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Slalom gates, US Ski Team racers & kids — all at Cochran's today

Ted Ligety and young fans.

The top of the Cochran's slalom course.

Sarah Schleper reaches the last few gates.

Sarah signs helmets and such for kids.

Jimmy Cochran in the middle part of course.

Ted Ligety's second run.

Ligety again.

A flat section with a flush.

Race t-shirt.

Retiring racer Kaylin Richardson and fans.

I have to admit, if I had a white ski helmet, I might have asked some of the US Ski Team members to sign it today. Hey, everyone was doing it. At the Cochran's slalom race Ted Ligety was signing t-shirts, Sarah Schleper was signing helmets — all sorts of posters and clothing were offered up to the stinky markers. And it seemed like these gracious team members didn't turn anyone away.

It was fun to watch the second run of the Thank God For Snowmaking Race, which benefits the tiny, nonprofit Cochran's ski area. I watched Jimmy Cochran bash through the gates in style along with Ligety and Schleper and at least another 10 US team members (Tommy Ford, Will Brandenburg, Julia Ford, Kaylin Richardson...). Most of these racers had been at the US Alpine Championships in Lake Placid or the NorAms in Waterville Valley this past week. Collegiate racers and ski academy racers were also racing against these big names today. What a thrill that must have been to compare their skills with the A Team.

The results have been <link http: www.vara.org news external-link-new-window>posted here.

Slalom really is a rather violent discipline with all that contact with the plastic break-away gates! You'll see in some of the photos that the racers approach the gates at such an angle as to have their feet and skis on the outside, while their body is still on the inside of the gate facing in the direction of the next turn. Because of this, they put their hand out (covered in a plastic shield) or hit the gate with their plastic-protected shins. The gate then gets knocked over for an instant as the skier keeps moving. Whack, whack, whack...

And I asked one of the younger US team members what size slalom skis she was on. She said most of the female racers were on 150 - 160. That's a pretty damn short ski, but the extreme sidecut makes them want to turn.

I haven't been to a high-level race in a long while, but it seemed to me that this was a low-key affair. Everyone was smiling — even if they blew out of the course.

The men's race was won by US team member David Chadousky (Crested Butte, Colo.) with a time of 1.18.79 (the two runs added up). US team skier Nolan Kasper (Warren, Vt.) followed in second place and Scott Veenis (U. Utah) in third. For the women, the US team skiers swept the podium: Katie Hitchcock (Sacramento, Calif.) took first with a combined time on the women's course of 1.18.33. Julia Ford (Plymouth, N.H.) and Sarah Schleper (Vail, Colo.) were on her heels in second and third.

Vermonter and US Ski Team member Chelsea Marshall didn't race today, but she was there and she <link http: img695.yfrog.com i yh6.jpg external-link-new-window>posted a photo from the event. And well after the race was over, Ted Ligety posted this on Twitter: "Built a huge jump at cochrans and sessioned it hardcore. Good day."

This was a rare treat to see some of today's skiing superstars, and tomorrow's stars. And I only had to drive 25 minutes from home.

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