I was born into a ski family, so I didn’t really have a choice. For the first seven years, it was me and my two older brothers, then my little brother jumped in the mix. Of course skiing was a part of his life too. All of our lives were somehow intertwined with the sport, culture, industry and/or past time. My oldest brother, Michael was a ski patrolmen. Steven is an Olympic ski racer on the US Ski Team. I was a professional freeskier for close to a decade. And Sam explored a role behind the lens as a photographer. Most of us have since moved on to other jobs or college, even though it remains a deep part of our DNA, but Steven is in the thick of his career as a downhill ski racer on the World Cup tour.
Every December one of the World Cup stops is in Beaver Creek, Colorado and for the past 10 or so years our family heads out to watch the action and cheer my brother on. Always a solid way to start the season for us. But this year was a bit different and special, Beaver Creek/Vail was the destination for the 2015 World Championships.
Steven can tell this story much better than me, but I remember him as a kid claiming how badly he wanted to win a World Championship medal. I think he even has some random journal entry as a pre-teen saying that was one of his life goals, which is a pretty hefty task. World Champs happens every two years on the World Cup circuit and to be invited you have to be top 30 in the world for your discipline. The Olympics are rad, but the Olympics can be won on a fluke. The World Champs are where the elite of the elite stake their claim.
So, finally, our trip to Beaver Creek for the 2015 World Champs had a bit of history to it. Travel plans had been made. Condo booked. Lots of family and friends coming to support. It was a pretty solid gathering. They built a 20,000 person stadium at the race finish for all the spectators, which was mostly filled with wild, drunk Europeans, so the energy was spot on. Jen, my family, friends and I posted up and did our best to keep the nerves under control, but as soon as the first racer pushed out of the start house, I was out of my mind. Steven was running bib 10 and the closer we got to his start, the more frantic things were in the arena, but once he jumped in the course, it felt like time hit slo-mo. It seemed like his run of 1:43:52 took 10 minutes to finish. I’ll let the NBC coverage tell the rest of the story…
I feel like I could go on and on about the day, but I think a text from my friend Chas summed it up best. “Dude the whole mountain is freaking out!! This is the raddest sporting event I’ve ever been to. We are mid course and after every racer passes there’s 1,000s of people chanting Nyman Nyman!!! What a bad ass!!” It was a good day to be a skier, but an amazing day to be Steven’s little brother.
After it was all over, he ended up missing the podium by three hundredths of a second, practically the blink of an eye, and finished fourth place. It had a sting to it, but with the momentum he’s been building this year, I’ll for sure be back in the grandstands cheering him on at the next World Champs.