Aspen Princess: A toast to the World Cup, and my history of skiing | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Princess: A toast to the World Cup, and my history of skiing

Alison Berkley Margo
Aspen Princess

Welcome, World Cup skiers and fans!

How cool is it to even get to say that? It makes me want to don my best Euro-alpine apparel, maybe one of those Scandinavian sweaters with fitted wool trousers and a knit hat with some kind of logo and a tassel — you gotta have the tassel — and of course I’ll need a cowbell.

I know what you guys are thinking: Wait, aren’t you a snowboarder? Since when do you care about skiing?

OK, back up.

It is true I spent the better part of half my life on a snowboard. Yes, I worked at Transworld Snowboarding magazine in my formidable years and gallivanted around the globe with a bunch of entitled knuckle-draggers who called themselves pro athletes. But at least back then, in the late ’90s when contests were considered uncool, they were required to do little more than travel the world to do photo shoots for the mags and land at least one segment a year in a video produced in some basement somewhere by a bunch of stoners. Yes, it was that awesome.

What you don’t know is that even then, I still had it bad for skiers. But let me back it up even further.

I started skiing when I was 6 and my parents took me on a trip to Vail. I had a new pair of Rossignol Smash Js that were white and salmon pink and blue Nordica ski boots with metal buckles. I thought I won the NASCAR race, not realizing that every kid got a gold pin.

I grew up skiing in Stratton, Vermont, where my parents had a little ski chalet we’d go to on the weekends, a two-hour drive from our home in Connecticut. In high school, I joined the ski team, not because I was interested in ski racing so much as I liked the idea of cutting out of school early to drive up to the mountain for ski team practice.

I went to Cushing Academy, a boarding school in central Massachusetts. The closest ski area was Mount Watchusett in Princeton, Massachusetts, where the vertical drop was 1,000 feet and the summit elevation was just over 2,000 feet — pretty worthy for that part of New England.

It was an hour-plus bus ride to the mountain while we played music from Steve Winwood and the Eagles and Eric Clapton on a boombox and snuck nips of whiskey in the way back. We wore these horrific blue speed suits that made us all look like Smurfs and trained gates for two hours each day, well after the lights came on for night skiing. I skied on Atomic Arcs, the blue ones with the white and red lettering and Rossignol 4s that were silver and black. My racing skis were 190s, so long I could barely control them, but that’s what we did back then.

I don’t remember much about the actual skiing as I do about giggling and shrieking as I slid wildly around the gates on what was essentially solid ice. For me, getting through the course without sliding off the mountain was a good day. I never cared about winning or going fast. All I cared about was getting off campus, being with friends and getting drunk without getting caught. I always carried peppermint Binaca mouth spray to cover the smell of the whiskey that was probably emanating from my pores. Even though my best friend Sarah was so competitive she qualified for Junior Olympics, I couldn’t tell you a thing I remember about the actual races. All I can recall is the time I drank enough whiskey that I threw up and still managed to hike the course and ski it like they used to make us do, which sobered me right up.

Looking back on it, our coaches must have known we were drinking but obviously didn’t want to deal with it. I don’t know how I made it through those years without getting suspended or expelled. I can tell you they didn’t keep me at that school for my racing skills.

I somehow managed to graduate and applied to all Colorado schools because I wanted to live where I could ski. I ended up at the University of Denver, which I hated because it was too far from the ski areas, so I quit school and moved to Summit County and became a ski instructor at Copper, which made my parents so proud they basically told me not to bother coming back home.

It wasn’t until I moved to Steamboat that I really got into snowboarding. Coming from the East Coast, I had no idea how to ski powder, but a snowboard made it easy.

And even though my life was largely defined by snowboarding for the better part of two decades, my roots were always in alpine skiing. And when the skis got fatter and the powder days less frequent and uphilling became the latest fitness craze, I found myself back on skis once again.

These days I do both, depending on the conditions and where we go and who I’m with. But there is nothing more thrilling than seeing those bad-ass racer chicks tear through the course at high speeds, all quads and fearlessness and determination and skill. I can’t wait to see them shred.

There’s also nothing more special than hosting a world-class event like this. Aspen might have a reputation as a jetsetter’s playground, but no one does it better when it comes to setting a world stage. We’re pros when it comes to putting on a party for the best of the best, from the USA Pro Challenge and the X Games to the Aspen Ideas Festival and the Food & Wine Classic. I couldn’t be more stoked, or more proud, to have the best ski racers in the world and the World Cup tour here in our home. Welcome.

Email your love to alisonmargo@gmail.com.


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