Ski Paradise Invitational
Ski Paradise Invitational
In November my friend Gordon Rathbun asked me about the possibility of putting together an invitational Pro event at Ski Paradise in Acapulco. Absolutely, there is always the possibility of success with a good plan! Anyway, it did come together with support of some past guests and some new ones.
Invited skiers….well, you want the best in the World, Nate, Chris, Will and TGas. There was also an extra invited by Gordon…yours truly! Gordon thought it great to promote the top guys today to go against Andy. Not a challenge for these guys, as they have taken slalom skiing to a new level. I am now an image of the Toby Keith song “as good as I once was” I may not be as good as I once was, BUT I am as good once as I always was. Today I had my “once” as you will see below!!
Will was already in ACA from a previous week’s coaching with Ski Paradise clients, so Nate, CP, TGas and myself flew down from FL on Saturday via private jet courtesy of David Garza, a Ski Paradise guest……thanks David.
Saturday evening was very special for me, as one of my best friends Kris LaPoint was staying over one extra night and we got to roast him and tell stories to celebrate his 60th birthday. Talk about an amazing career, determination and passion for a sport, this guy is it and still going.
Sunday, 7am we are all fired up and off to the lake. Let me tell you, this is amazing to ski with all these guys together. You put your ski on for a set, and ALL eyes are checking you out. Everyone has been on winter break..or not?? So what do you have? Lots of ski tweaking and testing of what works or not. Our guests I am sure are having ski experience of a lifetime. Hard choice to decide what coach should I have watch me this time? One set I had, I thought I would just take a few passes to just keep feeling what 36mph feels like when Nate and Will jump in the boat. That will tighten things up a little!! A honor to have them ride though.
After a couple days skiing, today came the first round of the competition. As of the time writing this, the prize pool is upwards of $27K. That is no relaxed fun tournament.
Today we headed to the lake early as usual, and we all coached the guests a set before breakfast was delivered. Around 9:30 though things seemed to get very quiet! It was getting to GO time. The order was Andy, TGas, CP, Nate and Will.
I have to say I WAS nervous, very nervous. I had no idea how an event at 36mph was going to feel, and did not want to make a fool of myself. Some day these guys will understand the meaning to “once a competitor-always a competitor” My juices and feelings were all back. Somehow I did not feel 50 years old, I had an opportunity to be one of the boys again. My first passes were awful. The boat judge said he had never seen me ski like that! I was not late through 38, but stiff and scared! Coming back in at 39 I was more relaxed and focused, which showed by a better start and controlled for most of the course, until a total rookie move at 5 ball with a “take it easy and don’t miss it”. A huge tail wheelie, slack rope and a dive into the pull for 6 ball. I was so late around 6, that with all the speed and slack, I actually went through the exit gates still only a few feet off the platform of the Nautique. No idea how I held the slack, but maybe tomorrow morning I will figure it out! After setting down and doing inventory of body parts, I had nothing to lose in really attacking the start at 41. I got a great 1 ball, better than I had expected and at 2 ball was a little in the land of unknown. By the time I figured it out, I was late on the exit and a full 3 became the goal.
Next out was TGas. Thomas has been working hard all week on ski setup. Through 38 he was looking good, and at 39 one of the best starts I have seen him do all week. Through 3 he looked right on it, but a short pull to 4 got him out of sync and narrow at 5. As a true World Champion there was no caution to this and his plan was to run the pass, but unfortunately the speed and lack of width caught him, and 4.5@39 was it.
CP next up, coming off a great previous days skiing (6@41) was ready to go. Conditions are perfect and consistent, so you know it will be big. Through 38 there was no point watching, for these guys this is cruising. Chris had been telling me the day before he was not happy with his gate approach, and I guess at 39, this became apparent again, but solid turns, no matter how he approached the buoy on both sides, there was no problem for the big guy. Was a huge 2 ball though! A reset at the end and ready to wage war on 41. Again though, he was not happy with the gate, and a slow one ball put too much pressure on 2 ball and 1.5 was what she wrote.
Nate, next on the dock. I am still not sure how this kid even holds on to the rope, and does the magic he does. Today, I saw a 39 from Nate that looked like 35 off. He has been consistent all week through 39, but just not quite dialed with starts at 41, and today was the same. A strong gate, but a delayed pull out of 1 ball put him down course into 2 ball. Nate did get a good rotation at 2, but too much to hold onto. 1.5@41.
Will, last skier out, calmly as ever, and totally focused makes his appearance on the dock. One of the strongest power to weight ratio skiers our sport has ever seen, methodically makes his way through the first passes. 39 was a lesson in timing and power. Will all week has been mid to deep 41, no matter what he was testing and tweaking. Sitting next to Nate watching, we guessed the score….Nate said 4, I said 3.5. I am not sure a Nautique 200 has ever experienced a load that Will put on it out of 1 ball. It hurt my back watching! Needless to say, a very deep 1 ball and a rocket ship to 2 ball. A turn on 2, but too far down course to take it any further, 2@41
So I ended up on top, but tomorrow will be a different day. There are two qualifying rounds, with the top 4 scores of either round get to advance to the side by side head to head. There is also a separate event for the top cumulative scores of the first two rounds.
I retired from pro skiing in 2004 and to have this opportunity to be here for a week with these guys and be even in the same event is a tremendous honor. I thank all these guys, Gordon and most of all the guests of Ski Paradise.
I will write more on the final round if I am not too sore!!