On the hill: Seeing is believing
November 25, 2011
ASPEN – Decades ago, I ventured into a dive bar in Milwaukee to see The Ventures perform.
The group, somewhat misappropriately pegged as a surf-rock band though most of their intricate instrumentals weren’t actually surfing tunes, impressed. The guy I was there with had only just started learning to play the guitar. After a couple of mesmerizing hours spent listening to blistering guitar work – and watching their fingers produce an impossible flurry of notes – he gave up the instrument.
I know how he felt after venturing up onto Aspen Mountain last week to watch the U.S. women’s ski team practice on the giant slalom course. Assigned to get a photo of the action, I hiked up along the course route and staked out a spot where I could shoot the racers rounding a gate. Though Aspen has been hosting World Cup races more or less annually for most of the time I’ve been living in the valley, it was the first time I’d ever bothered to actually go up and watch racers on the course.
I had no idea how to capture something moving that fast in my camera lens, so I focused to the racer’s side of the gate, set the camera for speed, waited for a skier to approach and snapped the shutter. My first photo depicts a twisted gate, still uncoiling from the smack of a racer hurtling by, and nothing else. The skier had already exited the frame.
For the most part, I wound up with a lot of photos with a skier either half in or half out of the picture. And all of them were blurry.
The experience made me wonder why I even bother to put on a pair of skis. Now, I’ve been in the finish corral a time or two, where a spectator sees little of the action except what’s displayed on a giant screen, but I’ve decided that’s not the place to be if you really want a sense of the athleticism involved in this sport.
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If you’ve never bothered before, hike up (or ride the lift and ski down) and pick a worthy spot along the race course this weekend. See how fast this women actually ski. Few people, particularly in this country, get a chance to see World Cup racing. We can. And it’s free.
Saturday’s giant slalom starts with the first run at 10:15 a.m. and the final run at 1:15 p.m. On Sunday, slalom starts are at 10:15 a.m. and 1 p.m.