Marolt: Crowning the best all-around skier amongst us
Whatever notions you may have about what a great all-around skier is, I am here to tell you that you might not have a clue.
We are surrounded by great skiers. I believe the skiers in the Aspen-Snowmass area are, on average, as good as any group of skiers in the world. Credit the mountains, the weather, the wide variety and massive quantity of terrain, our quality of snow, our infatuation with fitness, our type A DNA, or even the way we push each other to excel at the activity that is the reason our towns exist. All of this is part of it.
So, what would it take to crown one of us as the best all-around skier? It would be impossible, right? Wrong. We don’t even have to debate this. Right here in Snowmass Village, we have the 2019 Colorado state high school champion Skimeister! Congratulations Edie Sherlock, the best all-around female skier in Colorado.
Skimeister is a competition that combines the best alpine with the best nordic race results of a Colorado state high school ski racing season. You know, we’re talking both kinds of skiing here. On top of that, you can argue that the best skiers in the state of Colorado are likely better than most anywhere else. We have an advantage, what can I say? It makes this a huge honor.
But really, all you have to do is sign up for all the cross-country races and all the alpine races and do your best. There probably aren’t many kids who are good at both, so it’s anyones event to win, right?
Well, that’s approximately what a couple hundred kids who sign up for the Skimeister competition likely think each year before the competition begins. That’s kind of what I thought when my son signed up to do it when he was in high school. He ended up state runner-up twice in one of the fiercest rivalries I have witnessed in sports. Watching that battle rage for two years was an enlightenment to all that is good and exciting in athletic competition.
Like I said, in the beginning, a lot of kids think all it takes to do well in this thing is to finish in the middle of the pack in all the alpine and nordic races; you know, be well-rounded. After approximately one race in each discipline it becomes very apparent that well-rounded is not the same as all-around. A skier has to consistently finish in the top 10 in all the nordic and alpine events to have a chance of doing well. About half the aspiring ski meisters drop out of the competition after the first races. At the halfway point in the season, only about a dozen competitors are still hanging on.
The training is brutal. Skimeisters race alpine events Fridays and nordic events Saturdays. That leaves only five days a week to train for two disciplines of alpine — slalom and giant slalom — and two disciplines of nordic — skating and classic. The skimeister has to decide how many days of training to allocate to these. It changes depending on how the previous week’s races went. Obviously, the more time you devote to one, results in the others suffer. Oh, the frustration! Remember, skimeisters are competing with kids specializing six days a week.
The travel is hard. Almost never are the alpine and nordic events at the same place. Most of the time Friday’s alpine events are halfway across the state from Saturday’s nordic venues. Sometimes it seems the alpine team bus arrives back at the school just as the nordic team bus is leaving. These schitzo-skiers keep two sets of equipment tuned, waxed and ready to go at the door. All that driving time would seem to be a great time to use for keeping up on homework, but the exhaustion makes concentration even harder.
As with any trying effort, skimeistering can be lonesome. After the first year of competition, my son decided he needed some esprit de corps. He recruited six other boys to join him for the next season. They learned that encouraging each other was the only way to keep it all together. They forged friendships that will be forever strong. It may be the biggest reward of all.
So, I’m pretty sure I know how hard Edie Sherlock worked to win this. I think I know what a talented athlete she is. I bet she is exhausted. But, the one thing I am certain of is that she is the best all-around skier in town. And that is saying a lot!
Roger Marolt thinks the Skimeister competition is the coolest thing since snow. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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