View Full Version : 2011 Zehners Trip of a lifetime to Portillo, Chile!

08-13-2011, 03:39 PM
My son Robby Zehner won the trip to ski and train with the US ski team in Portillo, Chile last year and again this year. Last years trip to Portillo was cancelled due to poor snow conditions in South America. This year when Robby won, the US ski team owed Robby two trips. They said Robby could go this year for two weeks instead of one, or, he could take someone else with him. Robby chose me to go with him as a birthday present for me. The US ski team trip this year will be a family affair - Robby Zehner and dad, Tom Zehner will be ripping it with the US ski team in Portillo, Chile. What an opportunity! What a gift!

We will be setting up a blog so our friends, family and fellow racers can experience the trip with us. Following is a link to an article about our trip that was published in the Steamboat Today.


I am Pumped!!!


08-13-2011, 04:09 PM
Tom, welcome to the forum! I'm insanely jealous! Great article. Have a wonderful time in Portillo.

Please pass along the tips you learn down there. You and I are in the same age group this year.

08-13-2011, 04:36 PM
Hey Tom:

So glad you've finally joined us on the Forum. What a wonderful surprise for you. Please take pictures and upon your return I can get them posted here on the Forum.

I took the liberty of posting one of the many photos I took from last years Race Of Champions above.

Safe travels.

The Bear

08-14-2011, 03:22 AM
That sounds like it's going to be an awesome time and I am pumped for both of you as well! Safe travels and safe skiing. Looking forward to you posts!

Great picture, Bear

08-22-2011, 06:26 PM
Congrats Rob and Tom! Thanks Tom for sharing with us and enjoy every minute of your Chilean adventure.


08-27-2011, 03:10 AM
We received our ski orders from the U.S. Ski Team. We leave Denver on September 23rd and return on October 2nd. This is a week later than what was originally planned due to lodging space availability. I will be posting updates on this forum and Robby will be bloging on his Denver gym web site at www.alpinecrossfit.com during our trip. Stay tuned for more information as things develop.

09-09-2011, 02:12 PM
Only two weeks till we leave for Chile. I have been packed up for a couple of months as my wife Patti and I spend the summers in Michigan. We are in Michigan now but plan to head back to our winter retreat in Steamboat Springs late next week. I just found out that my new Head race skis are in so I will be able to take them with me to Portillo. The skis will be new but the operator will be ancient.

09-24-2011, 07:57 PM
Robby and I are in Portillo, Chile. This an awesome ski area. We took several runs this afternoon and the snow was great. We will meet with the US Ski Team this evening to see what they have planed for tomorrow. We hope to help them where we can and stay out of their way when they are busy.

09-24-2011, 09:21 PM
As the nights turn a little cooler in the Northern Hemisphere, our thoughts are again turning to skiing. Keep up the reporting. It'll whet our appetites even more!

Have a sensational time down there.

09-25-2011, 12:31 AM
We had dinner with the ski team tonight and introduced ourselves to the team. We received a warm welcome from all the team members and had a great dinner and conversation. Tomorrow we will help maintain the downhill course in the morning and help out on the GS course in the afternoon. The food here is terrific and the coffee is even better! I am going to try and post some pictures as we go along. Robby will be posting pictures and video on his gym website at www.alpinecrossfit.com (http://www.alpinecrossfit.com) so check that site out too! Post a reply to my messages if you have questions you would like to have the ski team respond to. This is really a fantastic trip and we appreciate Nature Valley providing this opportunity through NASTAR racing.



09-25-2011, 02:48 AM
OK Tom, now I am getting really jealous! I know you are both having a blast. We're all here living vicariously through your trip!

My best to you both and all of the USST members!

The Bear

09-25-2011, 06:26 PM
Congratulations to your son Robby on being the 2011 NASTAR National Champion Male. Thank you for sharing your experience.

To the degree that you are comfortable with, we would enjoy hearing more about racing background of both your son and yourself (a profile of each based on the questions below):

* Masters racing experience - USSA division/town league/club team, favorite races, best results by discipline, regional/national level results/awards, video analysis software used/other helpful training aids, favorite NASTAR venues. How did each training aid specifically help you to improve as a racer (any specific habit(s)/movement(s) that it helped you to correct)?

* College racing experience - NCAA/USCSA team and conference, lowest points levels in each discipline, best results by discipline, regional/national level results/awards, video analysis software used/other helpful training aids. How did each training aid specifically help you to improve as a racer (any specific habit(s)/movement(s) that it helped you to correct)?

