Someone to look for on the lifts

Errol Kerr: Pride of Truckee and … Jamaica!

CAN’T-MISS PROSPECT<br>Truckee resident Errol Kerr hopes to ski in the 2010 Winter Olympics for the land of his father.

Truckee resident Errol Kerr hopes to ski in the 2010 Winter Olympics for the land of his father.

Photo By rich adams

Skicross: Downhill racing down a steep course, head to head, with the winners going on to the next heat, and the losers going home. It’s bumps, jumps, sharp-banked turns and the thrill of a real race to the finish, where the goal isn’t to beat some unseen clock, but three to five other racers who are also skiing at close to 60 miles an hour and breathing down your neck.

Skicross is poles flying like daggers, skis getting stepped on, racers bumping and crashing into each other. It’s like BMX racing in the winter for thrill seekers who love the adventure of congested competition. It’s like a small group of friends, who just happen to be world class skiers, getting off the chairlift and racing full speed (ski patrol be damned) to the bottom of the hill.

In 2010, for the first time, skicross will be an official event at the Winter Olympics. One to watch is someone you just might bump into on the slopes: 22-year-old Errol Kerr from Truckee, among the best ski crossers in the world and the best hope of the Jamaican Ski Team.

That’s right, the Jamaican Ski Team.

Errol’s mother, Catherine Kerr, was vacationing in Jamaica when she met the man who would become Errol’s father. The couple left Jamaica and moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., but Errol says that “[my] father couldn’t handle life in the U.S., and he returned to Jamaica when I was just 1 year old.” His mother decided the best move would be to the Bay Area to live with her parents.

Errol’s grandparents, John and Virginia Fuller, had a second home near Sugar Bowl on Donner Summit. The family took frequent trips to the cabin, and Errol’s mother and grandmother, both former ski racers, began to teach him to ski when he was just 4. It didn’t take Errol long to start loving the mountains, and when he was 9, he convinced his mother to move from the Bay Area to Truckee.

In the summer, Errol raced BMX bikes and motocross. In the winter, since his friends were snowboarding, he tried that out. Then, Kerr says, “one day I was watching a downhill ski race when I decided that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.” He started racing and training at Squaw Valley with future Olympians like Marco Sullivan and Julia Mancuso.

Skicross, however, was an event perfectly designed for someone with his background. Kerr became a member of the U.S. Freestyle Team, which includes skicross, in 2007, and he notched a surprising top-five finish in his first Winter X-Games skicross competition at Aspen in 2008.

He is ranked second in the United States, No. 24 in the world, and is finally obtaining the sponsorships that should enable him to make it to the Olympics. A prime sponsor is Alpine Meadows Ski Area in Tahoe City. “We are thrilled to support Errol … and provide Alpine as his primary training ground,” said Alpine Meadows general manager Jim Kercher.

While nominated to become a member of the U.S. Ski Team again this year, Kerr has a different idea. His father died when he was 14, and he feels that forming the Jamaican Ski Team—and, more importantly, becoming successful as a member of that team—would honor his father’s legacy. This winter, the team is scheduled to take on a full World Cup schedule of races, including the World Championships in Japan, all in preparation for the Olympics.

Kerr says his decision is like “stepping off the cruise ship of the U.S. Ski Team into the little dinghy that is the Jamaican Ski Team … but I am not alone in the dinghy. I have the whole island of Jamaica, a great big family, supporting me.”