I stood at the starting gate looking down the slope at the series of green gates that dotted the course below me. I had joined a lesson for the day and my instructor decided to take us to Heavenly’s EpicMix Racing. He’s an accomplished skier (20+ years at Heavenly) and so is another student in today’s class, a 17-year-old former ski racer. Moments earlier I had watched as they tore back-and-forth on the parallel courses, snow shooting up behind them. I couldn’t tell who won, but I knew they were both fast.
Now it’s my turn. I dig in my heels, waiting for the countdown. 3 – I tighten my grip on my poles and press them into the snow. 2 – I take a deep breath and look down the course. 1 – I push forward and the yellow starting bar swings out – the clock starts…
EpicMix Racing is the newest edition to Vail Resorts’ EpicMix, a free service that helps skiers and riders to remember and document their experience at the mountain. RF enabled passes make it easy to track vertical feet, take free on-mountain photos and get rewarded with virtual achievement pins.
With EpicMix Racing, skiers and riders can get a taste of slalom racing, track their times and earn medals. Check out this video of EpicMix Racing to learn more.
Richard “Buck” Buxton, Heavenly’s Competition Services Manager, says he’s excited about the newest evolution of EpicMix.
“It’s really nice to have this type of racing open for the general public” he says.
Buck says Heavenly’s course is 850 ft in length and 200 feet vertically with about a 14 percent pitch, “Which makes it easy for anyone to try who is newer to racing or has never raced before,” he says.
The gates are 15 to 16 meters apart and placed according to regulations that they follow.
The course changes every day, so there’s always a new challenge. In order to get Lindsey Vonn’s time, an EpicMix Racing skier will run through the course in the morning. His or her time is calculated against Lindsey Vonn’s and that time is used to set Lindsey’s time for the day. If you can place close to Vonn’s time you can win a medal and a sweet EpicMix virtual pin!
Buck has four tips for racers, “Hands forward, look ahead, turn early and have fun.”
After I passed through the starting line, I used a skate technique to pick up speed before the first gate. I navigated the first few turns with ease.
I had a lot of speed and was feeling confident in my time. Then I realized my next gate was far to skiers left. I was too wide. I dug in my edge and made a hard turn, eating up my momentum. There was another hard turn to the right and then I was in the long flat straight away. I managed to get to a few pumps in before sliding through the last few gates.
My time was displayed on the board: 21.96. My two companions stood smiling. Our white bearded instructor had taught both of us young lads that age is not a reflection in speed with a time just over 20 seconds. And the young racer came in right after him just over 21 seconds. So, I was not a winner and I left feeling humbled. But it was a great experience and now I have a new pin for my EpicMix dashboard!
EpicMix Racing is open daily from 10:30 to 3:30pm weather permitting. There is a one time registration fee of $8.00 which includes a free run. Additional runs are $4.00. The EpixMix Race Course is located on Lower Ridge Run on the California side of Heavenly. You can get there by taking Canyon Express to Ridge Run. The course is at the bottom of Ridge Run just before Powderbowl and Mombo.
~ Josh Babin, Snow Reporter