Agostini on skiing: Modesto's downhill racers

January 6, 2009 

BR Ski Club Clinic 4

This past Sunday over fifty members and guests of the Modesto Ski Club enjoyed a beautiful, sunny day on the slopes of Dodge Ridge. The event was organized by the Racing Team of the club and Dodge Ridge instructors provided a race clinic for interested members. Instructor Kat Petersen at far right is pictured with skiers. Clinics were held in morning and afternoon sessions and experienced racers and future racers alike had a great time improving their skill levels. The Modesto Ski Club hopes to make this an annual event. Sunday, January 4, 2008. (Brian Ramsay/The Modesto Bee)

BRIAN RAMSAY — Modesto Bee

Perhaps they hoped to sharpen their turns or improve their balance. Or they just sought something, anything, to make their skis glide faster.

Whatever the case, we know the following: They had a good time.

More than 50 members of the Modesto Ski Club gathered at Dodge Ridge on Sunday for a quick tuneup on racing. The club competes each winter against other Bay Area Snowsports Council affiliates, so the idea called for increased speed and better efficiency down the mountain.

"This was one of the biggest turnouts we've had in a while," said Michelle Nightengale, a ski-club member since 1992. "We had people of all ages out there on a perfect day."

What did you learn, Michelle?

"I probably don't have to pole-plant on every single turn on a short course," she said.

It's doubtful there were future Bode Millers or Picabo Streets among the group, but then again ...

"You never know," Dodge Ridge instructor Brad Lorenzen said.

The ski club team starts its schedule Sunday at Alpine Meadows and won't finish until the Northern California Finals in March at Sugar Bowl and the Far West Racing Association Finals in April at Northstar-at-Tahoe.

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The races, usually staged on round-cornered slalom or GS courses, welcome skiers who wish to spice their day with a little competition. Which made Sunday's tuneup at Dodge so useful.

A four-person team of instructors brought together the group and passed on a few important tips.

"They just wanted to get a warm-up for their season. They were all good -- intermediates to advanced," said Lorenzen, 57, a veteran instructor who rejoined the staff this winter after a 10-year absence while he worked as a building contractor. "Going through a race course is definitely a way to improve your technique to get around those gates."

The party met at Chair 1, in front of Dodge's Creekside Lodge, where the gates had been set. Beginning this Sunday, all individuals or groups can take part in similar race-oriented classes.

"If you want to go for a fast time, a quiet upper body pointed down the hill is good, while the legs, hips and knees are carving the turns," Lorenzen said. "Keep the hands forward to stay balanced in the middle of the skis."

Lorenzen and the staff also assisted the students with drills away from the class. "We definitely could see some improvement," he said.

SKI NOTES -- The Far West Central Series begins its schedule this weekend with junior slalom races at Bear Valley featuring teams from Dodge, Bear, Sierra Summit and Badger Pass. ... Bear received an inch of snow Monday with another storm possible Thursday. "We had snow on Christmas and then 10 straight days of good weather," Bear's Rosie Sundell said. "A lot of families opted out of week-long vacations at places like Lake Tahoe or Colorado and came here for a few days, which was good for us. I even talked to someone who had been laid off. A lot of people said the economy wasn't going to make them stop skiing." ... All 28 lifts and 94 trails were open last weekend at Heavenly, the huge resort straddling California and Nevada above Tahoe's southern shore.

Bee sports columnist Ron Agostini can be reached at ragostini@modbee.com or 578-2302.

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