It is hard enough to spot downhiller Stacey Cook on a downhill course.
Mammoth’s Olympic downhiller is by you in a whoosh—a split-second of wind and snow, set against an audible backdrop of oohs and aahs.
But last week, she outdid herself.
With a roar of jet engines, Cook and Olympic teammate Kelly Clark buzzed by Mammoth Mountain in a U.S. Navy fighter jet from Fallon, Nev., leaving her and Clark as exhausted as a downhill race or a day in the halfpipe.
“The intensity of this flight was well beyond what I thought my limit would be,” said Cook, who finished last season’s World Cup Tour ranked 10th in the world in women’s downhill.
“We hit six Gz, did huge loops, twists, turns and dove to 500 feet above a road.
“I train six to seven hours every day, but I was totally exhausted after just an hour and a half of flying. It’s amazing what the pilot’s body can handle. Boa was my pilot and he was incredible.”
The equipment was a Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet. They went supersonic. They went from 0-180 miles an hour in less than 15 seconds.
“This flight was the only thing I’ve ever experienced that is above the level of intensity and adrenaline you get in racing downhill,” she said.
But there was one big difference.
“As athletes, we’re incredibly tuned to what our bodies are doing while competing. But during this flight, there were so many times where I had no idea where we were in space.”
To make the flight, Cook and Clark had to complete a two-day training session that included a condensed Aviation Physiology and Survival Training course. They also got to hang out with sailors stationed on the base and spent time with families at the base teen center.
The highlight, so to speak, was in buzzing around Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, clearly audible throughout town.
The 90-minute flight, which hit forces of six Gz and topped out at 40,000 feet, was organized by the U.S. Navy as a way for the athletes to share their Olympic experiences with the sailors and families based at Fallon.
It was, Cook said, as athletic an endeavor that she’s been through lately.