By Tom Haley
There were thousands of spectators at the Audi FIS Women’s World Cup when the tour hit Killington last weekend, for the second year in a row. They included casual skiers and nonskiers who just wanted to experience the glitz and glamour of a major event so close to home.
But there were also competitive skiers, including those who are members of high school, college and ski academy teams. They eyed the event a bit differently, trying to learn the secrets of what allows one to ascend to that elite class, the best in the world.
Woodstock’s Cassidy Bebo is a Killington Mountain School student athlete who got closer to the event than most. She was a forerunner for the second year in a row, entrusted with the task of skiing the course before the competitors and reporting to the coaches on course conditions. Last year she was a forerunner for the slalom. This year she added the giant slalom to her responsibilities.
It can be nerve-racking, making a run down the course as thousands of spectators watch, not to mention the skiers you have been looking up to for years — idols in your chosen sport.
“It is a whirlwind of emotions,” Bebo said. “You never want to say ‘no,’ but it is terrifying. There is so much going on in your head about how the run is going to go.”
Bebo won’t forget the excitement of Mikaela Shiffrin, a product of Vermont ski school Burke Academy, winning the slalom at last year’s FIS event at Killington.
She was unable to see the finish, but the crowd told her all she needed to know.
“I couldn’t see who won, but I could hear the crowd going crazy,” Bebo said.
Bebo said Shiffrin doing so well on the World Cup tour and winning at Killington was so much more special to her and her KMS teammates because of Shiffrin’s connection to Vermont.
“It’s awesome. It’s really great that we have raced all the same mountains that she has,” Bebo said.
Rutland High alpine ski coach Dawn Adams said that having the World Cup in her skiers’ backyard is special in a couple of ways. It is exciting for her athletes to be able to see the event, but it also motivates and inspires them.
“They are very excited about it,” Adams said. “I think every single one of them went to watch it last year. These are the best athletes in the world.”
The timing of the event is perfect, Adams said, since the Raiders begin formal practices right after the World Cup event is over.
“It’s a great launching pad. They see the importance of training and in training all year-round.”
Bebo said she watches the World Cup athletes, not only appreciating what they do, but also trying to learn from them, assimilating techniques that might work for her.
“They give us ideas. I watch the way they warm up,” Bebo said.
Bebo said she applied something to her own racing in the way she saw Lindsey Vonn handle her poles last year.
Bebo is in her second year as a postgraduate at KMS and will be heading off to St. Lawrence University to ski and to major in anthropology.
Bebo wants to be wowed by the best in the world, but also learn from them — absorbing more techniques, strategies and ideas that she can implement in her own racing.
First, she just wanted to nail her own run.
“It’s essentially the biggest run of their lives to date,” KMS Dean Amy Allen said of the forerunners’ World Cup task. “The pressure is incredible, and last year all three of our KMS forerunners pulled it off perfectly.”
Follow Tom on Twitter: