six-pack of cold ones (or a pint of warm foam if you’re in Germany) during
a hard night filing too many skis. It matters. Take the wheel and let the guy
sleep during a long haul across Italy. You don’t succeed without him. Go for
the full depth of experience. Take care of the details.
In venturing to Montana to do something different with our lives by
starting a restaurant, we ended up where we started, as skiers, transferring
what we knew from our racing experience: Surround yourself with good,
honest, smart, open-minded people — or pay the price. Our partners and
managers are all of the above, acting like skiers even if they’re not; they’re
fundamentally happy beings who spend most of their free time outdoors
— skiing, snowboarding, dirt biking, kayaking.
Our role is to stay a step ahead of them, to strategize and manage outcomes, adjust the game plan, keep it fresh, try to be firm and compassionate, consistent and diplomatic and know when to keep our mouths shut.
We are coaches of a team that creates good food and good times. It’s a
fascinating, ongoing process.
As a ski racer I was a lucky member of an historic team. The women’s team of my era remains the
best American women’s team ever.
We won the Nation’s Cup in 1982
by earning more collective World
Cup points than any other nation,
and in a short four-year span,
six of us earned 12 Olympic and
World Championship medals, won
32 World Cup races and thanks to
one diminutive skier from Olympic
Valley, Calif. — Tamara McKinney
— the first U.S. female World Cup
overall title plus three individual
discipline titles. We were a talented group forged into a team and managed
well. We had a killer support staff. We had ski reps that ruled. We had fun.
We were the lucky ones.
Twenty-five years later we all remain great friends, allies and advocates
for skiing. Long distances keep us apart and decades can pass between visits, but we remain a part of each other’s lives and stories. The way we chose
to interact back then has greatly influenced the way we raise our families
and run our businesses. When we do get together, as a few of us did earlier
this fall in honor of Lindsey Vonn, we give each other unrelenting grief
about just about everything. We laugh a lot.
But our success took time. We weren’t one cohesive unit in the beginning.
We were independent, stubborn, hardheaded, freedom-loving loners. We
thought we knew it all, but were somehow smart or lucky enough to know
we also needed this collective “mojo” to get where we wanted to go. So we
mostly bent and found warmth and support in the crowd. Now we’re a tribe
and we’d do pretty much anything for each other. And that’s something to
celebrate and pass on in pizzas, regional microbrews and the best bison
meatloaf in the Rocky Mountain West.
Another way to celebrate is by returning to the broadcast booth for NBC.
No female ski racing analyst has stepped up to represent us in recent years,
and don’t you think women deserve a voice? The restaurants are humming
along (OK, sputtering slightly through the recession, but fundamentally
sound), and who’s not in the mood to talk skiing? I tiptoed in for the World
Championships last season with little preparation. This was not fun, by the
way — like running GS when your timing is off, you‘re out of shape and you
try too hard, which only makes it worse.
Maria Rosa “Ninna” Quario and
Christin Cooper, ready for snow.
But better days are ahead. My skier’s natural optimism tells me it’s a new
season and it’s going to snow like hell! I get to work with Crazy Canuck and
1983 Hahnenkamm downhill champion Todd Brooker (eh?). He should
be labeled: “Downhill Racer, Exhibit A”. Massive ham hocks, achy knees,
and that calm, cool downhiller’s demeanor that belies a wicked wit and a
gameness for anything. The guy has a permanent smile on his face, another
fairly consistent mark of a skier. Maybe all the horrendous crashes makes
one appreciate a pain-free day.
Brooker and I are trading notes, ideas and theories about ski racing again.
I pass on what I’m learning about the women and Todd passes back his
encyclopedic knowledge of the men’s tour. I’ll need it, as I’m contractually
bound to freeze my ass off at the finish line of the men’s races this season
while Todd does expert analysis with Tim Ryan in the heated booth. What’s
not to smile about?
Steve Porino’s on the team. A former U.S. Team downhiller, talented writ-
er and journalist, Pino was just diving into broadcasting when I left. He
has since covered a ridiculous number of World Cup races for every network that covers skiing: Outdoor Life, Versus, Universal Sports, and at the
major events, NBC. He’s learned most of what he knows on the fly and on
the air, juggling roles of writer, host, anchor, expert analyst and on-course
reporter, sometimes all in the same show. Here again, another skier archetype: Jocular. Game. Capable. Always on the lookout for pow and a way to
go ski it. If he wants a restaurant job, we’re always hiring.
My longtime colleague Tim Ryan will be captaining this motley crew. He’s
been the network voice of skiing for more than 30 years, most of them with
CBS Sports, more recently with NBC. We’ll be wrestling for airtime as we
have since our first Olympics together in Albertville in 1992. Tim knows his
red wine, and appreciates a dusty carafe of vino da tavola as much as an
expensive French Bordeaux, which tells you a lot about the guy.
The goal is to show up ready to carve and to articulate, concisely, the essentials of weather, course-set, equipment choices, injuries, demons and
In the end, these are the things that make flawless, and flawed, runs interesting. Like the best artisan pizza — crispy and chewy, with just the right
toppings in exactly the right amount, served with grace (and a little extra
virgin olive oil) — the details matter. See you out there.
Christin Cooper, Lindsey Vonn, Cindy Nelson and Tamara McKinney
celebrate great American women’s teams, past and present, in Vail.
A triple World Championships medalist, Olympic silver medalist and founding partner of
two restaurants, Cooper returns as an analyst for NBC/Universal coverage of the World
Cup and Olympic Games and as an occasional contributor to Ski Racing magazine.