SANTA FE, N.M. — As Bill Belichick, coach of the NFL’s New England Patriots, readies his team for Super Bowl LI on Sunday evening, his second cousin is preparing for a world championship attempt of her own right here in northern New Mexico.
Hattie Belichick, a Cimarron High School graduate who plans to pursue a nursing degree at the University of New Mexico, is taking to the slopes this weekend at Angel Fire Resort in the 38th Snow Shovel World Championships.
“I grew up in Angel Fire, so it’s been a normal thing for me,” said the 21-year-old Belichick. “I did it when I was eight or nine for a couple of years, then I went away. But I’ve been doing it since I’ve been back, six or seven years in a row now.”
It’s an event that draws hundreds of competitors from around the country as they perch themselves precariously on the business end of a shovel, point the handle down the ski slope and careen down the hill in a semi-controlled manner.
“I like the rush,” Belichick said. “There’s something about going down on a shovel. You can turn, but not too much. You’re not out of control, at least not to where it’s scary.”
Nevertheless, shovel racers have been known to approach or even exceed 70 mph as the special waxes are applied to the backside of the shovel to decrease friction.
“I wax my shovel,” Belichick said. “But I have a friend and he does his magic to it, as well.”
She has a few other tricks up her sleeve for her attempt to finally earn that championship medal.
“I wear my speed suit that I use for ski racing,” Belichick said. “And you lay as flat as you can, feet super low.”
Then, of course, there’s the issue of trying to turn.
“Some people drag their hands,” Belichick said. “But, to turn, you just tap the snow with your hand. If you just tap, it creates less drag.”
And less drag means more speed, which is kind of the point of the whole thing.
“I’m always hoping to beat Kelly Haukebo, because she always beats me,” Belichick said. “My goal is to have fun and challenge the other women in my group. Have fun. Go fast. Take chances.”
The sport started as something of a lark with a few lift operators who were grooming the slopes and decided to ride their shovels to the bottom of the hill more than four decades ago. For a while, it gained zany appeal, even being televised on ESPN as a new class was introduced with “modified” snow shovels in which anything goes. Some souped-up versions took things too far, however, and the event was discontinued for some years because of liability concerns.
When some sanity returned to the slopes, the races resumed sans the modifications. Although shovel racing has returned to its roots with folks riding the scoops, there’s still plenty of entertainment value.
“I’ve grown up with it,” Belichick said. “It’s something where we all get together and compete, but still, at the end of the day, we’re all friends, but we try and beat each other. I wouldn’t miss it.”
Something else she wouldn’t miss is that other world championship this weekend.
“I will definitely be at my parents’ home watching the Super Bowl,” Belichick said. “Of course I’m rooting for the Patriots. I have to be.”