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Spring fling ski derby

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Santa Fe Ski Team’s Megan Jackson, a freshman at the University of New Mexico, rounds a gate in the Pine Cup. (Courtesy of the Santa Fe Ski Team)

Santa Fe Ski Team’s Megan Jackson, a freshman at the University of New Mexico, rounds a gate in the Pine Cup. (Courtesy of the Santa Fe Ski Team)

Some come for the festivities. Others for the competition. And many simply come out to ski.

With temperatures rising and snow levels dropping, the end of the ski season is drawing near – and to commemorate the first days of spring, the Santa Fe Ski Team will host its annual event: the Mark West Memorial Race at Ski Santa Fe on Sunday.

Roughly 60 members from area ski teams, including Los Alamos Ski Racing Club, Angel Fire Ski Team and Taos Winter Sports, are expected to compete in the slalom race, which is open to all ages and all intermediate to advanced skiers.

“There are also racers who are unattached to teams,” said Jerry Coppler, Santa Fe Ski Team president. “The main thing is we want to invite everyone, whether they are on a ski team or not.

“It’s a great thing for skiers who have aspirations to be ski racers but have never raced, because it will give folks exposure to the ski team and our program. We invite anyone to come out.”

Each racer is allowed two runs down the course, which is located on the black diamond run “Muerte.” The fastest of the two times is then recorded. Awards will be handed out to top competitors in each classification.

No interest in competing? No problem, Coppler said.

Cottam’s Ski Shop, located at 740 Hyde Park Road, will play host to an end-of-season party after the race.

For those who simply want to watch the race, viewing the action may be difficult, but not impossible, Coppler said.

“It is fairly spectator friendly if you’re on skis,” he said. “If you’re not, it’s a pretty steep pitch, which makes it quite a hike.”

Eitan Mor, 10, of the Santa Fe Ski Team, is shown competing in a race. The team is hosting a race at Ski Santa Fe on Sunday. (Courtesy of the Santa Fe Ski Team)

Eitan Mor, 10, of the Santa Fe Ski Team, is shown competing in a race. The team is hosting a race at Ski Santa Fe on Sunday. (Courtesy of the Santa Fe Ski Team)

So if you’re not downhill skiing, Coppler suggests snowshoes or cross-country skis to access the race area. Considering the race is also a first-ever “derby,” it may be worth the hike, Coppler added.

“A derby, in the ski-racing world, is a fun time to be had by all,” he said. “You’re not required to do it, but some people wear different costumes.

“… I’ve seen at other derbies people wearing lederhosen and shorts, and tie-dye shirts and wigs over their helmets. For our first derby, I’m not sure what to expect. But there are a lot of creative people out there, so I’m looking forward to being surprised.”

The race is named after the late Mark West, a local ski enthusiast, Coppler said. West coached skiing in the United States during its winter months, and traveled to New Zealand to continue skiing and coaching during the offseason.

In 1990, West was killed in an accident while in New Zealand. The Journal reported that a van carrying coaches and youth skiers slid off an icy road and into a steep ravine. West, who was 33, helped evacuate the young skiers from the van but was unable to escape. He was the only person killed in the accident.

Before joining the Santa Fe Ski Team in 1988 as an assistant coach, West spent several years coaching at Copper Mountain, Colo. One of the skiers West worked with in New Zealand was Annilese Coberger, who won a bronze medal in the 1992 Olympics.

NOTE: The ski team is also looking for volunteers for the event, who just need to show up and make their intentions known. Volunteers will receive a lift ticket and lunch for their service, Coppler said.

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