Skiing Magazine's own assistant editor Lindsay Yaw kicked out of the start of the 14th annual 24 Hours of Aspen race at 12:14 p.m. today to a cheering crowd of several hundred at the top of Aspen Mountain today. Reaching speeds of 95 miles per hour under a cloudy sky and through gusting winds, Yaw plunged down the 3,200-foot downhill course in just over two minutes. After three runs, which took Yaw just 7 minutes, 29 seconds, I met up with her for a gondola ride to the top. "I was pretty psyched that I'd done all that balance training, said Yaw on the 14-minute ride up the gondola back to the start. "The winds were unbelievable, blowing me sideways.
Her trainer had attached elastic bands to her waist, had her stand on a wobble board four feet off the ground, and pushed and pulled her to challenge her balance. "It was key for when the wind would come whipping across the course, she said. As we rode up, Yaw sat with two big heat packs cradled in her lap, as her John, her boyfriend and head support guy offered a goggle wipe, eye drops, water. I offered her chapstick, dried mangos, and a neck massage. She took some water and a massage.
From the gondola, we watched as other racers descended the course at speeds that would have the state patrol revoking your license had you been driving your car on the freeway. The racers looked like jets on snow, leaving contrails 50 to 75 feet behind them. Lindsay tells us about the finish drill. "At the bottom, you come in, put your arms to your chest, and a bunch of guys catch you, she said. Once the racers come to a halt, the crew pops them out of their skis, and pours them into a gondola car for the ride up.
She asks John to tell the race directors to add pine boughs to Grand Junction, the turn before Kleenex Corner. "It goes from light to dark and there's a bunch of dips in there, she says. John is on the case.
At the top, in the gondola terminal, the ski techs had been waxing, sharpening, deburring and otherwise buffing out Yaw's five pairs of skis. As we unloaded, one of the techs was waiting for Yaw with a new pair, and the last pair was taken for repair. By the time I unloaded the gondola car behind her, Yaw was gone, clicked into her skis and skating like hell for another run. Only 23 hours to go.