Ed Drake looks back at his successful trip to Australia

The decision to go to Australia this summer and compete was as it ended up really out of my control, due to rule changes made at the beginning of the summer meant that an athlete needed over a curtain number of FIS points (which I didn’t have) and could no longer … use Alpine FIS points to be able to compete at any World Cup Events. Having never been to Australia before I was really excited about getting down there after always hearing great things about the skiing.

I flew to Melbourne to meet up with fellow Ski Cross athlete Liz Stevenson and her coach Gar Trayner, we headed up to Perisher where we would spend the first 10 days of my trip training alongside the Australian national Ski Cross Team. Training was a mix of jump training and start gate sessions. Now my Downhill skiing background means I am very comfortable jumping, but I am having to get to grips with a new style of jump… Downhill jumps are usually naturally formed dictated by the terrain of the mountain, Ski Cross jumps are, 9 times out of 10, man made, more ‘park style’ jumps and terrain so I am having to learn new ways in which to be minimising my flight time or accelerating the ski. So the more time I could spend in the ‘Snow Park’ jumping the better! (I still find it hard to believe that that is considered training!). We also spent hours and hours practicing starts, different angles to pull against the handles, pressures against the gate before it drops, hip hight through the pull… the list goes on! All captured on video on our own and against each other to see how fast the changes were!

The next 10 days of my trip were over in Mount Hotham, here I got some really good days running full length Ski Cross tracks along side the Aussi Team and a couple of American guys that were over for the upcoming races. Training shoulder to shoulder is invaluable to my steep Ski Cross learning curve, racing on my own I have down my whole ski racing life, even when I did race against others in any head to head action it was on separate courses! (Apart from the mandatory race against mates while the coaches weren’t looking after a days training in my club skiing days!) Following some of the best guys in the World down the track meant I could see exactly where I needed to make changes to keep up and where I was faster than they were ready for possible overtaking moves once we got into race day! We ran lots of simulation races throughout these days building up to the competition, where I was holding my own and growing in confidence ready to compete!

Bad weather was forecast for while we were due to compete and all of a sudden I was really worried the races not going ahead which would have meant I was going to still be unable to start in any World Cup Events! Fortunately the clouds lifted and winds dropped for the Qualification day, I started mid pack what the FIS points I had earned last season, I got my head down and gave it all I had I felt miles more comfortable on the track than I had before in my short Ski Cross career, I knew what I was trying to do and thanks to my training ended up executing a really great run where I managed to finish in 2nd place just missing out on the win!! It was straight back up the the top to do the second run of Qualification (as we had 2 races there for 1 Quali run for each race). My second run went even better, I tidied up a few little errors that I made in Quali 1 and blitzed Quali 2 and took the win!! The next day we were due to run the ‘Finals’ for each of the Quali runs, but 110kph winds and snow fall over night put a stop to that, which meant the results from each Quali run would stand for each race. These results meant the FIS points I got are enough for me to be able to start World Cups, which in Ski Cross is the only place you can qualify for the Olympics. So job one ticked, now for the real hard work to begin!