in the Olympics wasn’t the emotional rollercoaster that qualifying was, but it’s a reality that every Olympian faces.  As for me, I was determined to nail my best Olympic performance ever in Lillehammer.  Standing in the gate, was I nervous?  Absolutely not.  It was time to win.

Lillehammer Olympic Gold Medal- Photo Lori Adamski-peek
Lillehammer Olympic Gold Medal- Photo Lori Adamski-Peek
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Racer Going Rogue?

It’s not often that I’m able to mix family time on-snow with a little work. But in November, we all headed to Vail for some early, pre-Thanksgiving time on snow with the family.

Lucky for me, we were able to coordinate some ski testing with a friend of ours. I did three days of in-depth testing of a woman’s specific ski, the Ellipse from Deviation.

We headed up the Eagle Bahn at 9 o’clock on Sunday morning, only two days after opening day. By the time we went up, the snow was considerably better than last year. Opening weekend at Vail last year had only one open trail. The options were much better this year, with plenty of open, accessible terrain.

Here are the specs from Deviation for the Ellipse I tested.

Sizes Available 159, 165, 172
Tip 130, Waist 94, Tail 118, Radius 15m, Profile Traditional camber, Twin tip, Tapered tail
Description Provided:
The Ellipse is designed to be skied every day on the East or West coast. It will hold its edge without compromise on ice and bumps, yet with its mid-fat waist and large upturned shovel, the Ellipse will perform perfectly off-piste. The turned up, tapered tail helps pivot turns in the powder and crud. Coupled with an aggressive sidecut, the Ellipse allows you to lock in each turn with an automatic and super fun transition to the next.

My testing plan was to seek out as many varied snow conditions as I could find and give the Ellipse a good spin. Being partial to GS and Super G turns, the core of my race background, I wasn’t sure that an all wood ski with a 15 m radius, a fair amount of rocker and 94mm underfoot was going to be all that much fun. Add a little speed, hard, man-made snow and some nice high edge angles and I fully expected to have some twisting, chattering and more feedback than I wanted from such a lightweight ski.

I couldn’t have been more wrong, despite the fact that my first turns were made while keeping my 5 year-old from hurtling down the wrong trail. But even with the distraction, I kept reminding myself to “feel” the ski’s personality.

This is what I felt. They were simply NICE. My first sensory reaction was that the rocker was just right, making short, relaxed turns really easy. The snow was pretty good, so finding tougher skiing conditions was a challenge. I thought that once I pointed them downhill on a couple firm groomed black diamonds, they’d show their true colors.

Surprise, surprise. When I rolled over onto the steep section of Pickeroon, the skis responded smoothly. But wait, surely an all-wood ski would get jumpy as I added more speed. They were bound to break away from the pressure as I demanded more from them. I waited for the twist and the inevitable chatter.

Not only were they responsive, quick and smooth, but the Ellipse stayed under me, and more importantly, with me. I hit the bottom of the pitch and was wearing that grin they always teased me about on the tour. I was still waiting for a certain skittishness you’d expect from such a lightweight ski. I expected it to start avoiding the pressure I was inflicting.

Frankly, I expected to be chattering more on my first day of skiing on firm, man-made snow. At 46 years old, my skiing isn’t all that competitive any more. But, even factoring that into the equation, I searched to find the ski’s faults. I was sure they would show themselves. So I tested the ski hard in between nicely smeared turns behind the 5 year-old. Whatever my feet demanded, the Ellipse delivered.

It was time to head into the bumps and crud under the lift. This was a matter of great excitement for my son. He should try it on my knees…

Again, just enough rocker. I anticipated the need for a heavier ski in the crud, but, here again, I was pleasantly surprised. I have not skied a ski this light in a very long time, if ever. Because of its design and responsive nature, it was very easy to change my timing and line.

Ever the skeptic, I was still looking to find something wanting. Zero, zip, nada. I again found myself smiling as I was not fighting the snow. Everything I skied was effortless. The Ellipse left me with the feeling that this was going to be a great ski season, even at my advanced age.

Perhaps day two would reveal an end to the honeymoon. Wrong again. We had a dusting of powder and it added a nice natural snow feel to the man-made groomers. I’m hesitating to say it, but SWEET. I planned to add more force to the ski and lay over some reaching arcs. The skis inclination to bend smoothly with a distinct lack of twisting made for some rich carving. I caught myself smiling again. It was the dusting of new snow right?

By the end of the day I realized that the Ellipse’s versatility was simply delightful. Every model in my current ski quiver has a specific purpose, yet I could do everything on this ski. For my female friends out there who like to rip and typically avoid models designed for women, (you know who you are) you can jump hard on this ski and tackle anything.
After three days of skiing with our club racers, friends and family, (there is an interesting and variable need to skiing creatively with 5 year-olds) I was won over. I am adding this ski to my arsenal, not because I’m loyal to my friends or I’m looking for more skis, but because I really want to ski on it, hard and often.

After three days of skiing, my surgically repaired knees were feeling grateful for a light, responsive ski that lets me ski exactly the way I want.

I do have one criticism to the skis I tested. The 172cm ski is slightly too short for me to ski aggressively. The only time the ski balked, and even then only slightly, was when I skied at higher speed, with high edge 40 meter radius turns. I was deliberately pushing the ski past its comfort zone.

