Anne Herbst, KUSA
KUSA – Before the lifts open and Telluride’s slopes are shared, first tracks go to the skiers dressed in orange and blue who carve in sync.
“We’re the Telluride Ghostriders,” Kim Macken said, the enormous peak of Mount Wilson behind him. “We’re the reigning world champions.”
During last week’s practice session at Telluride Ski Resort, Macken and his teammates worked to fine-tune their routines. Each began the same way. Six skiers stood in formation, their ski tips pointed together in a snowplow position. Shayne Marion led the call from the lead position.
“Ghostriders!” He shouted. “Left! Right!” He yelled out, as his teammates put their skis parallel. “Push! Push!” The skiers used their poles to thrust themselves forward and started carving down the mountain in unison. Despite the icy conditions, the Ghostriders made synchronized skiing look easy as they crisscrossed down the hill. Like all good teams, this one is greater than the sum of its parts, but if you’re counting, the Aussies outnumber everyone.
“I’m Australian originally. Sydney.” John Balmain said.
“Falls Creek, Australia,” Peter Steiner said.
“Jindabyne in Australia,” Shayne Marion said.
“About an hour south of Sydney,” Kim Macken said.
In fact, only two of the skiers practicing were not from Australia.
“Yeah of course,” Frankie Zampini said. “I’m from Argentina not from Australia I’m afraid.” He laughed.
“I grew up in New Hampshire” Matt Frasier said. “Conway, New Hampshire.”
The Australians said they met in mountains in their home country years ago and eventually found their way to Telluride. Matt Frasier might be the lone American on the team, but he’s the captain.
“They call me Captain America,” Frasier said with a smile.
As important as it is for these skiers to stay in sync on the mountain, they’re also committed to getting a generation to follow their tracks. The Ghostriders formed a non-profit, and over the past six years, they’ve helped fund the Comets Ski Program in Telluride.
“It’s three to five-year-old kids that haven’t skied before,” Kim Macken explained.
After their practice runs, the Ghostriders made their way to the bunny hill to meet with the kids from the Comets program.
“They’re [the] first members of their actual family to ski in Telluride so it’s really cool to see that,” Macken said.
Many of the Comet kids on the bunny hill spoke Spanish as their first language. Argentina native, Frankie Zampini, instructed the kids in Spanish and English, as he skied backwards down the hill.
“Por abajo!” Zampini shouted, as a line of little skiers cruised under his legs.
“We want them to have fun and enjoy the mountain in different ways,” Zampini said.
The Ghostriders have shared their love of skiing with dozens of Telluride kids over the years.
“We’re really just stoked to, you know, give them that head start,” Macken said.
The Ghostriders will defend their championship title at the Aspen World Synchro Championships Saturday and Sunday. They’ll compete against 13 other teams in racing, bumps and synchronized skiing.
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