Well Matched

Inside Colorado’s obscure—and waning—world of synchronized skiing and the Powder 8’s.

January 2011

A freshly groomed slope spreads out like a blank canvas of corduroy. With their skis in pie wedges, two men—standing one behind the other, staring straight down the fall line—await the start of their run at Aspen Highlands. A radio squawks to life. It’s the judges. They’re ready.

With his ski poles planted ahead of him so he doesn’t slip downhill, Jim “Schanzy” Schanzenbaker glances over his shoulder to Andy Docken, then raises one pole high into the air. Both men draw their right legs in, then bring their second skis parallel. Their arms relax, and they begin to slide. Pole once. Pole twice. Then turn…right, left, right, left.

The well-rehearsed sequence is like a piano teacher cocking the pendulum of a metronome. When the pendulum is released, the rhythm begins: click…click…click. Only on a ski slope, the sound comes from carbon fiber and stainless steel carving into snow. Schussss…schussss…schussss. The cadence is crucially important, especially when two skiers must ski as one.