Le Ski Mastery owner Alain Veth has been a professional ski racer for over 20 years. Photograph by Stefan Wachs.
AS A PROFESSIONAL SKI RACER for more than 20 years and then a technician for the U.S. Ski Team, Alain Veth had skied all over the world by the time he visited Taos Ski Valley. But the France native was struck by the mountain and by a mentor he found there—legendary instructor Jean Mayer. In 1990, with the bonus earned by tuning skis for World Cup champion Tamara McKinney, he opened Le Ski Mastery, a ski shop that’s one of the valley’s last family-owned businesses. While he wanted less physically demanding work, Veth wasn’t ready to abandon competition.
For about a decade, Taos Ski Valley had a race called the Bump, Bolt and Bike, which you could do individually or as a relay. I was on a team with Bruce Gomez, the track coach at the local high school, and a New Zealand National Ski Team member and phenomenal cyclist, Jonell Mills.
The ski part of it was from the top of Al’s Run. You run like a bat out of hell, and then you clip into your bindings, go down, and you give your bib to your runner. Then the cyclist rides to a finish at the stoplight at the bottom of the canyon.
I did it for 10 years. I was always under two minutes, no stops, top to bottom. The bumps were three feet, four feet deep. Every time, it was about nine turns. I went straight down. You’ve got about 1,700 vertical feet, so in the really steep first section, I was checking my speed. About halfway through the middle of the pitch I’d say, Okay, this is my time, and start to go straight. All I could think of was Not now … not now … then Now! That first turn I’d take off in the air—20 feet, 30 feet. I bet I was going 70 or 75 miles per hour.
When I did Al’s Run in 1 minute 25 seconds, I was strong, I was young. But it’s real steep; then you’ve got to go through the cat track. The G-forces were so strong that my butt touched my bindings and my head touched the back of my skis. I did a huge crunch and got back up on my skis. Then my skis came off the edge of the cat track, so now I’m flying 30 feet in the air. Bruce Gomez waves at me. I remember I said, “Dude, I’m in the air—let me land.” Finally I stopped and gave him the bib.
After that I said, “I’m done.” They had the race maybe another four or five years. People would ask, “Did I beat him?” even though I wasn’t racing. But the closest anyone came was 1:45.