Somewhere in the minds of the officials who pick the Eastern and National ski teams in the United States is unshakably lodged a primal myth whose pattern must be adhered to or unspeakable demons and djinns might be loosed upon the ski world.
In essence this mythic pattern is a slightly milder version of competitive swimming's Wild in the Streets timetable: Win big early and keep on winning or you will find yourself consigned permanently to ski racer's limbo at a very early age. As a rule of thumb, the mileposts are these: undefeated in Torger Tokle and Junior racing circuits to the age of 16, win Something Big by 18, and only a World Cup win or Olympic medal will save you past the age of 21. Over 21 sir? Hand over your race bib and step right into Charon's boat, you won't be taking any flights to Europe or out West to race against the best.
Now imagine the delight of U.S. Eastern Amateur Association officials with the results of last weekend's Men's Special Slalom at Sugarloaf Mountain. Their own championship--the final and most important qualifier for the Western Spring Series featuring European competitors off the World Cup circuit and members of the U.S. National Team--was won by the oldest man in the field, 25-year-old coach of the Harvard Ski team, Peter Carter.
Carter, flaunting a luxuriant red beard and one of his normally outlandish outfits--purple beret, electric blue and yellow sweater, khaki pants with large patches of turquoise, maroon and purple, as well as green poles with orange Day-Glo baskets--slithered through the 550-foot course with the best times for each of the two runs, and defeated runnerup David Dodge of the University of Vermont by over a second. Ben Steele, star of Carter's intercollegiate team, remained off the peak he reached winning EIS championships three weeks ago at Middlebury and finished third. Dodge finished fourth in the NCAA slalom ten days ago at Middlebury.
Both Steele, whom Carter feels has proven himself to be the best skier in the East at his best, and his flashy mentor qualified for a crack at world caliber competition Western Spring series which is a string of 8 races in 15 days roughly coinciding with spring break at such racers' nirvanas as Squaw Valley, Mammoth Mountain and Heavenly Valley.
"Unfortunately," said Carter, "Eastern may not provide the funds because I'm too old to make the U.S. team."