Thursday, January 14, 2010

Gold medalist

The CEO of my company flies a lot. Enough that when Delta Airlines did a big to-do as part of their sponsorship of the World Cup Freestyle skiing event at Deer Valley this weekend, he got invited.

Except he couldn’t make it. So he sent my colleague Ed and me instead. Instead of going to work yesterday, Ed and I went skiing at Deer Valley. I know, it was rough.

We arrived at the reception room and noticed a familiar face walk in shortly after. If you followed skiing in the early 90’s, you probably had a crush on her: gold medalist mogul skier Donna Weinbrecht. Apparently they invited more than just Donna, because alpine racers Erik Schlopy and Heidi Voelker, as well as freestyle aerialist Kris “Fuzz” Fedderson—all three-time Olympians—also joined us.

They split us up into groups of four and assigned us each a celebrity “host” to ski with us. We did a couple warmup runs and Donna coached me to get my hands forward and be more aggressive as we ripped the intermediate corduroy slope. I don’t think Donna had yet realized the terrain wasn’t all that demanding for me and I was only casually making turns to avoid getting too far ahead of the two out-of-staters in our group.

After the warmups, we headed over to the Nastar racecourse. I did one race when I was ten and have never run gates since then. I was surprised how fun it was. When I went head-to-head with Erik Schlopy, I knew he would be faster, but I was shocked by just how much faster he was. I later went head-to-head with Heidi, who gave me a head start and then went screaming by. It took me about 19 seconds to do the course, and they were doing it in 15 or 16.

Impressed as I was with their skiing skills, I was more impressed with how personable the pros were. While riding the chairlift with Donna and Heidi, Donna told us about the children’s book she’s writing and illustrating (apparently she’s also an artist), and Heidi told us stories of her days doing coed skiercross with Casey Puckett. At lunch she mentioned that the stories she told didn’t even scratch the surface, and if she had another glass of wine, we’d hear some real dirt.

Here’s a photo of Ed, Donna, and me at the bottom of the racecourse:

Erik, Donna, me, Heidi, Ed, and Fuzz posing at the “medal ceremony” at lunch (they actually kept our times on the racecourse):

Of all the assignments I’ve ever been given at work, this had to be the best.


  1. Remind me, why did I decide not to go?! Glad you guys had fun.

  2. I don't have a crush on Donna but I sure do have a thing for Schlopy. Even named one of my kids after him. (Kidding 'cause that would be weird to name your kid after some random ski racer. Although I do have a friend who named their kid Bode... after that Miller punk.)

    Anyway, what do you think of Buck Hollow? I find that ski resort rather goofy with all of the duplication in ski lifts. But I will say that the best fish taco I've ever had came from one of their eating joints and I'd never turn down one of their ski-in-ski-out chateaus.

  3. Cool experience. It is usually very humbling to ski/bike/or do whatever with the real pros. When I was working at a ski-shop a few years ago we went to the on-snow outdoor retailer demo at Solitude and skied a few Honeycomb runs with the then North Face sponsored skiers, including Scot Schmidt. That guy can ski.

    The dumb thing was that we were outfitted in some new North Face jackets to demo when skiing with the dudes.

  4. Mark: not sure, but I appreciate it.

    RR: Schlopy is a badass on skis and a nice guy to boot. I wouldn't fault you for naming a kid after him. Especially if you went with "Erik" and not "Schlopy."

    As for Buck Hollow, well it was my second time there ever. If you're into ripping blue runs, it can't be beat. I'm not so much into groomed runs as evidenced by my penchant for hiking for turns, but I'll admit it is fun to ski fast once in a while and just do figure 11's on corduroy.

    The food we had for lunch was tasty, as it's been every other time I've been there, whether to ski or to listen to music. But I was writhing in pain about 10:30 p.m. over something I ate, for whatever that's worth.

    JZ: I have a North Face shell that still makes me think of Scot Schmidt and Blizzard of Ahhhs, and it's not even a yellow one. Skiing with real pros was humbling, to be sure.

  5. SBJ, did you have a 10 pound Scot Schmidt Steep Tech shell? Those were ridiculously awesome and probably bullet proof.