American ski racers reckon with Frenchman David Poisson’s death
November 21, 2017
FRISCO — As downhill ski racers prepare to start their season in Lake Louise, Canada, this week, the death of French skier David Poisson is weighing heavily on their minds.
Poisson was killed on Nov. 13 after passing through the safety nets and hitting a tree while training in Nakiska, Canada, the French Ski Federation reported.
American speed skier Andrew Weibrecht said Poisson was a friend and a family man who had a child about the same age as his daughter.
"There's a lot that he left behind, and it's a little bit scary to think about," Weibrecht said. "I haven't really wrapped my head around it."
Olympic champion Ted Ligety said Poisson's death was an ugly reminder of what can happen in a sport where athletes challenge the laws of nature.
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"There's not much protection that can save you at that speed," Ligety said. "We have protection and stuff, and that helps to a certain extent, but if you're going to hit a tree or a rock or a lift tower, none of that does any good. It's a tough reality of going as fast as we're going in the sport. It's a dangerous sport, and we all knew that, but I don't think we all have thought about the consequences being that high."
Downhill racer Alice McKennis echoed Ligety's sentiments.
"You don't really expect to see death," McKennis said. "And that's really shocking and hard to accept for the whole community."
Veteran ski racer Stacey Cook said Poisson's death brought back memories of 2004, when the U.S. Ski Team lost slalom skier Shelley Glover after a crash in training on Mt. Bachelor in Oregon.
"That was also very hard to accept," Cook said. "So this is not a first-time emotion that I've had to deal with in my career, but it doesn't make it any easier."
Cook said she's been reckoning with Poisson's death by reminding herself that there's danger everywhere.
"It's a very dangerous sport, and I think all of us have experienced crashes or near crashes that really just shake you to the core," Cook said. "It's very rare that an incident like David's happens, and it's very tough to consume because we are putting ourselves in that position so often … the way that I look at it is, I love speeding down the track. And I will accept the danger for that type of passion. We could just as easily die the moment we get in a car after (training). … The passion that we get to live with as skiers, that travel the world and have so many rad experiences, it's worth it, to me, to put yourself out there in that capacity."
The first downhill race of the 2017-18 World Cup season is scheduled to take place on Saturday at 12:15 p.m. MST.
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