Brett Buckles Rundown on Women's Skiercross at Winter X 11Jan 28 2007 / Aspen, CO
Making the jump from ski racing to skiercross may have been the coolest thing I have ever done. Not only is every race and every course a new adventure, so is every second spent hurling myself over tabletops, rollers, step-ups, step-downs, triples and now—butter boxes. This year’s course at X-Games may be the most radical, but smoothest-running course I have ever skied.
There’s no gap jump out of the start, but the butter box makes up for it—no question. Skiers and snowboarders enter the box as a gap step-up, momentarily ski/ride across the ‘bridge’ and then cascade off the backside down a chute into the final jump which boosts you 30 feet in distance over a huge knoll and straight down to the finish. Not to mention that while you are skimming the bridge, any number of skiers and riders could be shooting through the tunnel underneath you, taking them from one side of the base area to the other. Did I say skimming? Most of the men skiers were skipping that section all together—completely clearing the entire nearly-100’ feature and making it look EASY!
Between practice yesterday and time trials today, there were more than a handful of racers who crashed off the finish jump, through the finish line or into the fencing. That’s skiercross. Yeah, skiing downhill and going 75 miles an hour might be burly, but try racing just as hard, going over bigger jumps, through cooler features and doing it five times in a row!
There’s something to be said about getting fired up and race-ready not just once, but five times in a day. When I stand in the start and prepare to tear the course apart I think of things like, “How many calories is my body devouring while I perform at 150 percent all day long? What are my endorphins doing? Man am I STARVING!”
Today was no exception. Skiers started practice at noon and had an hour to run the course before time trials started. After that it was go-time. Every racer, men first then women, ran the course solo and was timed. From the first run the fastest eight men and women immediately qualified for the final taking place at noon on Sunday. The rest of the field was given a second run—and a second chance—to make the next cut of four to round out the top twelve, making two semi-final heats of six for Sunday.
I skied great and was extremely happy with my performance—but I was slow. I just missed the top eight first run and took my second run which ultimately qualified me for Sunday. I may have had a slight problem with my wax, or my skis just may not have been running that well. After all, it was 4:30 by the time I was taking my second run, and the sun had long retired behind the backside of Buttermilk mountain.
Because the course is so open and fast, being aerodynamic and smooth is vital. All the way down I focused on being compact in the air and supple on my edges. Not only is being in the air longer than necessary slow, but so is being too hard on your edges and turning more than needed.
So after a six-hour day, six race-intensity-runs, not enough food and two gnarly crashes from fellow competitors, my Jell-O-ed legs have only made it from the my hotel room, to the hot tub and back. I am fascinated with all the events at X and would give anything to stand at the bottom of the superpipe with the rest of the 20-somethings being loud, obnoxious and having the time of my life.
But for now, ESPN live will do. I’ll enjoy my one-limit margarita, get a baby’s night sleep, and spend my day off watching the boardercross and snowcross and gear up for Sunday. Being the only American in the women’s skiercross final is a feeling that makes my heart burn with pride. I will put my 150-percent-effort in on Sunday, and if all my cards fall in place, my pride just may show through the ear-to-ear sparkling grin on my face on the podium.
- Brett Buckles