Local cop takes first bite in `Donut Downhill’ races
Snowmass Village Police Sgt. Brian Olson can lay claim to beingthe top cop in North America today.Top cop in skiing, that is.Olson Tuesday won the first of three races that will be held aspart of the North American Police Ski Championships at Snowmassthis week. He turned in the best combined time in two runs ofa giant slalom race in the expert division, the most difficultone.About 325 law enforcement officers from all 50 states plus Canada,Australia and the United Kingdom converged on Snowmass for theannual event. For the most part, they are the best skiers amongthe men and women in blue.They were divided into four skill levels for Tuesday’s giant slalom.A slalom race will be held today and a super-G on Thursday.Olson has been on the winner’s podium in prior years, but acknowledgedthere might be extra pressure on him to do well as “the hometownboy.””When you walk down the mall everybody’s jeering you, so it wasgood to win,” said Olson, a Snowmass Village police officer since1987. “There’s something to be said for being hometown.”But he’s not letting victory go to his head. He credited his friendswith the Snowmass Ski Patrol for keeping the races in perspective.”They’ve kind of named this thing the Donut Downhill,” Olson said.”I’ve got a good sense of humor. I think it’s funny.”Those guys are always good about coming up with the right namefor the right thing, and the Donut Downhill is pretty good,” hesaid.Serious side, tooThere is a serious side to the event, too. The North AmericanPolice Ski Championships is a nonprofit, charitable organization.It has raised about $220,000 for the Winter Special Olympics overthe past seven years, according to Mark Spray, a member of thegroup’s organizing committee and a Boulder County deputy sheriff.The organization was created after 20 to 30 officers started gettingtogether each ski season for camaraderie and racing. They decidedto make it more formal and get cops from around the world involved,Spray said.The Police Ski Championships is celebrating its 10th anniversary,though its roots go back much further. It has become so successfulthat the event attracts numerous corporate partners, includingtitle sponsor Paul Mitchell Salon Haircare and major backers likeNikon, Bolle, Lucent Technologies, ITT Nightvision and MCI Worldcom.The group has met in Snowmass for five of its 10 season gatheringsand considers the resort its “home base,” said Spray.There are no lectures or demonstrations of police gear or tacticstied to the event. Talk only rarely covers police work, accordingto Loren Ryerson, a patrol supervisor with Aspen Police Departmentand an expert skier. “Mostly we just commiserate,” he joked.The annual gathering gives cops from various agencies a chanceleave their duties behind and bond with colleagues.”With the kind of work we’re in, you need a break every now andthen,” said Barry Mones, an FBI agent from Baltimore and memberof the organizing committee.The officers typically hear a couple of kinds of jokes when theyvisit a resort. On one hand, the joke goes, crime must drop when300 cops come 10 town. “But usually, it’s `Oh, we know who willcause the problems,’ ” he laughed.Skiing is the focusThe focus of the event is the races, which bring out a mix ofcamaraderie and competition.”Ingrid, you beat me by seven one-hundredths, you wench,” scoldedAnn Robertson while checking out the results after finishing hersecond giant slalom run.The competition wasn’t really that fierce. Each of the five womenracing in the expert division cheered the others. They were happiestthat one in their ranks posted a better time than some of theexpert men.”I love it – the camaraderie, the competition, the skiing’s great.I want to win, but I’m here to have fun,” said Robertson, a policeofficer from Burlington, Ontario, Canada.All five expert women are in different age categories, so allare guaranteed a medal,Olson said there are usually about 10 men in the expert divisionwho battle for honors at various races during the season. He creditedhis strong showing to participating in the Aspen Town Race League.”I get creamed,” he said, “but it’s good training.”Aspen’s Ryerson is usually among the officers in the hunt. Hehad an off day in the giant slalom after putting a pole betweenhis skis at the start of the first run.Nevertheless, a solid second run positioned him to finish betweenfifth and eighth and had him looking forward to the other races.”They’re all a challenge for me. I don’t know if I’m good at anyof them,” he said. “I enjoy the super-G because you get a littlemore sensation of speed.”Another top competitor among the expert men is Rick Conrado, anofficer with the Los Angeles Police Department. “In all the policeraces, we’re always in the one or two spots,” he said of the LAPDteam.Ski racing is more than a pastime for Conrado. He owns a condoat Mammoth and makes the four-hour drive to train on his daysoff. He skis between 50 and 60 times a season.”This is, I guess you can say, my drug,” said Conrado. “I lookforward to skiing starting in July.”But, he doesn’t get too bent out of shape when he doesn’t win.”This is great because of the camaraderie of all the officersfrom all over the U.S.,” he said. “Although it’s competitive,at the same time it’s fun. Everybody has a good time and rootsfor each other.”
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