The winter olympics is so much fun for us Vermonters, because for a few golden weeks, the rest of the country is focused on something that we think about all the time! It's like sitting at the cool kids table at lunchtime. When I chose an alpine ski racer for the hero of Coming In From the Cold, it was easy enough to do the research. And what fun research it was! Here are a few of my favorite details.
Ski Racers Are Pretty Much Deaf
That screaming crowd of wellwishers is fantastic, but there's little chance a racer will hear them. At speeds of 70, 80 or even 90 mph, the sound of the wind rushing your ears is ridiculously loud. Even with the best, most aerodynamic helmets that money can buy, the auditory disorientation is pretty intense.
Ski Racers Scream
And I'm not just referring to their screamin' fast speeds. Many alpine racers literally hollar their way down the hill. When my friend worked course maintenance for a recent U20 GS race (for elite 18 & 19 year-olds) he was startled to hear them shouting like crazy all the way down the course. And in Bode Miller's autobiography, he points out that there's a lot of loud, mood-building vocalization up in the start house, too. (But Bode wrote that he likes to avoid the crazy vibe by calling his mom while he waits for his turn.)
No Practice Runs, You Can Only Have a Peek
The downhill (the fastest) event is the only one in which competitors may have a practice run. For GS and Super G, racers can only look at the course during the designated course inspection time. They take the lift to the top, then kind of side slip all the way down in order to learn the course shape and turns. I found a gorgeous video on YouTube which shows racers memorizing the course with their arms and bodies. Someone set it to one of the Bach Cello suites. Isn't this cool?
We Don't Want No Stinkin' Snow
That course is mostly ice, people. In fact, when those intensely carved turns scrape snow loose on the course, the course workers will push it out of the way before the next competitor comes down the slope. Because snow is slow, and ice is nice.