The Silver Belt - Starr's Story

For downhill skiing the Silver Belt was the Donner Summit social event of the season drawing famous skiers from all over the world to compete at Sugar Bowl.  The general outline of the Silver Belt is well known but what was it like to ski the Silver Belt?

Starr Walton Hurley was the youngest person to win the first of her Silver Belt victories when she was 15 years old.  A few years later she would compete in the Olympics.  This is her experience drawn out during an interview in the Summit Restaurant in Soda Springs on Fall afternoon. This story first appeared in the December, '09 Donner Summit Historical Society newsletter.

Riding the lift
Expectations high
The excitement of competition
Think of the course
How to conquer
Skier against course
Skier against mountain
You know the route intimately
It’s memorized
Yesterday we boot packed it all the way to the top.

Think of the course
Nothing else
Not the other skiers
It’s just the mountain
The fastest way down
Following the drop of water
Beating the drop of water
Flowing down the mountain
Gravity and the course are guides

How can I be fastest - Gate to gate
How can I flow down the course?
As fast as possible

Go with the mountain
With the snow

The wax is correct, hand rubbed, layer upon layer
Each layer set to peel off
Subsequent layers match changing conditions
Down the mountain
Dad is the wax expert.

At the top,
Off the lift,
Find a flat spot to change skis
The waxed race skis
The perfectly waxed race skis
The race skis Dad waxed

Tie on the bindings
Feel the skis
Back and forth
Back and forth
Running smoothly
Get the bib on
Get in the groove
All quiet on the mountain top

In the gate
All alone
With the mountain
Straight down - The first gate
Can I get it right?
No sounds
Just the countdown
10, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – “go”

Push off
Straight down.
Can’t see the bottom
It doesn’t matter
Focus on the first gate
7 gates in the chute
Focus on the first turn
Get it right
The rhythm will follow
The rhythm for the rest of the race

It’s all about rhythm
Rhythm and glide
Ski with the mountain
And against the mountain
Think of the drop of water

Think – always two gates in advance
The rhythm is set
Rhythm and glide

Skiing must be smooth and gentle
You are going with the snow
Snow is such a beautiful element
Such beautiful form
Enjoy the course

It’s only the gates
Only the snow
The sound of the skis
Only the rhythm of the course
Gate after gate
Down down.
Steepest slalom in North America.

The course flattens – just a bit
Then the steilhang
The steepest part
you don’t notice steepness
Only gates
And rhythm
How to accomplish the goal
Beat the mountain
Please God, let me keep standing

Five more gates
Rhythm increases
The drop of water is speeding
Gravity is in charge
No mistakes
No mistakes – please
The end of the Steilhang is the finish
But two tricky gates
Got to get through the technical gates

No mistakes
No mistakes
Made it now
Into a tuck
Tuck to the finish
Just a few hundred yards
No poles, just tuck,
You’ve got the speed
The wax is perfect
Don’t slow,
Ski past the finish
Don’t slow up

Out of the tuck
Fast stop
Spray of snow
Lots of people now
Not alone now.

Boy, that was fun
That was great
The best I could do.

If someone was better, that’s ok, that’s competition
But I beat the mountain.