* Junior racing experience - academy/club/high school team, lowest points levels in each discipline, best results by discipline, regional/national level results/awards, video analysis software used/other helpful training aids. How did each training aid specifically help you to improve as a racer (any specific habit(s)/movement(s) that it helped you to correct)?

* During your junior, college and/or masters racing experience, did you ever race against anyone that became or was a national ski team member? If so, who and if you recall what was the highest level event that you competed against each person? What was the highest racing level that you have competed on for each discipline - FIS, Europa, NorAm, Junior Worlds, Whistler Cup, Trofeo Topolino, Junior Olympics, state championships, etc.?

Also, we would enjoy seeing videos of you and ski team members doing gate training and freeskiing drills. If possible, please upload the videos on Youtube and post links to them in this NASTAR thread. Please list a detailed breakdown of your schedule for each day which includes the names of both gate training and freeskiing drills the team used.

Additionally, if possible, upload video analysis to Youtube of you and other ski team members with overlay (Dartfish Simulcam/V1 Sports), side by side, sequential (Dartfish Stromotion/V1 Sports), and/or slow motion footage from gate training and freeskiing drills in the various disciplines SL, GS, SG, DH.

Were any of the courses or gate drills set so that the ski team members were forced to use a stivot? If so, which course type or gate drill, how many turns required a stivot, and how many total gates were set for the particular course or gate drill?

Finally, what advice would you give in the following topics? If you happen to remember the source of the advice, feel free to include that as well.

If the advice varies by type of course (GS vs. SL) please discuss both.

Also if the advice varies by level, please use the following levels: First Time Racer, Bronze Racer, Silver Racer, Gold Racer, Platinum Racer.

1. Course Inspection (fall-aways, knolls, terrain changes, trail turns, hairpins, flushes, delays/under gates, snow conditions, lighting conditions, finishing gate sequence)

2. Race Day Routine / Rituals / Warm Up (drills, exercises)

3. Start Technique (mental thoughts and imagery, type of start - kick start vs. pole start, # skating steps, impact of start ramp angle / start ramp length / direction of first gate relative to starting wand)

4. Actual Race (tactics)

5. Finish Technique (tuck, reach with one hand forward to break timing beam, line from last gate through finish)

6. Free Skiing Drills (thousand steps, one ski, Schlopy/Heisman, javelin, unbuckled boots, etc.)

7. Gate Drills (Wagner, Rosee, etc.)

09-25-2011, 07:14 PM
The valley view is from our room window. Sad, we only have one lake to look at...

A typical day for the US Ski Team follows. They get up around 6:00 a.m., breakfast at 6:45 and then on the lifts at 7:45 to get to the downhill course. The US Ski Team trains downhill till around 11:00, and then they head to the other side of the mountain to train GS. The snow gets soft in the afternoon so they quit training around 12:30, break for lunch and then do dry land training in the afternoon. We free ski in the afternoon and then maybe hit the hot tub before dinner.

Tomorrow, Monday, the team will split their training with some team members running a full downhill course and the remaining racers will run a full GS course on the other side of the mountain. Robby plans to drop into a run or two in the GS course. I plan to slip the course, take pictures and video.

09-25-2011, 10:13 PM
Robby started skiing when he was one year old and started to race junior racing when he was 4 years old. Robby raced central division USSA and went to junior olympics every year. When Robby went to the University of Colorado he decided that an education was more important than skiing and quit for a year to free ski. A year later Robby decided to join the CU development team and became the team captain. Robby did not race for about three years after college and then started racing masters about two years ago. Robby has had the fastest raw time in the NASTAR race of champions all five years that he has competed.

I started skiing when I was 20 years old and started racing about 30 years ago. I got serious about racing about 20 years ago when I went to a Mahre training center. This training was my first concentrated effort to improve my race technique and it helped immensely. I race NASTAR, town challenge races, and some masters races. I have not raced masters in a couple of years although I plan to race some masters races in the future. I have had five knee surgeries in the past eight years and one thumb joint replacement surgery. Last ski season I had 748 NASTAR races, the most races of all the NASTAR racers - and no knee surgeries!

My personal ski tips:

For beginner racers: don't skate at the start or finish unless you like doing face plants. Look ahead two or three gates and start your turn well above the gate.
For intermediate racers: stay as low as you can and still carve a clean turn. Keep your hands where you can see them and get off your downhill ski quicker to start your next turn. Smoother is faster.
For advanced racers: Core training all year, strength training too! Timing is everything after you are doing everything right - pressure your skis earlier when they are in the fall line above the gate.

