Skiing with Rock Stars: Schussing with Telluride’s Synchronized Ski Teams

Southern Synchro Skiers Practicing in Telluride, Colorado

Southern Synchro Skiers Practicing in Telluride, Colorado

My View of the Ghostriders Last Run Just as the Sun Was Peaking Over the Mountain

My View of the Ghostriders’s Last Run Just as the Sun Was Peeking Over the Mountain

OK, well I wasn’t exactly skiing with these elite snowsports professionals. I was actually tagging along to watch them perform. I’ve been telling many of my fellow Telluride Ski and Snowboard School friends these past couple of months that I’d come out and watch them do their stuff. But I admit that the idea of getting on the slopes before the sun rises over the mountain hasn’t thrilled me, especially since I’ve been working as a ski instructor myself almost nonstop since mid-February. But I set my alarm earlier yesterday and greeted members from theses two teams—Telluride Ghostriders and Southern Synchro Skiers—in the locker room and at the top of the gondola before I had time to have my second cup of coffee. A few  warm exchanges were shared but from the get-go, I could tell they were all business. The task at hand was to charge down the mountain three times, accomplishing a total of six expertly coordinated formations, within a half hour before Telluride Ski Resort officially opened for the day and before they had to go to work as ski instructors potentially teaching every level of student from first-time beginners to level eight all-mountain skiers. Wow, what a way to kickstart your morning.

Southern Synchro Skiers Lining Up

Southern Synchro Skiers Lining Up

Southern Synchro Skiing It

Southern Synchro Skiers Skiing It

They’ve been practicing like this two to three mornings a week throughout much of the season and from what I could see, their dedication has been paying off. They’re primed for the Aspen World Synchro Championships that will be taking place this weekend in Aspen, Colorado. The competition for the Telluride teams takes place Monday, April 7, so it’s possible for people to enjoy Telluride’s closing weekend—with all its colorful festivating and pond skimming madness—before heading out to Aspen.

Watching their routines from my vantage point was exhilarating, and during practice, there wasn’t even the foot-stomping music and cheers from the crowd you get in Aspen. Instead, I marveled at the synchronicity of their movements, top precision and skill also reflected in the sound of every turn and the hail of smoke (OK, snow) that blew out from their wake. From below, I could here the countdown and their own version of hut, hut, hut from atop the hill before they took off. I could feel their electric charge as they powered down the slope, and most of all their fire as they arrived at my feet.

Ghostriders Going For It

Ghostriders Going For It

Nice Ghostrider Turns

Nice Ghostrider Turns

Indeed, I could sense the rush, the scintillating energy among Telluride Ski School’s finest. Their cohesiveness even off the run is palpable; they all seemed to be in tune with each other, respectfully speaking one after the other after I ask these Ghostriders “How does it feel to ski like that, so quick and so precise?”

“Like adrenaline,” says Peter Steiner.

“It feels really good when you watch the video and it’s perfect,” Shayne Marion says.

“It feels fun,” says John Balmain. Then he adds in his calm, mellow voice, “It feels like we’re a rock band.”

Telluride Ghostriders

Telluride Ghostriders

It appears that way to spectators, too. These superbly dynamic synchronized ski teams do make beautiful music on the hill. “I try to make it good with easy counts,” says Nev Leel, another Ghostrider and the team choreographer. “The pops, swings and moves will be scored on both degree of difficulty and style,” he explains.

“Snow conditions have a big impact on our performance level,” says Sem Wallis, choreographer and team member of the Southern Synchro Skiers. “If it’s too icey, you might not get the grip you need. If it’s too slushy, you don’t get the response you want.”

It was like boilerplate the morning I was there and yet they appeared to hit every note.

Both Telluride Ghostriders and Southern Synchro Skiers seem to be buoyed up by the fact that they’re skiing as a team. It’s true, skiing is an individual sport. So to see it done at the highest level as a team—by Telluride’s crème de la crème—is a real treat.

Now I’m sorry I didn’t get my booty out of bed more to watch them practice. Oh well, there’s always next year. Someday I hope to hang out in Aspen with a frosty beverage in hand and watch these pros schuss in sync down the hill. And who knows? Maybe someday synchronized skiing will become an Olympic sport and I can watch their routines from the comfort of my couch. Although even then, I know it won’t compare to my crack-of-dawn initiation to the sport yesterday morning.

Southern Synchro Skiers

Southern Synchro Skiers

Telluride Ghostriders and Southern Synchro Skiers are made up of professionals from around the world—all Telluride Ski School instructors—that seek to promote the passion of skiing. Both are nonprofits and each gives back to the community in their own unique way, largely by supporting children’s ski programs and by facilitating the education and development of the sport of skiing. You can make donations or form partnerships with these teams through their websites.

Nice pic of the triple SSS with Arnold Schwarzenegger at the end.

 

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