Five days a week each winter, Lansing’s Iris Boerman makes the 45-minute drive to Greek Peak Mountain Resort in Virgil, where she shoulders her share of 50 or so slalom ski racing gates and trudges 660 feet up the steep and icy face of “The Odyssey” ski slope.
There, under the guidance of their 78-year-old coach Pavel Klimsa, she and her Greek Peak Ski Club teammates drill holes through the snow and frozen ground to arrange the gates into a twisting racecourse of hairpin, flush, royal flush, ins and outs and delay turns.
Boerman trains for her slalom and giant slalom events 18 hours a week – two hours each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night and six hours each Saturday and Sunday.
It’s hard and necessary because a few weekends each winter, she shrugs into a form-fitting racing suit, straps on her Olympic-quality skis and helmet, and plunges downhill at up to 60 miles per hour.
Boerman’s talent got her to 44th place out of 69 skiers in the giant slalom and 40th out of 69 in the slalom events at the 2020 Empire State Winter Games Feb. 1-2 at Whiteface Mountain, an invitation-only event where the 15-year-old competed against women up to the age of 21.
“The top 64 women in the state were invited,” said her dad, Brian Boerman (who had stayed up the night before sharpening edges and waxing skis). “And just getting invited was our goal this year,” Iris said. “I had a decent day.”
Iris has been skiing since she was 2 years old and racing since age 10.
“I joined the Greek Peak Ski Club, and we skied as a family, and then I got into the race program,” she said.
She is a U.S. Ski and Snowboard (USS&S) qualified racer, meaning she races in her New York State Ski Racing Association (NYSSRA) events on the same specialized (and expensive) equipment as the U.S. Ski Team and World Cup. Greek Peak is her home mountain and the Greek Peak Ski Club her team.There, coach Klimsa focuses Iris on her “angulation and rotary movement.”
“Angulation is your body position,” Iris said. “It’s different for each part of your body - knees and hips, face downhill, upper body/lower body separation, so many little things like hand position and where your eyes are, what your mindset is, rebounding to gain speed through the turns.”
Though the “headwalls” that start most racing slopes slant downhill as much as 50 degrees (Buffalo Street’s steepest section is about 17 degrees), race slopes flatten out in sections.
Iris said that the key is gaining enough speed on the steep parts (without losing control, missing a gate or crashing into a safety net) to make it through the shallower portions of the course.
“Some people memorize the course,” Iris said. “There are ‘money gates’ – those are the most important gates where, if you don’t make them, you are not set up coming off the headwall. You can’t be low and late – you need to be high and early. You need to carry your speed through the flats. You can’t end up just standing there. That’s happened to me.”
Racers get just one chance to inspect the course and plan their tactics before they settle into the starting gate. And during their inspection, skiers also slip sideways down the hill to clear away snow and leave faster ice below for their runs.
Skiing can be dangerous; skiing as fast as you can on the very steepest slopes that you’ve just deliberately made icier can be even more so.
“We have injuries at every event - concussions, torn ACLs - even though we have plenty of protection,” Iris said. “I haven’t been injured yet. You can’t think about getting injured. We say ‘just send it.’ You can’t not put everything into it. I love going fast. It’s a thrill.”
Slalom courses are tighter with more gates while giant slalom is faster with fewer gates. Iris likes both.
“I enjoy the speed of giant slalom,” she said. “It’s simple and instinctive. Slalom is more technical – it’s exciting and quick.”
Iris started training this year when the snow came on Dec. 5, but she is a year-round athlete.
When the spring comes and the snow melts, Iris puts on her catcher’s mask and crouches behind the plate for the Lansing High School Girls Softball Team. And, in the fall, she dons her gloves and stands guard at the goal for the Girls Varsity Soccer Team.
But what’s on her mind right now is the NYSSRA State Championships on Feb. 29 at Bristol Mountain.
Beyond Seasonal Blues at the library
Fall and winter holidays can bring mixed feelings of happiness, sadness, even loneliness and grief. How do you know when the sadder feelings need attention? And what if you are worried about someone’s well-being?
Join Deb Harper Ph.D., a licensed psychologist with more than 25 years of experience, at the Lansing Community Library Feb. 29 at 11 a.m. to learn to manage emotions, choose self-care and reach out to those who may need support. Space is limited and reservations are recommended. (Note – this event was rescheduled from January due to weather.)
The Lansing Community Library will be closed Feb. 17 for Presidents’ Day and has tentatively scheduled a closing March 4 through 14 for renovations.
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