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a : the act or state of moving swiftly : swiftness
b : rate of motion: as (1) : velocity 1 (2) : the magnitude of a velocity irrespective of direction
c : impetus
d : swiftness or rate of performance or action : velocity 3a
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a : the sensitivity of a photographic film, plate, or paper expressed numerically
b : the light-gathering power of a lens or optical system
c : the time during which a camera shutter is open
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a : a transmission gear in automotive vehicles or bicycles —usually used in combination (a ten-speed bicycle)
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a : methamphetamine; also : a related stimulant drug and especially an amphetamine

Speed One
Alta, Utah
For those who haven't been, tis a tough mountain. Everyone, beginners - experts, are recommended to have a guide/instructor in the am, then free ski in the pm.

I was an obnoxious 27. Lawyer, artist, smart ass, and a crazy assed skier. Got to Alta, and the first day, they rated every skier and put us into our own groups.

Perhaps 50 beginners; 100 intermediates to intermediate-expert; 25 experts; 7 crazies.
Most instructors had 15-20 students, depending on their abilities. We crazies had one to ourselves. He was a former downhill racer for TEAM USA. He took one look at us, and sent us up the lift. For the next four days, he worked us hard. Exercises, tough turns, exercises, and theory. We were in pain the first day, really hurting the second, and by the fourth day, his lessons began to take hold.

By this time, our group was famous for zipping past other classes, as they tried to deal with really tough slopes, and treacherously steep runs. In fact, other classes would cheer us as we steamed through their practice areas.

The last run of that thursday, he pointed out our path for the next morning. "See that cat walk? I carved out a space -20 feet across. You HAVE to make it through there, cuz if you don't, you will be airborne and probably dead. DO NOT MISSS THAT SPOT." Elsewhere, he pointed out other important landmarks, ones that we had to make to do the run properly. Finally, we went down, section by section, preparing for the next morning.

Early that morning, I went and got a full body massage. Swedish. Painful, and very, very helpful. We gathered at the first chair, and got the OK from Ski patrol. Only 1-3 inches of fine powder from the night before, and we would be the first ones up. Two chairs later, and we gathered at the top of Alta. The sun broke through, and he gave us our last instructions. "Keep low, keep balanced, keep your head about you. DO NOT FREAK OUT AT THE SPEED! Keep your skis flat, and about shoulder width apart. Use edges only to turn. We have 5 major turns to make, and for the last time, beware of the catwalk. You HAVE to hit that carved out area, or you will die. This entire run should take 5 minutes, and if you do it right, you will hit 60-65 mph. If you fall, relax, and wait for Ski Patrol to pick up the pieces."

He pointed his skis downhill, and said, "FOLLOW MEEEEEEEEEeeeee!!!"
As taught, every 20 seconds, one of us followed his path.

I don't know if I can accurately describe this sensation. Being as flat as possible to keep wind resistance to a minimum, keeping your skis flat, turning as little as possible, and watching the world go by faster, faster still, and still faster. After the first 100 yards, we were moving so fast that our skis were vibrating. the fresh snow on the ground was punished up and over your head, creating almost a cone of snow particles. you could hear the air rushing past as we went faster and still faster. The first major turn was tough, because by now your thighs were feeling the vibrations and were tired from the stress. The second turn was even harder because of the speed and the nature of the slope. After three more turns, time took on this weird relativity. On one hand, I had never before been so precariously balanced, dependent on my balance and strength, at such a high speed. On the other, those 4-5 minutes seemed like forever.

There was the cat walk, and WOOSH, I made it through. Then, as we were taught, we began braking. First on the right, until your legs could not stand it anymore, then a quick switch, and braking on the left. Repeat. Repeat. Even though the trees were slowing down, you still had way TOO MUCH SPEED FOR THE REST OF THE SLOPE. BRAKE BRAKE BRAKE.
And just as your legs could not stand any more pressure, you slow to a stop. And watch as the three behind you finish exactly the same way.  

Our instructor thought we probably hit 68 mph. It was a sensation I could never have imagined.

Then again, I haven't been to a rave party, either.

Originally posted to agnostic on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 10:35 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.


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