The Course PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Karel Nunnink   


August 23,  1973.
3. The course.

I struggled keeping the heavy green bamboo poles from separating as they were clumsily tied in a big bundle, moving them from my aching shoulder to under my arm as I waited and twisted myself around to be able to see the chairlift and position the poles to go between the bars of the oncoming chair and sit down at the same time.
It was a crisp cold morning and my breath was visible in the ghostly white wisps of vapor, the sun still hidden behind the jagged peaks of the Andes that surrounded La Parva, the ski area nestled high in the mountains outside of Santiago Chile. My edges made scraping sounds on the rock hard frozen granular texture of the snows, usually the temperature would rise in the early afternoon and the snow would become soft and pliable, then freeze to a hard surface in the mornings, as it was now. Quickly I sat down on the moving chair the cold wooden planks with frost upon them sticking to my bib ski pants as I moved around trying to get comfortable juggling the poles as we rose quickly off the ground . The sun was higher now and the shadow  of the tall peak receding off the slope as the frozen bumps were now glistening  throwing sparkles, like a sea of tiny diamonds, temporarily blinding me until I managed to slip my Vuarnays over my eyes. Here at 12000 feet the  sun can turn a man snow blind in hours.  The chairlift was old and  the soft creaking and whirring sounds were familiar to me as I ascended to the top bathed in the early morning sun now.
A quick" hola " to the dark skinned attendant at the top, and repositioning the poles on my shoulder,  I slid off now quickly gathering speed as the valley spread out below me.
In the far distance the grayish brown hail of smog always encompassing the city was visible against the dark masses of a multitude of peaks, their bases still in the deep shadow while the snowy tops brilliant in the sunlight.
Trying to make clean turns with 80 LBs of bamboo on my right shoulder wasn't easy, so I scrubbed speed by throwing my skis side ways while slowly edging with more pressure. The course which we had been working on for about a week now was smooth and hard,  it had taken part of the Chilean army, all of us coaches and some of the ski team members that long, to boot pack most of the 2 kilometer long F I S sanctioned downhill course.
The wind rushing against my face felt invigorating , I had almost reached the turn about a third of the way down the course where we had been setting up a barrier of bamboo poles ropes and big bales of hay, to protect the racers from some jagged rocks just outside the apex of the turn.
National team racers from all over the world practiced here and some of these phenomenal  athletes would reach speeds exceeding 70 mph on this course, then cover air distances of hundreds of feet while pulling 3-4 Gs.
One small mistake could send a racer flying into the sharp rocks which made up most of these rock formations, considering the Andes was one of the youngest mountain ranges in the world.
We had been doing this from sun up to sun down for a couple of weeks now and the course was now nearly completed, all the work done by manual labor unlike in the States were machines like piston bully's did most of the work.
I lowered the bamboo to the ground rolled it of to the side and stretched my legs it felt good not to be lopsided, now I could ski down the rest of the course and grab another bundle of poles.
The days flew by as the  teams set up practice times for their various runs, and in the evenings we would celebrate with some Santa Rita or some cold  Cerveza, and palta burgers.
Most of us had been at altitude now for over a month and when the announcement was made that practice sessions would be halted because of a late season oncoming storm, we decided to catch a ride down to the city with one of the local racers, before the storm would close the roads.

Im in the process of writing a book, mostly about experiences and how they form you.
a journey toward greater awareness?
This is but a small step in time.
Thanks, live long and strong.



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