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Learning to Fly

Article Published: Feb. 7, 2013 | Modified: Feb. 25, 2013
Learning to Fly

According to Jim Cottrell, president of the French-Swiss Ski College, the High Country Junior Race Series was developed 'to help young skiers in the region become better skiers so they would have a sport for life.' The series continues Feb. 10 at Sugar Mountain Resort and concludes Feb. 24 at Appalachian Ski Mountain.

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The High Country Junior Race Series Giant Slalom is in its 29th year as a friendly, yet competitive, alpine ski competition.

Forged between local Appalachian Ski Mountain, Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain ski teams, the “series was developed to help young skiers in this region become better skiers so they would have a sport for life,” said Jim Cottrell, president of French-Swiss Ski College and initiator of the first series. “(The sport) is like flying – you just have your feet on the ground.”

Four of the six races in the series have been completed, so the remaining two are open only to those who have participated in the whole series.

On Sunday, Feb. 10, at Sugar Mountain, registration will take place on the top floor of the Main Sugar Lodge from 8 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. The race starts at 9 a.m. on the Big Red Slope.

Interested skiers and spectators who have purchased a lift ticket can watch from the sidelines along with parents and coaches.

On Sunday Feb. 24, at Appalachian Ski Mountain, registration will take place in the Snow Cloud Room from 8 to 9 a.m. The race starts at 10 a.m. on the Big Apple Run.

Interested skiers and spectators can watch this final championship race from the bottom of the hill on the main deck. Organizers will post the skiers' times on the deck during the race.

Cumulative points are logged for individual racers and for the mountain team, with the final rotating championship occurring at ASM.

At the end of the races, medals are awarded to the top three finishers among boys and girls in each of seven age groups (6 and younger, 7 to 8, 9 to 10, 11 to 12, 13 to 14, 15 to 16 and 17 to 18).

At the championship race, the team “mountain trophy” is awarded to the team from the ski resort with the most points for the season.

Through the years, more than 100 children have participated in the series, and Sugar Mountain Resort marketing director Kim Jochl said this year is no different. The runs that the skiers brave vary from 600 to 2,600 feet.

There are seven coaches and 58 skiers on the Sugar Mountain team, six coaches and 60 students on Appalachian Ski Mountain’s French-Swiss Ski College team and five coaches and 35 skiers on the Beech Mountain Resort team.

On the teams, skiers are taught the two pivotal techniques of balance and pole positioning, essential in order to dictate the shapes of the turns, Cottrell said. Unlike standard slalom, giant slalom gates are spaced further apart, allowing well-trained skiers to hit up to 50 mph on the long whistling turns.

This series is a local and friendly sort of recital and is typically joined as either a fun competition for entry-level skiers or a steppingstone to the more demanding USSA series.

“It's more of a rec league series in that it's less strenuous and less formal,” said Brian Granger, president of Beech Mountain Ski Education Foundation. “It's still a great series for them to hone their skiing skills and compete.”

“I had started a junior ski league for local kids to learn how to ski, and it kind of led into them wanting to race,” Cottrell said. “So, we got together the ski school and managers and jointly decided to put together a race series for junior racers.”

At the time, Hawksnest was an included resort, and there was just one race at each mountain.
“It's gone really well,” Cottrell said. “The better you get at it, the more fun you have.”

For racers, a registration fee of $7 for each race will be charged and each racer must have a valid slope ticket or appropriate season pass to participate. An optional NASTAR race fee of $3 is charged at Sugar Mountain.

A liability waiver must be signed by a parent or legal guardian prior to a child participating.
Additionally, a ski bib will be issued to racers for the season. If the bib is not brought on race day, a $30 deposit on the bib will be requested, and a temporary bib can be issued for that day, with the deposit returned at the end of the day.

To view the results from the last four races, more ski photos and more information, visit

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