09-25-2011, 10:43 PM
Regarding the upcoming FIS 2012/13 equipment changes for turning radius (Mens GS 27m to 35m)/length/standing height, how specifically do the USST athletes, coaches/trainers, and/or team medical professionals (please specify which group(s) responded to these questions) expect these changes to impact the following:

a) average course speed

b) course setting (Will the vertical distance between gates be increased and/or offset be decreased to accommodate the new skis or will the current vertical distance and/or offset be maintained to hold down speeds? What actually happened with regards to the vertical distance between gates and/or offset with the last change from 21m to 27m turning radius skis?)

c) number of injuries? severity of injuries? overall safety level?

d) technique (more stivots, less carving, stepping then sliding the entire top of the turn, straight and late, the dominance of brute strength, etc.)

Have any of the coaches, athletes and/or team medical professionals seen the actual detailed research behind these changes? If not when do they expect to get access to the detailed research methodologies and raw data?

Supposedly the athletes were invited to participate in the onsnow testing of the protoypes of the new skis that led to these changes. How were they notified, by whom/what organization, and approximately what date was the invitation received (i.e. how many weeks advance notice was given before the testing started)?

FIS rushed approval with 2 days notice to FIS Council for the vote in July 2011 on the 2012-13 equipment changes (biggest change was leap in GS turning radius 40m men/35m women) proposed by the FIS Alpine Committee and its Alpine Technical Equipment Working Group (Toni Giger, chair from Austria) based on data from the FIS Injury Surveillance System and its equipment project. GS turn radius jumping from 27m to 40m and GS ski length (185 to 195cm) and women's world cup GS (23 to 35m / 180 to 188cm). Men's SG (33 to 45m / 205 to 210cm) and women's SG (33 to 40m / 200 to 205cm). Men's DH (45 to 50m / 215 to 218cm) and women's DH (45 to 50m / 210 to 215cm). No change for SL.

After protests from the manufacturers and athletes, FIS changed its mind in August 2011 and reduced the GS turning radius to 35m for men and 30m for women. Downhill and SG specifications were not reduced and there will be further review of implementation timeline for the new maximum 45mm standing height rule for DH & SG (decreased from 50mm)

Video of 40 meter GS ski prototypes being skied in GS training course by Warner Nickerson USA www.youtube.com/watch?v=76yYnVgbx98 (http://forums.nastar.com/www.youtube.com/watch?v=76yYnVgbx98)

09-26-2011, 12:55 AM
I have yet to meet a coach, athlete, technician, or ski retailer/manufacturer that thinks this is a good idea. The consensus seems to be this change would set ski racing back about 25 to 35 years and not be any safer. See Ted Ligety's comments at http://www.nevasport.com/noticias/art/33109/Duras-palabras-de-Ted-Ligety-contra-la-FIS/ You will have to translate this version as most searches down here to come in Spanish.

Here's a few photos from today:




09-26-2011, 09:55 PM
The Octagon is a octagon shaped building next to the Portillo Hotel. This building is designed for groups and is where the US Ski Team stays.

Today, Monday, is our third day here but it is our second full day. Today we helped out on the downhill course. The upper lift was not working so the team could only run the lower part of the course. We went over to the GS course and did some slipping. That was a drag so we ran some gates in an easier part of the course. Many team racers were having difficulty with the course as the top part was quite steep and hard snow. Ted Ligety made the course look easy. They left the lower portion of the GS course up so I made several runs after lunch when the team was done with the course. I would have made more runs except the snow was getting soft. When the sun hits the snow it softens quickly as this is late spring for Chile. It felt really good to get back into the gates.

The team had a dry land workout in the afternoon and then they played volleyball for a couple hours. The team is always active and they have very little down time. I am amazed how athletic they are in everything they do. Hopefully we will have some pictures posted and Robby has some video and pictures that he plans to post on his gym web site at www.alpinecrossfit.com (http://www.alpinecrossfit.com)

Pictures of the day:





09-27-2011, 06:16 PM
Here's one more photo from Tom on his Chile trip:


09-28-2011, 12:34 AM
The US Ski Team trains for 3 days and then takes the fourth day off from on-hill training. This gives them a chance to rest, recover, work on their gear and do more dry land training.

The GS course was set up so I took advantage of it all morning. We free skied in the afternoon and took some pictures and videos.

Each training day is run like a WorldCup race. Full timing with intervals, dyed course markings, course reports and video. Tomorrow will be a full day of downhill racing. It will be run just like a WorldCup race with start order, interval starts, etc. I will try to get some action shots.


Robby - soaking up the sun!

