2013-01-03 / News

Former slalom racer turns to backcountry skiing

Eric Archibald hopes to spend life on the slopes
BY MARGO SULLIVAN

Eric Archibald, who became known in Jamestown for his skill in slalom, has shifted his focus from competitive racing to the adventure of skiing backcountry. “I wanted to do something different,” he said.

Backcountry is skiing on trails that are ungroomed and unpatrolled, often in the woods and outside of ski resorts. He and friends hike up the slope because there are no ski lifts where they’re going. Then they’re on their own, carving huge turns and bombing down the mountain, he said.

“I love just feeling the freedom with my feet on the snow and being able to go wherever,” he said. He called the experience an adrenalin rush, and played down the hazards of off-trail skiing, which, he conceded, could include getting lost on the mountain. Another risk is avalanches, but Eric said that ski resorts set off small explosions to blow up dangerous sections of the mountain so skiers won’t get buried in the snow.

If there is an emergency, Eric, 19, is prepared. He has had classes in survival and wilderness first aid, and also said he could rely on his Boy Scout training if something happened. Also, he goes out with his buddies, not on his own. Eric would also like to earn his certifi- cation as a backcountry guide.

“I want to stay out West and ski for the rest of my life,” he said.

He is preparing to make that dream come true.

Eric has worked as a ski instructor at Yawgoo Valley, and now he is focusing on outdoor education. After a year on a Division I ski team at Colorado Mountain College, Eric decided to transfer to Northwest College in Powell, Wyo.

“I picked it because of my major and the location,” he said.

Eric has settled on a double major in outdoor education and sustainability studies.

The move from Colorado to Wyoming positions him 90 minutes away from Sleeping Giant Ski Area between Yellowstone National Park and Cody, Wyo. He said the move puts him on track to realize his dreams.

As for not being on the ski team anymore, Eric said it took up too much time. Colorado Mountain College is a junior college but became an associate member of the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association in 2011. While the team wasn’t eligible for an NCAA championship, it offered him a chance to compete against top collegiate talent.

As much as he loves racing, he ultimately decided the team commitment was too much. “To dedicate every day of my life is a lot,” he said. Eric added that he would also like to focus more on academics.

Northwest College has a ski club, which Eric has joined, but the school does not have a ski team. The Trappers compete in basketball, soccer, wrestling, volleyball and rodeo – but not skiing.

Eric still plans to race in some invitational competitions, and he has had success in the past. He started racing on the Yawgoo Valley alpine race team when he was around 9, and at age 13, he came in second in a race at Nashoba Valley in Westford, Mass.

“I didn’t do an immense amount of winning,” he said, “but I’m always in the top group.”

He placed in the top three at Bousquet in Pittsfield, Mass., and won races at Crotchet Mountain in New Hampshire. He also finished second in a race at Wachusett in Princeton, Mass.

His favorite event is the grand slalom because of the much wider turns. “Grand slalom is, for sure, my favorite,” he said.

Eric started skiing at 3 years old when his parents, Diane and James Archibald, took him on a family trip to the Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, N.H.

“I was all about it,” he said. According to the family story, his father secured his son in a safety harness, but Eric soon decided harnesses were for babies, and not for him.

“Halfway through the day, I was trying to pull the harness off,” he said.

This week he returned from a ski trip to Jay, Vt., where he combined skiing with family time. “My whole family skis,” he said. “It’s a passion my whole family holds.”

Eric was born and raised in Jamestown. He attended the Melrose and Lawn schools, as well as North Kingstown High. After college he expects to live in the mountains out West. He enjoys the Wyoming scenery and prefers it to Colorado.

“There’s a lot to it that’s different,” he said. “The sky is so blue and at night it’s so clear.”

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