Snow sports champions

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(Host) New England ski resorts are celebrating President’s Day with great snow conditions this year. Commentator Mary McKhann says that New England skiers are also celebrating at the World Championships.

(McKhann) For a kid growing up in New England, the likelihood of becoming an NFL star or NBA champion is about zilch. But if they want to become a star in the world of snow sports, they have some pretty good role models to look to and some great playgrounds to practice on.

Vermont has a roster of ski and snowboard champions that can rival just about any state in the union. Sandwiched between Olympic medalists Andrea Mead Lawrence in 1952 and Kelly Clark and Ross Powers 50 years later, the Green Mountain State has produced plenty of gold, as well as silver and bronze. Billy Kidd, Betsy Snite Riley, Bill Koch, Suzy Chaffee, Doug Lewis, and the entire Cochran family are just a few of those who have done Vermont proud racing on snow.

And if you are willing to include neighbors and non-native-born Vermonters, you can add quite a few more names to the list. Among them: Bode Miller and Erik Schlopy, after their recent success at the World Championships giant slalom in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Miller, from nearby Franconia, New Hampshire, scored his third medal – second gold – of the two-week championships, the most important event in ski racing next to the Olympics. It was the first time an American man had won three medals at the World Championships. And only two men had ever won two medals at the Worlds, one of them being Kidd, who double-medaled twice, in 1964 and ’70. With Schlopy taking the bronze medal, it marked the first time ever that two American men stood on the podium at a World Championships. Schlopy grew up in Stowe, racing for the Mount Mansfield Ski Club. He graduated from Burke Mountain Academy, raced on the U.S. Ski Team, quit the team and raced as a pro, then returned the team.

If you’re not familiar with ski racing, you may think the United States should have the best team in the world. After all, we have wonderful resources, including some of the best ski academies in the world right here in Vermont, as well as mountains and money. But it has been a long time since the U.S. Ski Team has lived up to its motto: “Best in the World!” Now, it appears, we are getting very close.

One problem for U.S. skiers has always been that the playing field where most high level races are held has been Europe. Austria has long been the superpower of the ski world. To level the playing field, at least a little, Miller and Schlopy have lived in the Alps for the past three winters.

Ski racing in the U.S. will never get the kind of attention given to more mainstream sports, but you can bet that virtually everyone in Switzerland and Austria knows who Bode Miller is. And for kids growing up in New England, he offers an excellent example of what is possible.

This is Mary McKhann from the Mad River Valley.

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