Judging by the huge attendance at the bottom of Lift 4, the excellent conditions on the mountain and utterly exciting racing, Telluride and the surrounding region hit a home run with last week’s LG FIS Snowboard World Cup event at the Telluride Ski Area. And I truly mean it when I say this was a success for the entire region.
Looking for an exciting way to grab a handful of free lift tickets to the area, I decided to volunteer for the event along with over 200 other volunteers who had the same thought. We all had various jobs including slipping the course, building fences, security, gate keeping, and probably the most famed volunteer job – the anti-doping position where volunteers would follow an athlete around at the end of the competition to make sure it was indeed their pee being submitted for anti-doping tests. What an honor, I am sure.
For the large group of volunteers, the event made for several crisp mountain mornings riding up Lift 4 at 7 a.m.
I began my volunteer stint on Thursday as a gatekeeper during the Parallel Giant Slalom competition on Misty Maiden. Of course, I felt like I knew what I was doing when I slid down to the one gate I was going to take care of. I had done a bit of ski racing in my high school days in Summit County and felt like I had this job in the bag. I was going to rest on my rake, take it easy and watch the world-class athletes that I would be up close and personal with.
As it turns out, my gate was on a steep and very slick pitch. With racers flying by almost every 40-60 seconds, I was definitely wrong to think the gate keeping job would be a piece of cake. Run across the ice. Repair gate. Run back across the ice. Don’t slip and fall on your face. Racer flies by. Run across the ice again. Fix the flag. Rake loose snow back to side. Racer flies by. Run across the ice. Fix flag. Repeat 50 or so times. Whew.
By mid afternoon I felt like I had wrestled a gator for the better part of a day. I walked in to retrieve my lunch and somebody actually asked me how I had the time to take a shower during the event. I was pouring sweat and exhausted. Back on the mountain for the afternoon finals, I wondered if I would have the stamina to repeat all of this for three more consecutive days. I mean my everyday job consists of staring at my computer screen and holding down the office chair with my duff.
While the work certainly was physical, the racing was phenomenal. You really don’t realize the caliber of these athletes until you see them crank impossible turns on a single board with two edges. (Eat your heart out skiers…you and your four edges!) There were times when a GS racer would rip by and I could actually see them flying in the air while they transitioned to their next edge. And then, at top speed, they would dig that edge in and turn immediately. The compression on those turns was unbelievable.
With the Parallel Giant Slalom ending on Thursday afternoon, the rest of the event would be dedicated to the Snowboardcross and Team Snowboardcross events. With the wild looking course already built and ready to go, the sweat-filled work of the day before was over. In fact, many volunteers, including myself, found ourselves standing around quite a bit on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. With the course already built, our job was to make repairs if something were to happen, such as a fence taken out or a gate broken. Throughout the weekend, as the various heats went by the course stayed in great shape so there wasn’t much for us volunteers to do.
At first this frustrated me. I felt like wasn’t being of any help to this huge event. Others felt the same frustration. Why were we there?
Jane Fake and Mike Bowman of the Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club, who organized the volunteers, quickly answered that question by saying they had to prepare for the worst. If a nasty, humid snowstorm had pounded the San Juans with snow, she would have needed a ton of volunteers to keep the course in racing shape. (Lots of slipping, raising gates and fences.) But as Mother Nature would have it, it was bluebird skies throughout the event, so the course didn’t need much work, leaving us volunteers on standby until something came up. I was happy that I wasn’t raking heavy powder all weekend.
Really, it was great just taking in all the sights and sounds of the World Cup events. (I especially liked all the care and tuning these athletes and their teams put into their boards prior to racing. It’s serious business.) Those who watched the Snowboardcross from the Beach on Saturday and Sunday know what I am talking about when I say the racing was as exciting as it gets. Part NASCAR, part roller derby, part park riding, the Snowboardcross was damn exciting.
As the big event wound down Sunday afternoon the dreaded course tear down was going to have to happen. Yes, I was actually going to have to work after being on standby for three days. The biggest fear is that a lot of the volunteers would take off early and leave a big load of work for those who stayed.
That notion was certainly unfounded as Sunday drew to a close. Barely an hour after the final Snowboardcross event, the course had been almost completely torn down. Everyone pitched, working hard when it was needed most.
If and when Telluride is selected to host another World Cup event, I will certainly be on the list to volunteer. I can’t tell you how great an experience it was working with all the other volunteers I met – all coming from various areas of the region including Ouray, Ridgway, Montrose, Rico, Telluride, Norwood and even Shiprock, N.M.
Hats off to the hardworking volunteers, hats off to the Telluride Ski Area and hats off to the TSSC for organizing such a great event – it will bring only good things to the region.
Make sure to catch the Snowboardcross World Cup action on NBC on Dec. 27 at 12 p.m. (MST).