Students of speed
Recent camp prepares racers for super-G
It’s the second day of “speed camp” and Jeremy Ueland is the designated “dye guy.” He skis off the Ramcharger lift with a plastic tank and a spray wand like the kind you use to zap daffodils and other weeds on your lawn.
Only in this tank there’s harmless blue dye used to mark the super-G course laid out on Hangman’s, a sculpted speed zone dropping down Andesite Mountain and lined with orange safety fencing. Ueland, who grew up ski racing at Big Sky, is in his 18th season coaching and 10th season as program director for the Big Sky Ski Education Foundation (BSSEF). On the afternoon of Thursday, Feb. 8, he’s hosting 150 young athletes from Alaska, South Dakota and Montana who line up at the top of Hangman’s and prepare themselves for high speed training runs.
“And that’s what this camp is,” explains Ueland. “What we’re doing today is a skills-based camp, running off the jump, the wave track, just fundamentals.”
After a steep drop out of the starting gate, the super-G course winds through a few gates before sending racers over a jump about midway down. The jump doesn’t look too intimidating when you stand next to it, but that all changes when you approach from the top hitting speeds as high as 50 mph.
The dye marks Ueland leaves around the race gates help keep skiers on track so they maintain a clean line off the jump and then into the demanding turns waiting below.
“The skills racers get from this camp, it could be just hitting a jump and getting comfortable. You know, going that fast, going off a piece of terrain like that. And being active in their legs and their movements, what they need to do to perform,” says Ueland.
As he skis by the wave track—a series of rolling, groomed mounds meant to help build muscle and teach proper form—Ueland points out little details in each racers’ style and notes how every little movement counts come race time.
Young aspiring racers in Big Sky are blessed to be part of the BSSEF’s comprehensive program, which includes guest appearances from stars like former Olympian and World Cup Champion in super-G Daron Rahlves, who came to Big Sky recently for another training camp.
There are more than 120 kids in the BSSEF’s alpine program alone, says Ueland, adding that after the two-day speed camp, it’s time for the real thing—the 2018 Lone Peak Speed Series, which ran Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 10-11.
“I think it’s really exciting for the kids that the Olympics are going on and we’re having this race starting,” says Ueland.
BSSEF competed for two days on the Hangman’s super-G course. During the race, one parent riding the Ramcharger chair laughed about how there was an arms race going on, with racers trying to figure out the best ski wax to match the conditions—which were cold and fast.
At the top of the course, BSSEF supporters shared scuttlebutt about local competitors like U14 skier Kjetil Hassman, who blew out of one of his skis coming off the jump but came away uninjured.
At the end of the race weekend, Ueland summed it all up, “Overall, we were third for team scoring with everything combined.”
Standouts among the BSSEF boys include Caleb Unger, Ryan Beatty, Will Hodgson and Luke Kirchmayr. For the girls, there were strong runs by Mackenzie Winters, Maci St. Cyr, Mazie Schreiner, Franci St. Cyr and Winter Johnson.
The Alyeska Ski Club from Alaska placed second, while the first place spot went to the Bridger Ski Foundation team.
Reflecting on the weekend, Ueland says, “It ran really smoothly. We had a large number
of kids. All the volunteers to put an on an event like this, they did a great job.”
Between 30 and 40 volunteers staffed the race, and some of them will no doubt be back to help with the next big race event in Big Sky: the FIS Masters World Criterium, March 19-24.