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Speed demons will fly at Snowmass

Tim Mutrie

Go speed racer, go!

Speed skiers from across the West and beyond will test their nerves and skill this weekend at Snowmass. At speeds topping 100 mph, they’ll compete for top honors in the Rocky Mountain Speed Skiing Championships.

Some 30 straight-line specialty skiers will compete in three classes – unlimited, production and women’s – vying for the fastest top speed in each class.

Local Dave Zamansky, organizer of the event and a speed skier himself since 1979, said the top skiers should peak out at velocities of between 100 and 110 mph. The hill record is 123 mph. Zamansky was the first to break the 120 mph mark on Snowmass’ speed skiing track, known as “The Slot,” on the Slot trail on Sam’s Knob.

Local Jeff Hamilton, the world’s reigning speed-skiing champion who once held the world record at 151 mph, will not be competing in the event because, like many of the world’s fastest skiers, he is now in Bars, France, gunning for his fifth world title.

“There’s really no other place in the U.S. that has a speed-skiing track, so a lot of these guys don’t ski for speed a lot during the year. So for people who can’t go to Europe to compete, this is a good starting-off point,” Zamansky said.

Competitors will be training on The Slot today, Zamansky said, and again on Saturday and Sunday morning, before the actual competition begins Sunday after lunch.

“At 1 p.m., we’ll start racing from the highest point on The Slot,” Zamansky said. “We usually don’t go from the highest point during training, and they only get one crack at it, so it should be exciting.”

Of the speed skiing experience, Zamansky said: “It’s neat, it gets pretty quiet, because all the sound is behind you. You’re in your own little world.”

Zamansky explained that the “unlimited class” is for top-level speed skiers equipped with speciality skis, approximately 235 to 240 centimeters long, rubber speed-skiing suits and wind-resistant helmets. The “production class” will feature racers in regular downhill suits and helmets and downhill skis, up to 225 cm in length. All women will compete in one class, he said.

Racers may register for the event, at a cost of $65 (which includes a discounted lift ticket), Friday afternoon and Saturday morning at the concierge desk located in the Snowmass ticket pavilion. Cash and other prizes will be awarded to top finishers.


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