Monday, December 6, 2010

The Spirit of Ski Racing


It's late, I'm tired and I'm a little fed-up. That said we're in beautiful Lake Louise, Alberta for a week of Downhills and Super G. What could be better. Rather than labor through the mechanics of ski racing today, I thought we'd do something a little more light hearted.

We're staying at the Hostel in Lake Louise – not the Ritz, but its restaurant is one of the best kept secrets in this town. Staying at the Hostel also brings us in contact with a variety of international travelers. Last night Joy met a Japanese guy, here for the races, which appeared to be subsisting on a jar of peanut butter. She invited him to join us for dinner tonight.

Takeo Ubukata is a ski technician from Tokyo, the only skier in his family, and a passionate ski racer. He’s 34 and living the dream. He hardly speaks English so it took hours to obtain his story. He says that in Japan it’s impossible to become a downhill racer because the slopes are all so crowded, so they only train slalom on narrow lanes. He decided he had to race downhill, so saved his money, bought some old downhill skis, and headed over here. How he got on a NORAM start list I’ll never know.

While inspecting for the first training run today he was very scared. He wasn’t sure he wanted to run the course. While side slipping down the icy pitch, one of his ski edges ripped out from his ski. When he got to the bottom he decided he’d come this far so he’d better give it a shot. So he switched his skis to the opposite feet so the ripped edge was on the outside and headed to the start. As he told his story in broken English and hand gestures, his excitement was palpable. He triumphantly finished 89th of 99 competitors.

But it’s not over... He’s found some used Super G’s for sale in Banff, so will go there tomorrow to pick them up. He says he can’t afford two sets of skis, has had enough of going 85 MPH, and will just do the Super G’s here and at Panorama next week. So we've adopted him, will feed him again, and will set-up his race skis for the Super G races. You gotta love this guy!

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