COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colorado. April 2, 2015. Among the top people responsible for the on-hill happenings for this year’s USASA National Championships are the Nationals Competition Director and the Nationals Technical Supervisor. Both positions are vital in ensuring the success of the twenty-sixth annual event.
Ritchie Date of Park City, UT is the National Competition Director. Date oversees all aspects and acts as a liaison between the USASA and Copper Mountain Resort. As such he manages the seven venues (Slalom, Giant Slalom, Boardercross, Slopestyle, Halfpipe, Rail Jam, and Banked Slalom) and oversees 30-40 staff.
Date comes to this year’s event with serious credentials – he’s worked in the industry for about 15 years, has been a coach in the US and Australia, has worked for resort events, for USSA as a Technical Advisor, for the Rev Tour, Grand Prix and FIS. Additionally Date was the Technical Supervisor for Halfpipe, Slopestyle as well as Boarder and Skiercross at last year’s Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
The National Competition Director works with each venue’s TS to make sure the assembled staff upholds the rules and the competition is consistent and fair for the athletes. It is important for the event’s continuity that the staff makes the best decisions. When there is a question beyond the normal scope of their experience, the TS can reach out to Date for assistance.
“There are constant challenges at every event,” Date explained, “Many, such as weather, can’t be controlled. Using my experience I work with the resort, utilizing the equipment available to make contingency plans. Another challenging aspect is volunteers – we never have enough.”
Date's counterpart is Jeff White, the Nationals Technical Supervisor. White also has extensive experience from which to draw to make sure the USASA National Championship experience is the best it possibly can be. White is responsible for the execution of a fair and safe competition. “I make sure the TS on duty at the event has the resources they need and I can advise them, or give a second opinion if needed in a situation,” he explained, continuing, “They can draw on my experience.” White has been in the winter sports industry, off and on, for 31 years and ran the Copper Mountain race department for 11 of those years. He was involved with the former Copper Series, which has evolved into the USASA’s Rocky Mountain Series.
“When the athletes show up at the venue, it needs to be pristine. Few people realize we are out there at 6:00 in the morning getting things prepped for the day. Each morning, there is hand shoveling on the Boardercross course – groomers have their limitations – and handwork is needed to polish the race course."
One interesting aspect of White’s position this year was the dual sanction with FIS of the three alpine events. The collaboration was a first time involvement for both organizations and both had to move to set guidelines. White explained the reasoning behind the co-sanction, “Its purpose is to begin to provide a clear and consistent pathway for young athletes to understand the way to Olympic potential. It allows kids who want more to have a direction. Before this partnership there were no FIS points available, now they can begin to attain them.”
Among other aspects of doing his job, White cites dealing with a lot of people who don’t always understand the rule book, in particular, the scored events. The live timing is one of several tools and provides a rank for the riders who’ve been scored. After events, the judging staff reviews the copious notes they take to make sure riders are ranked according to their performance.”
Working under Date and White are the Technical Supervisors. At this year’s USASA National Championships, the TS at the top of the Slalom course has been Noah Cermak, while his fellow Massachusetts Series staffer, Steven Fleck oversaw the Giant Slalom. Both Cermak and Fleck meet with their course setters about 7:15 each morning. They make sure both the Slalom and GS courses are set to the specifications in the USASA rule book. Based on a meeting held at the beginning of the USASA National Championships, it’s determined which coaches will set the courses on various days. The USASA ops crew and the Copper Mountain ops crew then do the panels and place the mirror course.
Cermak explained, “The alpine courses are set according to the terrain and skill of the riders – the turns will be more difficult for the better competitors, and straighter for the younger riders.” Fleck added, “The course can’t be too straight or so fast that the riders will get out of control.”
For some events, a forerunner will be used to test the timing equipment and to make sure that the course flows appropriately. Cermak encourages Open Class riders to participate although past and present Olympians have been used as forerunners if they are available – Justin Reiter has participated as has Pete Thorndike and even USASA Executive Director Pete Davis.
- by: Marjorie Fay