The Fore-runners go down the course before the first racer to make sure there are no serious issues with the track or the conditions and that it’s safe to start the race we also go by the name of glorified guinea pig.
My first time down the Lake Louise DH track I almost peed my pants I was so scared! The top of the course starts with a steep but short pitch that accelerates you from 0 to 100km/h in about 5 seconds. After that burst of speed you traverse across a rattling side hill and pray that your ski doesn’t pop off.
A few turns later is the first jump. Racing towards it looks like you will fly straight off into the Rocky Mountains on the far side of the valley but gravity quickly takes over and brings you back to earth a good 25m down the course (although my stomach never really caught up).
This is followed by some flats that, although not as intimidating as the jump, are just as important because it is very easy to lose time in this section. Marking the end of the flats is Coaches Jump which is another 25m flight followed by the two toughest turns on the course, Fishnet to Fall Away.
Fishnet is appropriately named because you race straight towards the 20ft tall “A Net” and make a hard right turn only a few feet before getting tangled in it. Fall Away is a sharp left turn at the crest of a steep section so the mountain falls away from the racer in the middle of the sharp turn making it very hard to hold the edge and keep pressure on the ski to complete the turn. If you don’t nail these two turns they will send you flying into the nets at over 120km/h which could easily be the end of your season.
Two more turns and onto the Gunbarrel pitch where you gain as much speed as you can, ideally above 130km/h, for the final flats to the Finish Line. By now your legs are burning but there is still another kilometer left on the course.
Across another section of flats is a big left foot turn called Claire’s Corner that sends you into the final jump in view of the Finish Area. Thankfully a few seconds later you cross the finish line and use whatever strength you have left to slam on the brakes and give a thumbs-up to the crowd and to the announcers asking how the course was.
After my first time down the course I was flooded with relief but also stoked on life that I just survived that run. Naturally I wanted to do it again.
Watching the best women in the world master the track was inspiring and I picked up a few tips on the best line and how to approach certain sections. After talking to them I realized that they are not that much different from me, they have more experience but they are racing because they honestly just love the sport. We definitely have that in common!
The NorAm races start tomorrow on the same course so I got a little bit of a head start last week and now it’s my turn to race and I can’t wait to attack it.