The Portillo Beach Bums!

Tom and Robby Zehner making memories................

09-28-2011, 04:25 PM
Your trip sounds amazing, Mr. Zehner!

I'm sure you have more interesting things to do on this trip than answer my questions. But if you have a free minute, or possibly after you return home, I'd be curious to know:

Are both the men's and women's teams down there? Do they train together or separately? Are other countries' teams down there, and if so, do the athletes from different countries train together?

09-28-2011, 05:34 PM
Great photo of Ted with the NASTAR Pacesetter bib. It looks like our handicaps will be going up next year.

09-28-2011, 11:27 PM
I thought Steve Nyman was this year's 0 handicap.

09-29-2011, 12:24 AM
Portillo Day 5 Already!

The US Ski Team ran two downhill races this morning and then trained GS till lunch time. We ran the course also but I felt like a sloth compared to the team racers. They really have their racing dialed in. The team looks strong and I expect them to have great early season results.

What's on tap for tomorrow? Four SG and GS races. The team is getting ready for the WorldCup races and will set four different SG courses for them to run. Hopefully we will have some action shots posted from today's downhill and GS courses.

Ted Ligety is a phenomenal GS racer. We have some video of Ted in the GS course but we have had difficulty reading the videos and getting them on to YouTube. Check www.alpinecrossfit.com (http://www.alpinecrossfit.com) for videos.





09-29-2011, 01:49 AM




09-29-2011, 01:51 AM


Perfect final shot of the day: "It's a Dog's life......"

09-29-2011, 11:11 AM
I thought Steve Nyman was this year's 0 handicap.

The picture of Ted Ligety was was part of a photo shoot for NASTAR as Ted is the official NASTAR ambassador. Steve Nyman is still the zero handicap pacesetter for NASTAR.

Here's some more action photos of the guys on the SG course:




09-30-2011, 12:14 AM
Portillo Day 6

Portillo is in a valley with steep peaks on the east and west sides. The team usually trains on the west side early until the sun warms the snow. Then the team practices on the east side as the sun hits the snow there later in the morning. Today a SG race was set up on the west side which the team raced on after inspecting. After the west side race the team went to the east side, inspected and ran a SG race while the west side was reset for another SG race. A total of four full length SG races were set up, inspected, run and torn down before noon. That is quite a feat. The ski team support staff should be commended for their ability to provide the athletes with this high level of training.

Tomorrow a GS will be set up from the top of the west side. The pitch of the top section of the GS (about 1,000 vertical feet) has a pitch around 60 degrees. Sound like fun? I will try to get some action shots and video. A SG and GS will be set up on the east side. It looks like another full day of training!

Photos of the day:

The nets are there to catch rocks.

Plaques from teams that have trained at Portillo.

This is NOT my favorite run!!

This is my favorite spot after my last run!!

09-30-2011, 05:23 PM
Enjoyed your video Tom! Did I mention I'm insanely jealous?

10-01-2011, 10:39 AM
Portillo Day 7

This is our last full day skiing and training at Portillo. I am a bit late in getting this out as I have had difficulty getting to the network. Today the team ran several runs on a full SG course and I got some action shots that will be posted soon. A GS was setup from the top of the west side and it was a very steep and difficult course. Everyone had fun running the course and talking about it. Robby said this course was the most difficult GS course that he had ever run.

Saturday, is our last day here and the team will run two GS courses as the final race of the Condor cup. The Condor cup is a series of races the team runs while they are training down here. I believe Marco Sullivan is leading so far in the competition. More later after we get back to the states.





10-01-2011, 02:27 PM
Man... this has been a GREAT write-up, Tom! Thanks for taking the time to document everything. If you see my buddy Kristian, tell him Jamie said hi. Not sure if he's there right now or not... He's one of the coaches.

10-03-2011, 03:57 AM


10-03-2011, 04:00 AM
This sign sits atop of the slope below. And for good reason!


The perfect final shot: Robby Zehner flips for Portillo!

10-10-2011, 09:17 AM
What a GREAT story. GREAT photos. Both of you are very Lucky Men. It's even better that I have met you Tom and raced against you at the Nationals. Us Michigan guys can SKI!

03-12-2015, 01:51 AM
Hey Tom - Just met you and your wife briefly at the finish line at Steamboat. Great meeting you. Noticed that you put in a 'bunch' of runs this season. Wanted to ping you for a couple race questions. Thought I'd look at this blog since it highlighted Robby and since I am a huge fan. Get back when you can take a breath.

Dave Pickett (PIC494)
Woodbine, Md