Vagneur: Competition day is a kind of holy trinity
Triple Crown. Keep that in mind.
It’s cold outside, about 4 degrees Fahrenheit when we left the ranch, but no matter the temperature, there’s a palpable excitement in the car. Big things ahead for this day. My grandson Cash, stoked, gives us a few thoughts on the details. We don’t want to be late.
Things are buzzing at the clubhouse. Coaches, kids, parents, and at least a couple of grandparents, all filled with excitement. The U10 kids are having a big, end-of-the-year competition among themselves, and they’re wired. But more quiet than usual. Each is thinking about his performance, how he/she will do.
If you haven’t guessed, we’re meeting at the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club gathering spot, out by the high school. The mission statement of AVSC: “To provide all youth in the greater Roaring Fork Valley the opportunity to excel as athletes and as people through winter sports.”
Just think what an incredible club that is. Walk a few paces, skis over your shoulder, or herringbone up the incline and get on the Five Trees lift. Takes you to the top of Thunder – and Powderbowls.
My daughter Lauren and I plot our first run of the day. The ski club kids are going through their stationary warm-up routine, and instead of standing around, we dive into 6 or 8 inches of fresh powder in Thunderbowl. I’m not sure we ordered that, and it never seems to help on race day, but we’ll take it.
The first of the Triple Crown is Big Air. These kids, 8 or 9 years old, show their stuff off a big launch pad, doing 360s, 180s, spread eagles, daffys, or other combinations they think will impress the judges. There are some smack-downs during warmups, but they get right back at it and pack up for another run. These kids have worked hard on their repertoires, and it shows.
Big Air behind them, the youngsters head for the clubhouse, and Lauren and I head to the top of Golden Horn, where we get a run down almost untouched powder. It’s now 10 degrees out, just before the next quick cool down.
Whammo, it’s time for the Moguls competition, second of the Triple Crown, and it’s amazing to watch some of these young skiers hit the tops and nothing else. Fast. You need to have a quick eye to catch them blast through the bumps.
And then, back to the top of the Thunderbowl Lift, in readiness for the Big Mountain competition. Smart move on the coaches part, as the powder is now gone, leaving a long slope of junked up crud to get warmed up in for the last of the day’s competition.
We’re looking down Golden Horn in the midst of 10 or 12 kids, and coach Eric says, “Let’s go.” If you’ve never had the pleasure of skiing in the midst of a group of U10s like this, psyched to the wire for their next event, it’s kind of like being in the heart of a herd of snow leopards galloping through northern, snow-covered ranges.
With shorter legs (and skis), their tolerances between each other are a little different than what adults need, and when in the middle of the pack, one has to translate the difference to keep it safe for the kids. And adults. Sounds complicated? No, it’s an absolute rush because these kids are excellent, fast skiers. I trust them 100%, and I’m still smiling.
The coaches for Cash’s group are Eric Lippincott and Maja Decker and are the caliber you want your kids sharing the mountain with. Eric is an excellent skier and independent businessman in the summer at Campteq, his camper-conversion business. His son, Townsend, 12, an AVSC member, is a nationally-ranked halfpipe skier. Eric does like to ski the trees and can get some big air himself.
Maia Decker graduated magne cum laude from the University of Rhode Island and whose passions are skiing and traveling. She loves kids (the first requirement), the Aspen community, and when not out with AVSC, she works full time at English in Action. She is the epitome of smooth and effortless on skis.
On this day, the Big Mountain competition is tough, what with the clumped-up crud, soft pillows between slick patches, and it puts the kids to the ultimate test. They blast through that stuff like it’s almost not there. They’re daring, they’re consistent, and they manage to find a few bumps to launch off. In my humble opinion, it was the ultimate demonstration, the pinnacle of the hard work they’ve been putting in all winter.
It’s a competition, with medals for the top three, but in the end, they are all winners, incredible ambassadors for the sport of skiing and also a living demonstration of teamwork, of cheering your buddies on. They’re a compact, talented, respectful, and polite group.
AVSC is fulfilling its mission. Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.