Skier hits the slopes of Olympians

Like many other islanders, Josh Anderson enjoyed watching the women’s downhill ski race during the recent Winter Olympics.

But Anderson, who turned 18 last month, had a special interest in the competition: he’d raced virtually the same course during the Utah Winter Games in December.

“It was cool watching it during the Olympics,” he said. “It’s an awesome course and I said to myself, ‘I did that.’

“The Olympic course almost looked easier. I think they put in more turns for us.”

His December memories weren’t entirely pleasant.

“I skied it fast in training,” Anderson – the island’s only ski racer – recalled. “But in the race there were some huge holes and I made a judgment error in my line and wound up missing an easy gate.”

Though he had a DNF for that race, this season, his fifth in the sport, has been largely successful. While his exact placement varies among the four events – downhill, slalom, giant slalom and super G – Anderson ranks among the top 10-20 percent in the Pacific Northwest Ski Association and his numbers are similar nationwide.

The season ends this weekend with the PNSA Northwest Cup at Brundage Mountain in McCall, Idaho. Anderson and his family depart tomorrow for the event.

Late bloomer

Anderson has made remarkable strides as a ski racer since a relatively late arrival in the sport, and it’s likely that there is substantial room on the upside.

Though he’d been a skier since the age of 3, and noted that “I’d wanted to do it (race) for a long time,” opportunity finally struck at the age of 13.

“The son of a friend of my dad was on the U.S. ski team, and he invited us to a race at Whistler,” Anderson said. “That convinced me that it was worth my time.”

He spent the first two years mainly playing catch-up, as most ski racers begin much earlier than he did, some as young as 6 or 8.

“I had to learn to ski again,” he said. “Racing is different. You have to learn how to carve turns instead of turning your skis around. You put them on edge and ride the rails instead of pivoting, which is a lot more complicated.

“I was dead last in a lot of races.”

But things quickly got better.

“Sometime when I was 15, the coaches told me, ‘You’re a ski racer, you know what you’re doing,’” he said. “Then I started working on more technical stuff.”

And working on giving himself more time to train.

A member of the Crystal Mountain Alpine Club, Anderson began spending winter Wednesday and Thursday evenings skiing at Snoqualmie, then most weekends at Crystal. The increased training paid off, as last year he skied his first FIS (Federation Internationale de Ski) race at Aspen, Colorado. This year, at the regional Junior Olympics at Mt. Bachelor, he was third in the first half of the downhill in a field of nearly 100 racers.

“But I made a line error, went way off track and powder skied for three turns,” he said. He lost about three seconds, a huge amount in the unforgiving world of ski racing where championships are decided by hundredths of a second, and finished about mid-pack.

He rebounded the following weekend to win his first-ever race, the Evergreen Cup Finals at Mt. Spokane.

To ensure that he has sufficient time to train, Anderson – who has an overall 3.5 GPA – enrolled in BHS’s Running Start program this fall, which requires him to attend classes at Seattle Central Community College.

“Taking three classes the first quarter is the same as taking six for a whole semester at the high school,” he said.

That gave him the flexibility to cut back his course load during the winter and allow more time for training and travel.

After graduating with his class this spring, Anderson anticipates attending some summer camps at Oregon’s Mt. Hood, then enrolling at Principia College in St. Louis this fall.

“They’re pretty lenient about scheduling,” he said. “They’ll let me take winter quarter off.” He plans on returning to Bainbridge at that point – after a fall of doing a “lot of lifting” – and resuming his training regimen with an open-ended commitment.

“I’ll race as long as I can see improvement,” Anderson said.

With the steady upward progress he’s made in five years, that could be for a very long time.

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