This was the inaugural year of the Smugglers’ Notch Extreme Skiing Challenge. Judges on either side of the Headwall section of the Madonna lift line awarded points to 50 racers based on their line, control, fluidity, technique and style. Heidi Noonan of Jeffersonville was the second place female finisher and the first in the age group for those 19 and older.
VS: Was this your first time doing this kind of event?
HN: I’ve never done an extreme competition so I was scared out of my mind. I ski the Headwall at Smuggs often but I was still nervous because I’d never done this kind of event before and I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it would be fun to do with the kids I coach (at Smugglers’ Notch Ski & Snowboard Club) but only two of them competed. They told me if I did a 360 I’d win but I’m a racer, I don’t catch air.
VS: How was it different from a normal ski race?
HN: You couldn’t ski the course beforehand so you had to look down from the lift to choose your line. There were so many people racing that by the time I went down, the line I had chosen wasn’t good anymore.
VS: What was the most challenging part of the competition?
HN: The fact that it was right where everybody was going to watch was really challenging, as was the fact that you were basically skiing blind since your only vantage point for the course was from the lift. All my friends were there and my daughter was watching so I felt a lot of pressure. At 48 I was definitely the old lady in the race. The next oldest woman was 21 years younger than me so I was starting to wonder what I was doing there. The Headwall has a pretty impressive fall line; it’s technical in so many ways. I ski all the time, but this was still very challenging for me.
VS: How were conditions?
HN: The last time I skied the Headwall there was unbelievable powder and you could go anywhere, but if this was a normal day I don’t think I would have skied it. The only way you could get to the course was from Upper Lift Line and there were a lot of rocks. The conditions weren’t the best but based on this winter, they weren’t bad.
VS: Would you do it again?
HN: It was fun so I might do it again. I figured I could ski anything but I went into it blind. I don’t follow the extreme circuit but the fact that they came to Smuggs was pretty neat. I did a pathetic spread eagle and that was the extent of my air. I knew I wouldn’t have a problem skiing in control but catching air and wondering whether it would be ‘rad’ enough for them made me nervous enough to almost back out.
VS: If you were in charge of the race, would you do anything differently?
HN: I would have had two skiers on the course at once. Both competitors and spectators said the race went way too slow.