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Terry Palmer Shares Insights on Competing at Olympics
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Tuesday, January 18, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KATE DALY

 Confidence.  Balance.  Control. 

According to local former Olympian Terry Palmer, this year’s alpine skiers will need all that and more when they compete in their Beijing Winter Games events February 6-20.

“When you are skiing down ice going 80 miles per hour, you don’t want to edge too much because that slows you down,” he remembers all too well 50 years after he and his older brother, Tyler, raced in the slalom event at the Sapporo Winter Olympics.

It snowed a lot during the Olympics in Japan in 1972. But this year the 11 alpine skiing events will take place in Yanqing--50 miles to the north in a part of China that doesn’t get a lot of natural snow. The texture of the manmade snow will be “different” for all the athletes, Palmer points out.

“Depending on the weather conditions, if it’s hard ice, grippy ice, I feel somebody will surprise himself,” he says.

Translation: Win or wipe out.

He predicts, however, that two-time gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin, whom he calls the best technical skier in the world, will do well.

The American team of six men and six women, who are appointed to the team based on racing results posted between November 2021 and January 2022, includes good speed skiers this year. But Palmer says the big unknown is the track.

Before every event, water is injected into the snow to create a clean course, he explains. And the athletes couldn’t test the terrain last year.  This year they’ll only have a chance to test once a day for four days leading into each event.

The events are slalom, giant slalom, super G (giant slalom), downhill, a mixed gender team event and one race combining slalom and downhill.

All of the athletes have been dealing with COVID for a couple of years, so that’s an equal playing field, Palmer says.

Focused on staying healthy, the Americans will fly to China early to acclimate and practice.  Winning is always a goal, but most of all Palmer hopes they have fun and meet other competitors and coaches from around the world.

When he went to the Olympics at age 19, the coaches had the team training every day for three weeks.

It was a tumultuous time--full of tension, he recalls.

The Vietnam War was going on and American skiers weren’t allowed to accept money, although some Europeans were getting paid.

Shortly thereafter things changed and everybody makes money now, he says. But back then competitors had to make a decision to go pro if they wanted to earn prize money, sponsorships, retainer fees and free equipment.

At age 20, Palmer opted to turn pro.  A race in 1974 sealed his fate in Sun Valley. Tyler and he did well, and the town was so comfortable, Palmer says, that that’s when he decided to move to Sun Valley from Aspen.

The Palmers grew up in North Conway, N.H., and started skiing when they were two. Their parents met on the slopes and worked as instructors on the weekends.

Palmer copied them, teaching at the Sun Valley Ski School from 1974 until about six years ago.

When he quit skiing competitively in 1979, he went on to coach kids at the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation until the US Ski Team asked him to coach the giant slalom and slalom technical group in 1985 and 1986.  That job took him on the road chasing snow around the globe for 10 to 11 months.

After meeting his future wife, the late Gretchen Wick, Palmer went to work for Dynamic and then as a manufacturer for Pre skis and Scott goggles and poles.

In the early 1990s he became a partner at Sturtevants for a while. In 1998 Palmer completely switched gears and joined Sun Valley Associates as a realtor and then partner. He often finds the skiing connection comes in handy when dealing with clients in a mountain town.

All three of the Palmer children ski raced when they were younger.

“They liked it. It was a good way to meet other friends.  It’s a good family sport with a lifetime of social support,” he adds.

Their 23-year-old cousin River Radamus, who grew up skiing in Vail, is headed to compete in the giant slalom Olympic event soon.

Palmer imagines right now the skiers are busy doublechecking their gear and equipment, making sure the performance is optimal. But he cautions there’s so much more to becoming an Olympian.

“It’s still fundamental hard work, mentally challenging to be good at any sport and not getting eaten up by the pressure of doing well. It does relate to life going forward.”

Palmer finished 16th in his Olympic event. His brother finished ninth.  After acing against each other for so many years Palmer still feels they were not competitive and that older skiers proved to be their best mentors for improving times and techniques.

These days the brothers continue to enjoy skiing and chat every week, with Tyler living in their old hometown and Palmer along a river bank in East Fork.

Palmer is happy to have two of his children residing in the Wood River Valley and smiles broadly when he talks about launching yet another generation of skiers – his two-year-old grandson.

 

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