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Vol. 1 No. 5

A Basin Comp

Couloir Extreme
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Staffan A.
Lori S.
Stuart K.
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"It wouldn't score well with the judges, but it didn't matter. It was one of the best runs of my life and that was enough for me."

To compete or not to compete? Just ask the butterflies or maybe just drown them. As chronicled by Kenny Atkin

I felt a lump in the bottom of my stomach and told myself that it's just from the mass of beer consumed the night before. As I gathered my gear, I grew more apprehensive. Would I get hurt? Would I take last? I loaded the car.

Helmet... check

Skis... check

Boots... check

Poles... better bring a spare set

Goggles...three pairs...check

Butterflies in the stomach...definitely check!

The cars in the lot had arrived from Colorado, Montana and California. They had the unmistakable grime that comes from a long drive into the wee hours of the morning. My friend Ryan and I hit the shack to check in. I saw a few friends. Many of them came from Cottonwood Canyon, like myself. Some I have never seen before.

By now I feel as if the butterflies might well fly out of my throat. I decide I have to do something to mellow out. So I grab one of the beers we brought along for after the comp. The butterflies seemed to wallow in the pool of Coors Light for a little while. But then they simply dry their wings and they're at it again.

Getting off the lift I am greeted by one of the judges and World Cup racer, Lori Stahler. She says that we need to wear our bibs in order to check out the course. Now I know what it must feel like to wear crotchless panties over your head with your arms poking out the sides.

I spent about fifteen minutes skiing left and scouting the middle for hidden features, then I realized that I needed to go check out skier's right. The butterflies subsided for a few moments as I concentrated on finding a line. Skier's right was a shorter line and not nearly as direct. There were a few trees on top of a rocky face with good snow down below. The rocky face and trees above it limited the accessibility to much of the right side, but the potential for decent air was apparent.

Being in the front of the men's line up, I decided to run down to the finish area and get rid of my backpack. I found a place to put my pack and watched the last few women come into the finish area. The competitors and spectators were yelling and cheering at every turn and air. The only time the yelling stopped was when it turned into a sympathetic "oohhh" after a crash. The positive camaraderie was awesome!

I headed down for one final lift ride with a little more spring in my thighs and a few more butterflies. The starter called my number and the butterflies fluttered. The right side was still nice and soft, and other than a back seat landing, I felt surprisingly good for the first time of the day. At the same time, I wanted to vomit due to the rush of the adrenaline and the lack of ability to breathe. But I felt good about my run.

I watched the rest of the men as they tore up the course. Great turns of all shapes and sizes, big cliffs, small bumps, tree lines and a few crashes. As more and more finishers joined the spectators they added to the noise of the crowd which was now a roar. By the time the men's runs had ended I had a bed to stay on in three other states. The seriousness of the morning faded and now everyone was focused on the scene and the vibe.

Day 2: Sunday started with rain in the valley. I heard the sound of coffee being ground and figured it must be time. I grabbed the phone and dialed Brighton to check the conditions. Before I could finish dialing, I heard Ryan yell, "six new inches!"

Day two was to separate the men from the boys. Everyone would ski off Millicent Peak. This meant skiing an extra thousand feet of turns on the steepest terrain Brighton has to offer. Spending a lot of my time in-bounds, I wondered how far up the ridge I would make it before I puked.

I had a low bib number and would go early. As my number got closer and closer my skis dangled into the air more and more. My number came up. The first turn almost became a disaster as the top of the fin slid away with me on it. I managed to stay above most of the sloughs and begin to make some turns. Then the lower snow peeled off and I felt like a bull rider, but much less in control. I was able to run it out and down onto the apron for some good turns in the deep snow. It wouldn't score well with the judges, but it didn't matter. It was one of the best runs of my life and that was enough for me.

As the sun began to set behind the peak and visibility dimmed, the competitors continued their runs. The weekend had taken its toll on some. People that had made nothing but great turns all weekend could be found in the back seat for a change. The last run was highlighted by Tres, an 18 year old from Steamboat, punching a forty footer off the ridge.

The raffle started anew and beers were poured. Stories were swapped and phone numbers were exchanged. The room became quiet when it was announced that the scores were in. As the top four places in the men's and women's divisions were announced, the crowd cheered and yelled for the people we just met. Before yesterday, I had only skied with one of the men in the top three. Now I had skied with them all, shared stories, and was able to see their moment of triumph.

I enjoyed the lines I skied and would not trade my first run on Sunday for the first place beer mug and check. Even though the beer mug would have come in handy to drown the remaining butterflies. But I'm not sure there's a mug big enough to drown the butterflies that pop up every time I think about the rush I felt in that chute. The only thing better than having skied that line was getting to the bottom and hearing the praise of my peers.

I found that the best part of the weekend was skiing for myself and doing it in a super positive atmosphere. Maybe I'll head to A-basin or Berthoud Pass and see if I can improve on my score. Just thinking about another comp causes the butterflies to stir. A trip to Colorado to see some of my new friends sounds like just the thing to drown them once more.

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