Long Way To The Top
by jim moran
Back in 1990, I did some of the best competing of my life. I was in the Rocky
Mountain Division trying to make it on the US Ski Team. I had started off
my season well; but a guy named Rick Emerson did not make it to the Albertville
Olympics, and decided to come back to the region to win it. At the time, I
was in first place for the whole division. Rick felt it would be easy to knock
Rick was and still is an incredible skier. He was a big shot, US Team member,
coming in to mess with us regional boys. His decision to compete in our regionals
was great for me. I felt the support behind me grow as everyone in the division
backed me up silently.
Rick beat me in the first two events; then at the third event, I skied well
and finished first. In all reality, he skied better in the majority of the
The season was coming to a close. The way the regional champion was chosen
was like this: your best two events were worth 50 percent, and your regionals
place was worth 50 percent. I had gotten two first places and one second place.
Rick had gotten four first places. I kept one first and one second because
they were my biggest points-meets. Rick kept two 1st places; so going into
our regional event, he had the upper hand. As it turned out, I was close enough
to him that if I won the event, there would be no way he could catch up. Obviously
We were in Winter Park, Colorado. The day the competition came, the majority
of the people were rooting for me. They all liked Rick, but they all wanted
a regional skier to win. From what I remember, there were two other guys that
could possibly win depending on how badly Rick and I finished.
We got two runs, but kept only the best one. On our second run, we ran in
reverse order of our first-run finish. I was all pumped and I wanted to defend
the region from the US National Team member.
My first run was sick. I skied fast, clean, and had great air. I scored
well, taking first and putting Rick in second. We both realized what that
meant. If Rick had a good run I would have the chance to defend the championships.
If Rick had a bad run, this would all be over and I would win the Division.
Rick and I waited up top while all of the other competitors ran. It turned
out that nobody had scored high enough to knock either of us down. It looked
like it would all come down to Rick’s second run.
He pushed off and started having a great run. He hit the top air and threw
a perfect double twister spread. He was still on fire through the middle,
and I was thinking he had done it. When he went off the bottom air, he threw
a 180, then spread for the second 180—but he under rotated just a little and
ate shit! It took me a minute, but then I realized what had just happened.
I was about to win the most difficult region in the country. I just about
pissed my pants and jumped with joy.
I still had not skied my second run yet. I made my run and scored a bit less
than my first. It was enough. I got all my trophies and went over to shake
We had both qualified for the Nationals, so our season was not over. The
US Ski Team was determined similarly at the time. They would take your top
two events, plus Nationals, and combine them equally to determine the best
in the country.
This was my first Nationals ever, and I was nervous. Rick Emerson, Nelson
Carmichael, Chuck Martin, Bobby Aldegary, Craig Rodman (Park City local),
Sean Smith (P.C. local) were all competing. These guys were all great, and
I would be playing with the big boys.
When we started off, I used Rick to push me again. I skied a great run and
so did Rick, along with the rest except for Craig Rodman. He blew up his knee,
causing a full reconstruction. Rick and I were first and second respectively.
The bastard got his revenge and became the National Champion. I got my birth
onto the US National team, which eventually helped get me this fun job writing.
Even though you won Rick, we all need someone to push us like you pushed
me. Thank you Rick, and may peace be with you.