Before I ever touched a bike, before I kicked a soccer ball, before I could even really walk, I was a skier. I spent the first 11 winters of my life chasing the tails of my dad’s skis, and by the 12th I knew without a doubt that I was going to become an Olympic ski racer.
I spent the five years after that chasing gates before a few bad falls and a few rounds with knee surgery put some pretty solid doubts into my mind. I now know that I will not become an Olympic ski racer, but those five years were some of my best so far. I got to ski in some great places, I got to go really fast on closed courses, and I met people who changed the course of my life.
Spencer was one of those. I’m struggling right now to pick out the right memory to describe him, but everything seems to blur together. From rocking out and tuning skis in the locker room to doing drills on the hill, it seems there’s way too much to even wrap one post around. I could fill an entire blog with lift rides. Or van rides. Of the full-scale water balloon wars at Mammoth. Or fighting off crowds of Euros to claim gondolas in Hintertux. Or double-poling through the parking lot in Minnesota. We skied on days so cold our snot froze and we skied on days with skies so blue they hurt your eyes. We talked endless trash and pushed each other always to ski better. Everyone did. We were a family, and there is just too much about us to sum up in writing.
I can say that from the first day I stumbled, awkwardly ski-booted, into the locker room and knocked over an entire wall of speed skis (a nearly criminal offense) I looked up to Spencer. He was an aggressive, focused athlete, and I always admired the drive he took into training. Sometimes he bugged the crap out of me, but the rest of the time he was pretty inspiring. He was a special person, who was part of an even more special group. Together that team had a dynamic I’ve never seen rivaled or replicated.
I think perhaps it’s the nature of the sport- we had to support each other through extremes. We all ditched school together, booting up at the crack of freezing dawn to train while our classmates were still asleep. We weathered the blizzards and bluebird days alike, feeding off each others’ enthusiasm and pushing every limit. To me memories of Spencer are inexorable from those of that larger group- everything we did involved each other.
Since I left ski racing my experience with that team has been the standard by which I judge all friendships. Does this person make me laugh until my face hurts and things come out of my nose? Could I fall asleep on them in a van/plane/chairlift? Do I know without question that they’ll be there for me when I’m hurt? The Winter Park team was. Since I left, I know they’ve only gotten stronger, which is how I know that losing Spencer is unfathomable for most of them. It’s also how I know they’ll be ok- I’ve never met people so devoted to each other.
I feel so lucky to have known Spencer and been a part of his crew- I’ll never forget him or any of them. My thoughts are with you guys- Colorado’s never felt so far away.