One of the newest competitive ski sports out there (that is, until I get FIS to approve skidodgeball) is skicross and snowboardcross. In reality, skicross first appeared in the 80’s skiing cult classic, “Hot Dog…the Movie,” a tale of a young man’s journey to become a famous skier, and partake in all the illegal activity and debauchery that comes with the position. In one of the final scenes of the movie, the two rival ski groups partake in a competition called The Chinese Downhill. It is an anything goes, full contact race from top to bottom. In true 80s fashion, the action sequence is full of slapstick comedy, cheesy dance music, and an underdog victory.
In the eyes of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), snowboardcross was considered a sport worthy of an Olympic appearance 4 years before skicross. Snowboardcross made its debut at the 2006 Winter Olympics at Torino. Anyone remotely interested in winter sports will remember the epic fail that was Lindsey Jacobellis’ final run. Far out in front of the 2nd place boarder, Switzerland’s Tanja Frieden, Jacobellis had the 1st ever women’s snowboardcross gold in the bag. Coming over the last jump into the finish, she prematurely celebrated her impending victory with a backside grab. Trouble was, she failed to stick the landing, wiped out, and Frieden came cruising in from behind to snag the gold. From inside her full-faced motorcycle helmet, you could see her red eyes welling up with tears. This is snowboardcross. Anything can happen in a split second, and one of the best athletes in the field can lose it all with one spontaneous motion.
Skicross debuted at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. I actually had the opportunity to attend the Men’s Skicross finals at Cypress Mountain because I was at the games interning for NBC, and happened to be working the night shift that day. I got off work at 8am, took a quick nap, went to the event, came back down to the city, and walked right back into the International Broadcast Centre for my next 12 hour shift. To be completely honest, it’s one of those events that’s easier to watch on TV, since you can’t see the whole slope. But the part we could see, the last bank turn into the last jump before the finish line, was where the majority of the action happened. I watched both Americans Casey Puckett, in his 5th Olympic appearance, and Daron Rhalves, also a retired U.S. Alpine ski teamer, crash out and bust up their already fragile, injured, and aging (they are 37 and 38 respectively) bodies. After seeing this crazy, fast-paced, anything goes event in person, I was never more convinced that I wanted to try it.
I’ve told myself many times that if I am going to keep competing, I am going to get out of alpine and switch to freestyle or skicross. The biggest issue with breaking into skicross is that it is still not a popular event, and therefore it is hard to find good competitions on the East coast. USSA has yet to post their schedule, but they usually only have one or two competitions in the Northeast, at Lake Placid and maybe in Vermont. URTUR and FIS both posted their schedules, but they have nothing East of Lake Louise (a mountain in Canada near Calgary). Luckily for us eastcoasters, there’s a little something called the Catskill Mountain Series. CMS is a competition series that stretches across the entire season, hitting mountains in the Catskill region, like Hunter, Windham, and Bellyeare, Plattekill, and Catamount. They offer competition in events like slopestyle, halfpipe, and ski/snowboardcross. Here is a list of the Skicross/ Snowboardcross events for the 2010-2011 season of CMS.
Saturday, January 22nd (7:00am): Windham Mountain- Jason Evans and Bob Basil Boardercross/Skiercross Camp
Sunday, January 23rd (8:00am): Windham Mountain
Saturday, January 29th (8:00am): Catamount
Saturday, February 5th (8:00am): Windham Mountain
Saturday, March 5th (8:00am): Windham Mountain