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DOWNHILLERS / Scott Lasser WE ARRIVED IN DURANGO a day late, our bodies creaky after fourteen hours on a bus. I slept most of the trip, but Krauss was antsy. He tapped his feet, played drums on his knees, went to the bathroom twice an hour, chatted up the bus driver so much that the guy told him to go back to his seat. When I was awake I wiped away the steam and watched the snow hit the windows. I thought about the race. I told myself I was ready. When it was time to get off the bus, Krauss was asleep. His body lay pressed to the wall, his face mashed against the cold window as if he'd fallen there from the luggage rack. He snored. I nudged him and called his name, finally had to shake him awake. He hadn't been to sleep for two days. Peter Garrett, our hired coach, waited for us in the snow-scraped parking lot. He was about thirty, old to our way of thinking. He helped to load our gear in the van—six pairs of skis, boot bags, a couple duffels of clothes. He acted as though he were doing us a favor. You didn't miss much today, he said, finally. We learned that there had been too much snow to train. The racers spent the day packing the course. Tomorrow we'd have to pack all morning. If the snow stopped tonight, then maybe we'd get in a training run in the afternoon. You have to have training runs in downhill, Garrett told us, before you can run the race. Krauss and I looked at each other. We were new to downhill racing, but we knew this. Lucky for you guys, Garrett said. The snow will make the course slow. You'll have an easier time adjusting to the speed. We shrugged, like we didn't care, but we did. I was eighteen years old. I know it sounds sappy, but for the first time in my life I thought, Wow, I could die. The next day we woke to find the clouds hanging two stories above the ground; sometimes they dropped and drifted right up the streets of Durango. I struggled into my downhill suit till it fit me like a blue skin. My kneecaps stuck out; when I reached The Missouri Review · 49 down for boots I could see the muscles move in my legs. I put on lots of other clothes over the suit to stay warm. Krauss didn't say anything when we got dressed. This wasn't like him, but I understood. I was glad, too. I didn't feel like talking. We roomed with a guy named Chip Hoge. He knew we were from Central, and the moment we arrived he started telling us what to expect. He told us the top of the course was flat and then it got steeper and looked bumpy and hard to hold a line. He told us stories of how he'd started way back in the last seed, where we would be starting, and how he'd moved up and gotten into the first group, where he was today. He told us how to figure out the right wax to use, how to tune our skis. He talked and talked. Another part of him hardly seemed to notice we were there. He had his clothes and gear spread across the room. He had four kinds of cologne set out in the bathroom He swaggered about the room, stared at himself in the mirror. I thought Hoge was a jerk. Krauss thought so, too. I noticed that when we drove from Durango to the ski area, which was called Purgatory, the other guys on the bus were relaxed. They told stories about a fusball competition they'd had the night before. I looked out the window at the eight-foot snow banks and told myself that soon skiing seventy or eighty miles an hour wouldn't seem like a big deal, and that I, too, would be joking around on my way to a day of training. At the top of the course...


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