Snow Club Blog – Olympic endeavours at Four Hills

Ed Leigh 
By Ed Leigh

Another week on the slopes and plenty to report from the sport’s biggest event, the climax of the Four Hills tournament. The first couple of days were spent staring in wonder at ski jumpers literally hovering over the landing slope in Bischofshofen. There is no way that television coverage could ever do this sport justice. The athletes fly on skis with the same surface area as an US naval aircraft carrier and the noise they make as they fly by is incredible.

If I could get my Foretrex 401 near one of the competitors, I’m sure we’d see they are dropping almost as far as they are flying – which means in the region of a hundred and thirty metres. More mind-boggling through is that if they land in the sweet spot (after the K point, the first red line on the hill and the hill limit line at one hundred and forty metres), the forces they are exposed to on landing are the same as jumping from one point six metres. How incredible is that?

Of course, they only need to jump an extra couple of metres and that figure goes through the roof. I’ve had some flat landings in my time, in fact among friends it is an in-joke that I actually courted them, but even by my standards a hundred and forty metres to flat is pushing it!

Gillings blazes in Boardercross

Over in Bad Gastein I hooked up with Zoe Gillings, a Snowboardercross competitor from the Arctic-like Isle of Man! In many ways, Boardercross is not a freestyle sport. There are very strong ties to the Freestyle side of snowboarding, but the reality is that you have to train like an Alpine racer with the kind of board tech and servicing that comes with Slalom or Downhill.

Zoe GillingsFor any of you that don’t know Zoe, she is very, very good at Boardercross. She is a serious medal threat in next week’s Winter Olympics, consistently in the top five world rankings and, provided the Vancouver track allows for some close quarters racing, she will do very well.

She is effectively a pit bull, something I realised her coach Dan is immensely proud of after he showed me a horrendous barge/slam where Zoe takes out one girl who dares to try and cut her up knowing full well that in the process she has served herself up on a plate as well.

The recovery is amazing though and she beats the girl just by getting up first. I suppose that epitomises Boardercross – win pretty or win ugly, it doesn’t matter as long as you win.

What I didn’t realise until afterwards is that Zoe hadn’t qualified for the last race in Telluride, the first time this had happened in almost three years. It had taken her three races to get her speed back, a setback she can’t afford at this stage of Olympic preparations, so consequently she was very tense. She needn’t have been, she stormed the qualifiers in fifth place and then blitzed her quarter final in first.

Begrudgingly, it was now time to leave for a pan Alp-drive from Eastern Austria to Southern France, a distance confirmed by my Garmin Dakota of 954km. Place your bets as to how long you think it took us….Answer in the next blog.

As for Zoe’s remaining races, she had a dogfight in the semi, which saw her clawing her way down the home straight, but it wasn’t to be and she got pushed into the small final. The upside of this was her arch-nemesis Lindsey Jacobellis had lost too, and Zoe got a practice run with the blonde destroyer and beat her. Second place in the small final saw Zoe come in sixth overall. Only three precious places to jump and she’ll be in the medals come Vancouver