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Just before the team broke training camp at Val-d' Is�re, Werner and Ferries went up the mountain to work on technique together. "When we came down," says Chuck, "I felt a lot better. Then we had a week's holiday over Christmas. Buddy, Gordy Eaton and I rented a car and drove into Switzerland. We didn't put on a ski for seven days. When we came back I finished fourth in a slalom race in a little French town no one had ever heard of. Just a local affair. But I finished, and I knew then that everything would be all right."
This unknown American
After the first run of the slalom at Kitzb�hel, Chuck was in eighth place. But on the second he tore the course apart, turning in a time of 69.7 seconds, which was the best of the day, and he beat Perillat by .7 second, Behind the two came some of the great slalom racers of the Alps: Gerhard Nenning and Pepi Stiegler of Austria, Fran�ois Bonlieu and Charles Bozon of France, Austria's Hias Leitner. The next week at Cortina, Ferries won again, beating Bozon, Karl Schranz of Austria and P�rillat, among others. The European papers were full of this unknown American and his remarkable feat. The Americans—Werner, Heuga, Kidd, Marolt, Beattie, the entire team—were ecstatic. "You see, you can do it," Beattie kept saying, "you can do it." Chuck grins. "It was wonderful," he says.
In the terrible snowstorm that enveloped Chamonix on the day of the world slalom championship. Werner ranked third after the first run and Ferries fourth. Both fell down the second time-along with a long, distinguished list of others—while Bozon stayed on his skis to win. But for the trip as a whole the Americans had done well. Werner was winning again—the giant slalom at Courchevel, the giant slalom at Oslo—the youngsters were beginning to finish in the first 10 with consistency and Ferries had won those two big races. Beattie and his team were already looking ahead to Innsbruck in 1964.
Before 1964, however, there is the rest of 1963, and it is during this season that Chuck Ferries and the others must perfect their skills if there are to be medals at Innsbruck after all. No one realizes this more than Ferries. Married to Judy Voyles in October and studying hard so that he can finish college this fall, he has still managed to find time to race almost every weekend since going to the national Alpine training camp in December at Vail, Colo.
"As usual," he says, "I got off to a lousy start."
In his first race, a downhill, he was disqualified for jumping the start. A few days later he caught a tip on the first gate of a slalom race and was disqualified. Then Chuck won the slalom, finished second in the downhill and won the combined at the Southern Rocky Mountain championships. He was second to Gorsuch in both the slalom and giant slalom at the Air Force Academy Invitational on January 19 and 20 but sharpened up and walked off with the big Broadmoor International Slalom Derby at Colorado Springs, Colo., finishing ahead of Werner and Gorsuch. In early February he won the Roch Cup giant slalom and combined ( Billy Kidd won both the downhill and slalom, with Werner second), and since then it has been nip and tuck among the three Americans, who really don't seem to need that European competition so much anymore.
"Personally, I still think Buddy Werner is the best American skier," says Chuck. "I'm not convinced that he isn't the best in the world. But the big thing is that a lot of guys are catching up. The entire attitude has changed. Beattie isn't looking for someone to go along on the team just for the ride. He wants people who can win. And everybody seems to want to win now. Most U.S. skiers used to spend all their time drinking and having a good time and running around. Now they spend all their time trying to beat you."
As far as the other Americans are concerned, the man to beat in any slalom race is Chuck Ferries. "He never looks so good in training," says Schaeffler, "and he seldom wins the little race. But in the big race he is always ready, like a racehorse. He's the coolest person around. Tremendous concentration. Sometimes he gets a little mad at himself and he gets a little too tight, physically, but mentally he is perfect. He makes a mistake and forgets it. He doesn't let it bother him for two weeks, like it does other people. He goes right back up and the next time he does it right.
"The first time I ever saw Chuck, in a junior race, he didn't look any better than half the kids around. But I liked the way he made his own way, not asking anything of anybody. That showed determination and spirit. There was never any question what he was there for; he was there to win. He wanted to be better than anyone else. I think in the slalom, at least, he is. On a really steep hill, on hard, icy conditions, he's the best around."