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Bow to the Kings and Queens of WorldCup

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Bow to the Kings and Queens of WorldCup

Anyone willing to stand there in the cold to watch America’s Opening World Cup should know by now that the ski industry is full of egos. Oh ya—shop techs, lift-op’s, ski instructors, snow groomers, you name it. You can even hear ski tech guys saying, “the racers all have about the same ability—it’s how well their skis are tuned that determines whether or not they win.” Right.

This collective ego comes from tenure with the industry. After someone has been around it for a few years and thinks he can talk the talk, he starts to get proud. That’s fine and dandy as long as he understands who really deserves to have an ego. Alberto Tomba. Marc Girardelli. Franz Klammer. These guys have egos so big that with a little snow and a rope tow, they’d have their own resorts.

Here’s the deal: imagine that the ski industry is like a royal kingdom, rich with history and etiquette. Then, think of guys like Herman Maier and Stefan Eberharter as royalty (they’ll like that). When you’re in the royal kingdom, you will be expected to behave as one of their subjects. The general rules of behavior should have been learned as a neophyte to the sport—politeness in lift lines, allowing the downhill skier the chivalrous right of way, etc.

The Royal Racecourse then becomes the highest court, and is reserved for only the most noble men and ladies. Here the rules change slightly. If you are on the run where the course it set, but not actually racing, you must constantly check uphill. The course is like the castle’s red carpet, and the on-course racer always has absolute right of way.

If a racer is on course, and someone below is in the way, you must yell, “Course!” to politely inform him that the king is coming. If YOU are in or near the course, and you hear, “Course!,” you need to remove yourself briskly.

One must never duck ropes; ropes are there for good reasons. If you are a race spectator, keep in mind that movement is distracting. Wait until any racer passes before moving somewhere else. While a racer is on course, yelling his or her name or “Up, up” are the most respectable forms of honoring this noble.

It is gainful to stay very clear of the finish area. When the timing lights are accidentally tripped, it’s like farting in the palace—deathly faux pas. On the other hand, if you are near the course starting gate, keep any comments or questions to yourself. The Dukes and Ladies of Race are concentrating. They always race in the same pair of underwear, take deathly serious 57 other strange superstitions, and religiously practice one almighty pre-race sequence to put them in the zone before they enter the start gate. If you disrupt this, you’ll probably get beheaded.

While they may not have quite the same reign as World Cup, resort pay courses are quite luxurious, and a great opportunity for status gain. Racecourse training is highly recommended. NASTAR, town races and masters series can really improve your ability and your savvy around a big race; race lessons from a real coach are the best way to go.

If for any reason you are allowed to ski a pay course free of charge, keep in mind that paying customers must always go first. With an event like the World Cup, other smaller, training courses will be everywhere around the mountain. They too follow the above rules. And one must never run an unknown course without full permission from its King, and the obvious ability to do so competently.

The best rule of thumb is to watch the racers. Behave around a racecourse the way they do. And if you do get the chance to talk to Hans Knauss, he may act like the biggest, stuck-up snob on the planet. Remember, he’s earned that. Just walk away all goofy-eyed and say, “Wow! I talked to Hans Knauss—ruler of ski kingdom!”