Course is clear. Racers ready in 3, 2, 1 ...
The little girls bent at the starting gates with looks of determination on their faces. They may be in elementary school, but they are racing against arguably the greatest ski racer in the world - American Lindsey Vonn.
Vail Resorts unveiled its new EpicMix Racing course at Northstar and Heavenly this past week, and skiers and boarders of all ages are finding out how they stack up against a pro. Vail also launched Epic Mix Racing at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado, bringing the pro to the public. It will likely come to Kirkwood next season.
Uniform courses are set up at all six resorts, and Vonn provides the golden standard to beat.
The course is intermediate-friendly and allows riders to race side-by-side. In fact, racing friends and family seemed to be just as popular as racing the pro last week. Ski school kids were all too happy to swing by the race course during lessons and see which friend was fastest.
The Northstar EpicMix Race course is set up on Upper Main Street and accessible by taking the Arrow Express chair from the top of Big Springs Gondola. It's open from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and costs $8 for the first race and $4 for each race thereafter. Tickets can be purchased at the start gate.
The Heavenly EpicMix Race course is accessible from the top of Canyon Express and the finish area is near the top of Powderbowl Express. Prices are the same as Northstar.
Here's how it works. Vonn, along with race pros from each resort, set their course times on Dec. 15. Just to give some perspective, the race pro pacesetters turned in times anywhere from 8 to 30 percent behind Vonn.
As the season progresses, EpicMix Racing will assign each racer a "percentage behind Lindsey" score based on age, gender and discipline for each race. Digital medals are awarded based on a racer's "percentage behind Lindsey."
Top racers from across the six resorts will then be invited to a grand finale event on March 30, hosted by Vonn on the famed Birds of Prey World Cup Course at Beaver Creek, Colo. To qualify, participants must race at least 10 times during the 2012-13 season.
Those who don't make the grand finale can still find race times, digital medals, overall leaderboards and leaderboards with just family and friends posted on the EpicMix website and mobile application. Racers can also find tips from Vonn on how to have an effective start and finish, technique, skiing an early line, running gates, recreational racing, body positioning and equipment care on epicmix.com.