More good news – Deviation Skis makes personalized skis with custom graphics for special orders. My order is an Ellipse in a 179 cm with graphics that include the names of the areas I won World Cup races and Olympic Medals. I mean who’s going to try to steal those?

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The Europe “Adjustment”

With St. Moritz and Val D’Isere behind us, we can look forward to a more settled US Team in the upcoming races.  I enjoyed watching the Men’s races in Val D’Isere because that type of piste is my kind of venue.  Skiing on ice like that requires a  specific mind set, and the knowledge that it will feel like driving a car (fast) on a twisty dirt road in Vermont with frozen washboards. (Easterners out there know what I am talking about.) It feels wild, awful, chaotic and most importantly, requires linked recoveries and grit!

I always excelled on steep and icy venues, because I was confident in my ability to attack the couse, make mistakes and be fast. Winning  difficult races requires an acceptance of imperfection, and confidence that enables a positive focus on the correct tactics for steep and ice.  

For Ted Ligety, who skied great up until his race ending mistake, and David Chodunsky, I see some great races coming up.  For the American women, St. Moritz was like water under the bridge. The races came and went.  I hope to see a spark from somebody soon. Please. We have a great team of talented women, and I hope they find their motivation and nail some positive results soon.  Sochi qualifying results are needed. This is the elephant in the room, even for Lindsey Vonn.

The Val Gardena (Mens DH), Alta Badia (Mens GS), Val D’Isere (Ladies GS) and Courcheval (Ladies SL) races will  be fun to watch this week.  I think we will see a more settled United States team, and Mikeala Shiffrin will have a chance to impress us again.  The first week in Europe after a LONG preparatory and racing schedule in North America is a change in routine.  As much as you fight it, it takes a week to settle in to the European environment.

Stay posted and look for some excitement in the last races before Christmas.

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Weekend World Cups: He’s BACK!

I was at home in the family room watching the men’s giant slalom World Cup races at Beaver Creek this Sunday.  What fun!! I didn’t even mind the spoilers from Facebook giving out the run results. (You know who you are.)

While I WISH I had been in Beaver Creek, I was thankful for the FABULOUS camera angles this year! Usually they’re flat and don’t show either speed or strategy very well. We just get a few side views, and the usual start and finish shots.  This was a rare treat. We saw line, tactics, speed and some really dynamic skiing.

It was the Ted and Bode show and what a show it was! Ted executed amazing angles and specific rotations with lightning fast transitions to the new pressured edge.  He has an eagle-eye on the fall line throughout the turn and tremendous confidence in execution!

Bode showed us his signature style, with new-found strength and his awesome competitive fire. (I did not realize how much I missed this from Bode, but I am so happy to see it again!) I don’t know if I ever remember Bode’s feet moving so quickly between turns.

There are some extreme differences between the two men in their choice of line and tactics, and some vital similarities.  They both seek a clean edge and have an innate feel that defies chattering.  They hold onto speed at all cost, and even their mistakes are fast.  Good stuff.

Every time I watch this level of ski racing, I’m reminded of the incredible training environment that only elite teammates and tough competition provides.  This may be hard for some coaches to grasp, but a team’s structure and coaching staff can only create an environment that allows athletes to excel and be self-motivated.

This is a tricky endeavor and there is no good user’s manual for the coaches.  It has nothing to do with telling an athlete how to train. Here is a hard truth – there is no better coach than an athlete studying who’s beating them! Learning to absorb the reality (fast or slow) of racing with the clock, understanding the importance of feel, using video effectively, understanding aggression and building confidence – that’s how the elite athlete gets better. The best athletes are sensitive to poor performance and LOVE to win.

Put Ted and Bode in a room together, add multiple screens, video, GPS data from timed runs and let them discuss what they were feeling and thinking while training and racing.  Now, imagine being a fly on the wall in that room.  This kind of dynamic learning isn’t coming from the outside.  These guys have their own internal engines, the drive to win and the mature emotional intelligence to get the job done.

Take a moment to think about the years of racing and training history Bode has to draw on. He’s seen every type of race preparation you can imagine, and he still finds ways to be faster.  Most importantly, he’s not afraid of mistakes and, because of this, is constantly testing his limits and learning.

Ted’s really smart. He is a sponge and incredibly confident of his current, elite abilities.  He will double down on the specific tactics that define him as the best in the world.  We are going to have a lot of fun this World Cup and Olympic season watching these two great competitors!

Note: I owe a big THANK YOU to the best teammate I ever had, Eva Twardokens. Thinking about how we respected each other and coached ourselves, helped me revisit the feeling of a team podium as I watched the Beaver Creek giant slalom.  As a fellow competitor, she pushed me harder than any coach could.  As my friend, she inspired me in some tough times. I don’t think I would have achieved what I did without Eva, as both a friend and competitor.  We inspired each other, competed hard and watched each other in training and racing. This was a coaching environment we built for ourselves and resulted in the best years of our racing careers.  Thanks Eva!

 

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The Beginning

Finally! Here I am. I have been hounded by friends and family that have encouraged me to write. “Write what” I always said, yet every time we start yapping about the World Cup, remembering the stories that shall never tumble from my lips, and chuckling over how many stories Doug Lewis is holding back, I decided to write. You decide if you want to hear from a racer-ex (Thanks to Edie Thys Morgan for coining the term) that won a few BIG medals amidst a rather normal life. I say there is merit in that…

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