Standing at the top of a mogul course, veteran freestyle skier Carly Gmeiner knows exactly what to expect.
Between her and the finish line are rows of moguls the size of Volkswagen Beetles, along with two air jumps that look large enough to launch the best skiers into the stratosphere.
She also knows dancing through the bumps will make her body hurt as she fights to make every turn and that she will need to face the airs with a sense of confidence and courage if she has any hope of wowing the judges with a high-flying trick.
She has learned that the course is tough and that if she gives it half a chance, it can be tougher than any other run on the hill.
But like so many other athletes in Steamboat Springs, this is the road Carly chose, hoping it will lead to Olympic glory.
It will not be easy, but she also knows she will not make the journey alone. Along for the ride is a loving family who wants to see her succeed as much as she wants to win.
Such support is not measured in dollars and often is taken for granted by athletes -- but not in the Gmeiner family.
In a family with three competitive skiers, getting and giving support has always been a two-way street. So the cheers from mom, dad, brother Zach and sister Gina are worth more than dollars and cents.
Surprisingly, one of Carly's biggest supporters is Gina, who, up until a few years ago, also was trying to beat her in Rocky Mountain Division and NorAm meets. Gina left the bumps behind to make a name in the emerging world of freeskiing.
But in all the years the sisters battled each other on the slopes, their mom said she can't remember her daughters -- who are just two years apart -- exchanging a cross word.
And despite circumstances that would leave a psychology student eager to use the pair as a case study in sibling rivalry, the girls have remained best friends who genuinely support each other.
These days, the sisters have gone separate ways (at least as far as skiing is concerned), but they still haven't stopped supporting each other. It's nothing for the girls to take time away from their own pursuits to travel to each other's events, offering support and, at times, skiing advice.
Carly was on hand to cheer for Gina as she finished fifth at the U.S. Freeskiing Open last week. Gina was there for Carly earlier this year at the U.S. Ski Team selection events.
In the world of skiing, "support" often means money, and it's true that financial support might be the most important thing. But as the Gmieners, and other families in Steamboat keep reminding us, there is another kind of support. Their love is just as important, and in most cases can be found at home.
-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209
or e-mail email@example.com