Joel Reichenberger: 1st-race jitters | SteamboatToday.com

Joel Reichenberger: 1st-race jitters

Self-deprecating humor may not work so well on ski racers.

Believe me, I've spent a week working it as well as I can, and mostly what I get back are blank stares followed by wide smiles and hearty reassurance. I continually make jokes about how ugly my first ski race is going to be.

That's right, my first ski race. I plan to race at 10 a.m. today in the Town Challenge super G on the Sitz/See Me course at Steamboat Ski Area.

"You'll get there," racer after racer told me after I cracked joke after joke at my own expense.

Don't worry, folks. I will take it slow. I think.

I say I think I'll be slow because in the many things I learned by studying up on Town Challenge then skiing this week with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Alpine Masters program, a big lesson was that speed is relative.

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As a sports reporter here in beautiful Steamboat Springs, I am no stranger to the slopes of Howelsen Hill.

Still, when I stood at the top Wednesday, it was as a skier for the first time.

Things to that point had gone well. I'd successfully rented a helmet — to that point in my life I hadn't done a whole lot of things that definitely required one — and I surpassed all expectations by riding the Poma lift without falling off.

Sixty seconds later, as I stood at the bottom of the hill amid the giant cloud of powder I had kicked up as I brought my first ski race training run to an Olympic-esque stop, I smiled wide. That had gone pretty well, too.

I knew I had things to work on. I spent much of my first run in the soft snow beside the fast groove of the track. Coach Kevin Hendrickson pointed out a few other things, and I headed back up. By my fourth and fifth trips down the hill, I thought I really had it and eagerly filed inside with the class to watch a video of my run.

I joked that I had been the fastest person on rental skis. No one laughed at that one, either, but it wasn't entirely a joke. I felt fast.

As we watched skier after skier come plummeting down the ski run, I paid close attention, trying to figure out which one I was. Midway through we saw one skier, skidding slowly around each gate on the giant slalom course, then practically tiptoeing across the finish line.

Wow, I thought. I'm not even slowest.

"Joel," Hendrickson broke in. "That was OK, but you need to work on your pole plants. Make your turns more fluid."

Oh. OK. So I was the slowest.

And ya know what, I'm going to be the slowest today, too, when I race in the Town Challenge super G — or at least close. My only hope is a lost MusicFest fan that enters the race.

I joked about this, of course, and still didn't get a laugh. I got another broad smile and a boost of confidence.

"You'll get there."

Here's hoping.