COVID Corner: Part 2

Special interview January 7, 2021

Starring Debi Koltoniak, with special guest President Alex Carrico.

Debi: Alex, Happy New Year! I know you are busy trying to lead MACC in these very challenging times, but I am just so glad to have you back on my show.  

Alex: Thanks Debi, it is always great to be here and Happy New Year to you!

Debi: So, in case you have not heard, I have landed a pretty big movie role and will not be able to ski this year.

Alex: I did not know that Debi, Congratulations.

Debi: Well, thank you. As I was saying, I will not be able to ski this year, but I am still happy to help MACC in any way I can. I know a lot of people have been asking or wondering about MACC, so I would like to get the latest information from you for my… I mean our fans.

Alex: Sure Debi, I am happy to do that. First of all, we have great interest from our racers with 93 registered to date. We really weren’t sure how people felt about trying to race during a global pandemic. The response has really been overwhelming.

Debi: So, people want to race. My question is can they? I am not up on all the latest in Michigan, you know being the queen of the Toledo (Ohio) Ski Club and working on a movie in Hollywood, California.

Alex: Great question. Yes, the latest order from the MDHHS allows for outdoor non-contact sports. We will still need to mask up, practice social distancing and follow all other guidelines provided in our ‘Safe Return to Ski Racing’ document, but at this point ski races are allowed.

Debi: How will these rules and guidelines be enforced?

Alex: First of all, many of the rules related to COVID 19 and masks come from Boyne. We expect Boyne will have staff enforcing the rules with the general public. Regarding our group, we really don’t have enough workers to dedicate people to “law enforcement” or whatever you might call it. That said, we need all racers to comply in order to offer a program this year.

Debi: In other words, if there are issues with mask usage and social distancing you will cancel the season?

Alex: While that would be a difficult decision, it really is that simple. If we cannot offer a safe program, we cannot offer a program at all. That said, I am confident our racers know what is at stake and together we can pull this off safely.

Debi: That is a great Point Alex. MACC is a wonderful group of people. I am excited about my movie deal, but I am really going to miss my Boyne Peeps. As a major celebrity, I am very lucky to have such a down to earth group of people to ski and hang with.

Alex: That really is nice to hear Debi.

Debi: Enough sappy talk! Let’s get back to the juicy stuff… What hill are we going to race on? I have heard that big start mound may be out of the question as it creates some challenges when trying to start a race with all this social distancing business.

Alex: Well, snow is our other challenge so far this season. We expect FIS to be open and ready for racing first. If that is the case, we will try to move the start down in order to facilitate social distancing.

Debi: Will all races be on Superb owl once it is open?

Alex: Once Superbowl is open, we will be racing over there. If things run really smoothly, we might be able to consider trying to start from the top of FIS, but I am not ready to make any commitments.

Debi: I also heard the first weekend is canceled. Is that true?

Alex: Yes, unfortunately Boyne does not feel there is enough snow on Superbowl, FIS or North Boyne. As a result, we are not going to be able to have races as originally planned on the 9th and 10th.

Debi: With one less race weekend, should people expect a refund?

Alex: The short answer is no. There are a few reasons for this. First, this is consistent with past practice. We have had to cancel the first weekend before, as recently as 2016, and did not issue refunds. Second, our cost structure does not change dramatically with one less weekend. Third, we typically score 7-8 races in a season and we still have 9 scheduled. Finally, our refund policy is related to COVID-19 and addresses canceling the entire season or the remainder of the season. In this case, we are only cancelling one weekend and it is a result of a lack of snow.

Debi: That makes sense, Alex. Any chance of scheduling a “make-up” weekend?

Alex: We would love too, but unfortunately it is just not possible. With participation being down this year, we are incredibly low on “workers”. Racing on a weekend, that was not scheduled in advance, is likely to have an adverse impact on participation and we are concerned about being able to run a race with even fewer participants.

Debi: That is true Alex. You guys sure do think of everything.

Alex: We try to.

Debi: Now, I must ask you some tough questions, Alex. It is just part of my job. I always made Drew uncomfortable, but I think he was just intimidated because I am so young and beautiful.

Alex: That MUST have been it. To be honest, the tough part scares me a little, but I am happy to answer any questions you have.

Debi: What is the deal with consolidating Vet classes? Some of the Vet classes that have been eliminated, or “merged” as you “executives” call it, were not that small to begin with. 

Alex: The whole idea behind the merging of classes is to make sure new racers, particularly those under 40 who we have struggled to attract, have a good experience. Despite the overall numbers being down we have more new racers than we have had in a VERY long time. We need to make sure all of these new racers have a good experience and come back in 2022. To make this happen we need to try to give them a class with more than 2 people to race with.

Debi: I get it. So, you merged the Vet class because the open classes (open to racers of all ages) were too small.

Alex: Correct, we can’t eliminate an open class. This meant we had to merge the vets into the smaller open classes. We do expect some vet racers, who are eligible for SuperVet, will take the opportunity to try out those classes.

Debi: What about the mix up with the courses? I see my B-Lite Woman will be racing head to head with the Elite Women. 

Alex: This change was focused on providing a safe course for everyone. With COVID-19 driving the numbers down we were short on workers and needed to balance the courses.

Debi: Course maintenance is certainly important, but aren’t the courses set differently?

Alex: The courses have been set differently in the past, but this is completely within our control to change. Our Director of Course setting is very capable and fully on board with ensuring courses are set for everyone. In fact, when we first approached Kermit about this he said, “If I set a course for the D racers, the Elites will handle it just fine and the fastest racer will still be the fastest. If anyone wants to complain about courses not being technical enough, well it is still better than racing on a poorly maintained course or not at all.”

Debi: What about ruts? I have seen some of those ruts on course 1 and let me tell you… well, I mean, I can handle it no problem, but some may be a little intimidated.

Alex: Great question. This is something we have talked a lot about and it really is one of the reasons for the change. First of all, the best way to combat ruts or berms is with course maintenance. This approach will improve course maintenance. Second, ruts are created by having lots of racers skiing the same line. By mixing up the classes the lines people take will vary quite a bit leading to smaller ruts and berms. Third, we will have fewer racers skiing the courses to even make ruts. Finally, I need to give a shout out to our Director of Course Operations, Dennis Parrot. His team has been doing any excellent job of maintaining our courses. With their continued hard work and dedication, combined with Kermit’s Course Setting Crew, I think everyone will have outstanding courses to ski on all year.

Debi: Well I am excited. I just wish I could join you, but I am stuck in Hollywood for the season...

Alex: It is exciting, and I think it will be a good opportunity for everyone to race with people they don’t normally. You might also get to watch people you don’t normally get to watch or even run their coat.

Debi: That is a great point Alex. To be honest, I forget that some people don’t have people.

Alex: Exactly, … So, what is this movie about?

Debi: Well, I can’t share much, but I play a girl from Toledo with a modeling career in New York that also loves to ski race. My BFF Mikaela is trying to talk me into going to Europe with her. So, I struggle with balancing a good career with what I really want to do. It is really a cute story.

Alex: Is this fiction or a biography Debi?

Debi: Oh, it’s fiction! I am definitely not a New York girl.



MACC sends out newletters during the race season with updates about coming events. Here are links to recent newsletters.

(Former) President's Corner

MACC president Scott Pyles has raced his entire life, including the US Ski Team, working his way up to MACC.

May 6, 2016. Review of 2016 and thanks to those essential to MACC.

March 12, 2015. Observations of MACC when you can't race.

November 12, 2014. Where were we 52 years ago, and where are we now?

April 21, 2014. Scott's story of how he was introduced to MACC, told at the 2014 Marks Banquet.