MOUNT ALLAN, ALBERTA -- Pirmin Zurbriggen didn't know it, but I was on the mountain -- on skis, just like him -- at the same moment he was the other day.

He was starting from near the top of the dangerous downhill course on a run that is called Eagle Tail at the Nakiska Ski Resort.

I was starting on the other side of the mountain, heading down an intermediate trail called Whoop-up.

I must have had a good 100-yard head start.

Zurbriggen got to the bottom in 1 minute 46.90 seconds.

I got down in 22 minutes.

In my defense, he took a much more direct route.

In his defense, he is a little faster than I am on skis.

An occasional skier, I brought my ski boots with me to Calgary on the outside chance I might get to ski at Banff when the Olympics ended. But when I came to Nakiska, an hour's drive west of Calgary, to cover Alpine skiing, I was surprised to see spectators on skis. I thought the mountain would be closed to everyone but Olympians. That was not the case.

So, on a slow day in which only the downhill portion of the men's Alpine combined event was run, I decided to get involved in some participatory journalism.

The day before, Zurbriggen took on the mountain in the downhill. Now, it was my turn.

.At the top of the mountain, the runs were nearly abandoned because everyone was getting into position to watch the event. There were certain guidelines, like don't ski the downhill run. No problem, I said. Drops at angles of 60-70 degrees are not what I'm used to on the slopes.

I found several clear, sparkling trails beside the runs in use for the Olympics that day, and spent two hours skiing them. Whoop-up, I later realized, is the course for the men's giant slalom Feb. 25. No gates were up. It seemed smooth and relatively easy. It was no bunny hill, but I've certainly skied tougher trails.

At times, Olympic skiers passed by on other courses, especially women's downhillers practicing their run. Their speed was incredible. I might as well have been standing still.

Soon, the public address announcer was calling out the names of some of the earlier men's skiers, and I realized I had better get down the mountain and get to work. I felt like a kid having to come in for dinner on a warm summer evening. I wasn't perfect on my run, but yesterday neither was Zurbriggen. At least we have something in common.