Last Friday morning, an email titled, “Welcome to the Caderettes” appeared in my inbox. Little did I know that a quick mention earlier in the week from our friend Rocky about participating in The Ajax Cup had actually come to fruition. I was now part of an all-girl ski racing team named after the team’s sponsor, Andrew Cader, and one of 14 ski teams that would be competing head-to-head down a giant slalom course on Aspen Mountain.
The Ajax Cup, now in it’s third year, is the Aspen Valley Ski Snowboard Club’s (AVSC) cornerstone event. It benefits thousands of youth in the valley by giving them opportunities to develop as athletes, and as people, through varies types of skiing. It’s not uncommon that many of these kids become world-class competitors and Olympians.
With Race Co-Chairs like Chris Davenport, renowned ski mountaineer and Freeskiing World Champion, and Casey Puckett, 5-time Olympic ski racer, along with Olympic racers and celebrity coaches such as Kristina Koznick , Chris Klug, and Jake Zamansky, it was bound to be a cool experience, if only just a little intimidating.
By Friday afternoon, I had a pair of Atomic GS race skis with my name on them at the local shop. These extremely heavy race skis were a lot skinnier than my usual, everyday 97mm ski and were going take some getting use to. Luckily Ted happened to be instructing Jack O’Donnell, 11, a visiting ripper from Boston who wasn’t afraid to tell me how it’s done as he schooled me in Nastar all morning.
After a bunch of rookie mistakes, like skiing my absolute hardest during the handicapping trials and picking the hardest teams to race against in the bib draw, we didn’t bring home the trophy on race day, but the Caderettes easily walked away with the “most fun” award. As a fellow team member said it best, “Our team was much more prepared for the apres party, than the ski race.”
Besides having a blast all weekend carving race turns, it was an incredibly rewarding ski experience, partly because of the way the teams were set up. The teams of seven were a mix of professional racers, amateur skiers, and a few celebrities, but they also included up-and-coming skiers who had grown up in the AVSC program and are now current U.S. Ski Team racers, as well as an adaptive skier.
Many people might not know that the AVSC Adaptive Program is one of the best in the country and hosts “learn to race” camps across the country to recruit veterans with disabilities into alpine competition. Currently, AVSC is one of two USSA ski clubs with an integrated adaptive program. In the past two seasons AVSC has recruited 12 newly-injured veterans who are training year round, full-time with the program.
The camaraderie and rapport between the various skier types and backgrounds, all brought together by the love of skiing, was powerful and compelling. I can only hope I get invited back again next year. Next time I’m bringing a race suit.