An interview with Al Kraus, veteran Bristol Mountain Ski Patroller and Bristol Mountain Slush Cup Staple.
Q. Being an expert fly fisherman how would you compare your work fishing people out of the pond to pulling fish out of the river?
As an ardent fly fisherman, I have had a lot of experience walking around rivers in chest-waders, which has certainly made me particularly qualified to help fish people out of the pond. Often when I am fly fishing, I release a fish after I catch it so it can swim another day. Similarly, after I fish one of these brave participants out of the pond, I release them so they can come back and try it again next year.
Q. How many years have you been helping with the Slush Cup?
I do not recall exactly how many years I have been volunteering to help assist and protect the participants in the Slush Cup, but I believe I have been helping ever since Bristol Mountain first started to make this an annual tradition. It is very important to have two Ski Patrollers, with chest-waders, working at the pond; my partner for the past several years has been Sam Zebelman.
Q. What’s your favorite memory from the Slush Cup?
My favorite memory each year from the Slush Cup is the overall party atmosphere that surrounds this annual event — all the contestants coming down the mountain in high spirits to challenge the icy cold waters of the pond (some in very creative costumes) and all the cheering spectators surrounding the pond. One of my favorite contestants was a very brave young girl who decided to give it a try; however, she kept checking her speed and checking her speed all the way down the hill as she moved towards the pond. Consequently, by the time she got to the edge of the pond she was going so slowly that she just barely went off the edge of the ramp and ended up standing upright on her skis just about three feet into the pond.
Q. What’s your strategy on fishing people out of the pond?
Our main strategy is to fish participants out of the water as quickly and safely as possible. We also frequently search for and fish skis out of the water; we use a boat hook to help us accomplish this task without sticking our arms down into the icy water. We watch all the participants very closely as they approach the pond and if it looks like they are going too slow to make it very far, we start moving towards them even before they come to the edge of the pond. By the end of the day we are often quite wet from all the huge splashes that are sent up by the participants.
Q. What are your tips for success for making it across the pond?
Two of the most important things for making it all the way across the pond are: A.) Come in fast enough so you have enough momentum to carry you all the way across the pond — you do not want to come in so hot that you lose control when you hit the water, but you also don’t want to check your speed too much as you approach the pond. B.) Aim to go straight across the pond, and when you come off the entry ramp keep your weight balanced, tips up slightly, and skis/board flat (side to side).
Q. What’s your advice for a successful Slush Cup run?
Beyond the tips given above, a big factor is “attitude”. Once you decide to participate, fully commit yourself and approach the pond with a positive attitude; think like you are going to make it all the way across the pond. However, in the end, the most important thing about the Slush Cup is having fun trying something that is challenging to accomplish and takes a lot of moxy to try. Best of luck if you decide to try it in the years ahead; I will be there to help you if you do.