Column: Ski racing today counts on good tunes
November 7, 2015
Picture this: Talented young singer-songwriter, front and center at the Belly Up, entertaining a friendly Aspen offseason crowd.
Guitar in hand, the fledgling musician splices humor into a vast library of original songs and classic folk-rock covers.
Solo artist, climbing the ladder, playing a small club — a slice of modern music in America.
This is actually a picture of modern ski racing in America.
The polished musician, Mark Engel, is a member of the U.S. Ski Team. The Truckee, California, racer is scheduled to make his first World Cup start of the season later this month.
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Engel's on stage to showcase his music and help ski racing pal Bobby Moyer of Aspen, who is climbing the ladder in the world of ski racing.
Engel, a former University of Utah ski racer, performed at the benefit concert for Moyer last week at the Belly Up, part of a fundraising campaign for Moyer's upcoming race season.
Friends, family and ski racing folks gathered to support Moyer, who grew up ski racing with the Aspen Valley Ski Club, and hear the tunes of Engel, who's climbing the ski racing ladder just like his buddy Bobby.
You pay your own way to the U.S. Ski Team these days.
And it takes fundraisers at the Belly Up and assorted other mechanisms to generate training and travel funds.
Silent auctions, pizza parties, send-off celebrations.
Wiley Maple, another Aspen alpine racer, is also on the ski racing ladder, climbing up to the U.S. team and the ski team support.
Just last month, a contingent of Aspen's cross country ski stars hosted a benefit send-off party at the Limelight Hotel in Aspen — raising funds for the upcoming race season.
Aspen Olympic cross country skier Noah Hoffman was back in town for the local fundraising event along with Nordic combined skier Michael Ward and rising cross country standout Hailey Swirbul.
Swirbul, a national junior cross country champion, is bidding for the U.S. Ski Team as she finishes her senior year at Basalt High School.
Ward, too, is jumping for the World Cup stars and climbing the ladder in Nordic combined.
Hoffman is eager to race again among the best U.S. cross country skiers, just as he has for nearly a decade.
Raising money all along the way.
Yes, even U.S. Olympic skiers have to raise money to support their training and competition.
Some, literally, have to sing for their supper.
A ski racer's future is decided at the Belly Up in Aspen.
Or in the words of Mark Engel and Bob Dylan:
"Ain't no use to sit and wonder why … don't think twice, it's all right."
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