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Ski Racing at HBS

As the fall semester at HBS draws to a close, many of our thoughts turn to one of the greatest sports known to mankind-skiing. Depending on your love for cold, tolerance for pain, or utter disregard for personal safety, “skiing” can take on a variety of forms. There are those who prefer neck-deep face shots through the glades in Utah while others prefer to jam moguls (snowy bumps) and pull helicopters at every opportunity. Out East, where the face-shots are few and far between and moguls hard enough to crack vertebrae, many ambitious skiers choose to take advantage of the ice ubiquitously known as “Eastern skiing” and test their mettle in the gates (poles in the snow).

Ski competitions have a variety of formats, but the most common is “gate racing.” There are four events for this, in order of the slowest to the fastest: Slalom, Giant Slalom (GS), Super-G and Downhill. Slalom and Giant Slalom (known collectively as the “technical events”) are by far the more prevalent of the events at the amateur level, and involve setting gates at relatively short proximity. In Slalom, skiers wear shin protection and appear to go through the gates (“shinning the gates”) whereas the gates in Giant Slalom are double set with a flag binding the two (each gate looks like an “11”). Phil and Steve Mahre (two of the most successful American skiers) and Alberto Tomba excelled in these events.
The speed events, however, such as Super G and Downhill, are where real heroes are made. Often achieving speeds in excess of 80 mph, downhill racers remain in a tuck with extreme G-forces for over two minutes while navigating turns on terrain often as slippery as an ice rink (in fact, the downhill course is often hosed down with water the night before the event to make the course faster). Skiing giants such as Franz Klammer and more recently Herman Meier earned their fearsome reputations in the alpine speed events.

Even HBS students can partake in ski racing this year. Every February, the Tuck school holds an MBA ski race where skiers in MBA programs around the world compete for world skiing domination. Despite appeals to hold the event as a downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria, the challenge takes place at the Dartmouth Skiway in New Hampshire as a modest Giant Slalom. The relevant point here is that HBS has won this event for the past several years in a row, ousting that wannabe ski school, Dartmouth, much to their grievous humiliation (this is Harvard’s revenge for the undergraduate races-but let’s not discuss that). Still more relevant to this racing scene is the monster party that is held afterwards on Saturday night, which gives “chugging” a whole new meaning. Suffice to say that this tends to be the one event that sticks out in MBAs’ minds 10 years after graduation.

HBS is still looking for skiers for this year’s race, to be held February 22-24. If you are interested and have raced before, consider yourself a good skier, or can just drink really fast, please email ehorsley@mba2002.hbs.edu or gtobias@mba2002.hbs.edu.

December 3, 2001
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