Southern-Fried Ski Racing
PLENTY OF MASTERS ARE GOING DOWNHILL FAST DOWN IN DIXIE BY BILL MCCOLLOM
MAT T STICH
Here’s a quick quiz for all you knowledgeable masters ski racers.
What two ski areas have the highest summit elevations in the East?
“Sugarloaf in Maine?” you ask. Good guess, but sorry, wrong. “New
York’s Whiteface Mountain?” Wrong again. “Well then, how about
Mt. Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak?” Nope, you lose.
The answer is Beech Mountain ( 5,500 feet), followed by Sugar Mountain ( 5,300 ft.), which are both located in North Carolina.
Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia, standing 4,800 ft. at the top of
the highest lifts, is not far behind. Yes, there’s skiing galore down in
Dixie with ample quantities of snow, good vertical drops and a wide
variety of terrain. In fact, there are 17 ski areas that comprise the
Southeast Ski Areas Association. All are perched along the spine
of the Appalachian Mountain chain and Blue Ridge Mountains with
Wisp Resort in Maryland the most northerly and Sapphire Valley in
southwest North Carolina the farthest south.
And just because this region might be out of the periphery of “
mainstream” ski racing, don’t think for a moment that southern skiers
It doesn’t take a lot of
hill to be a ski racing hub.
A winning run for Phil Perkins
at the opening SARA slalom at
can’t break out of a snowplow. These mountains have produced a
surprising number of nationally ranked racers over the years, and
they keep on coming. Racers such as Ryan Locher, Keith Poor, Laura Scripture and Scott Venus have all flirted with the U.S. National
Team, and current ski team member Scott Snow made his first turns
at Bryce Mountain in Virginia.
Of course, where there’s snow, there’s skiing; and where there’s
skiing, there’s ski racing; and where there’s ski racing, there’s masters racing. The Southern Alpine Racing Association (SARA) race
schedule includes 14 masters races for the 2010-11 season at six
different ski areas. The venues vary from the relatively benign slopes
of Bryce Mountain to the 1,500 vertical-ft., monster, leg-burning GS
on the Cup Run of Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia.
One of the hubs of ski racing activity in the South is Bryce Mountain, which is tucked into the northeastern slopes of the Appalachian
Mountain chain, a few hours from Washington, D.C. With only 500
feet of vertical, Bryce is an unlikely site for a ski racing Mecca, but
Kathy HurdCarillo carves up
the grass at Bryce Mountain.
ski area manager Horst Locher makes it happen. An ex-racer and
active masters athlete, Locher oversees one of the largest junior
programs in the region. Legions of Bryce racers can be found at Mt.
Hood in the summer, at Killington for pre-season camps, and filling the results of many of the regional races. Locher has also been
SARA masters chair for as long as anyone cares to remember, and
annually hosts the opening SARA races after Christmas.
“We usually get about 20 to 25 masters at the races,” says Locher.
“It’s a good slalom but a short GS. It’s a good way to get the season
started.” Locher explains that the masters run with the juniors in the
same courses. He also welcomes masters into the weekend training sessions, which include some of the top masters in the South.
Masters training programs also are in full stride at Massanutten and
As for southern racing activity, Locher says: “There’s a lot of racing
going on, and many strong racing programs. Massanutten has night
league racing, and the Crescent Ski Council is very active. They