Ligety looks forward to new season | ParkRecord.com

Ligety looks forward to new season

Paul Robbins, Special to the Record

Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety – on new skis and sporting his own brand of goggles – figures to finally get his 2007 season underway Sunday on a tricky course a couple hours north of the Arctic Circle.

After weather deleted the original season opener Oct. 28-29 on an Austrian glacier, the women race slalom today in Levi, Finland – a World Cup venue they’ve been to twice in recent years, with two slaloms each time – and the men’s race Sunday. Then everyone heads to North America for races in Colorado and the Canadian Rockies. Park City’s Olympic champ will skip the downhill and super-G in Lake Louise over Thanksgiving weekend, but he’ll return to Beaver Creek, where he earned the first podium of his World Cup career, a year ago.

But, first things first – and that means Lappland this weekend. Since the men have never has raced in Levi, Ligety looked at some video from there before leaving Tuesday from the U.S. Ski Team’s training camp at Keystone, Colo.

"I’m not sure how it’ll play out. I’ve just watched the women’s races out of curiosity," he said. "It seems like a moderate hill, and that should be pretty good for me. I’m good on the flats. I don’t expect it to be super icy, but I’m excited for the start of the season.

"It was kind of a bummer with losing Soelden, but now we’ll get going…and that’s good. I think everyone’s ready to race."

For the Park City Farm Team, then Park City Ski Team and Winter Sports School grad, the year may be different, but the goal remains: "My main goal is to win races," he said by phone from Keystone, where the U.S. Ski Team is encamped in a unique deal with the resort for exclusive training on its North Peak.

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"I’d like to be top-three overall in slalom and in giant slalom…but my top priority is to win. If I do that, any other stuff will come along naturally," he reasoned.

Ligety did some one-pole and no-poles training at Keystone, adapting to the broken right index finger he suffered last month when his hand smacked the bottom of gate in training.

"I didn’t need surgery – it’s just slightly displaced, and actually now it’s pretty stable. I’m not wearing a cast but I do wear a brace to remind myself it’s hurt and I shouldn’t be doing anything stupid," he said. "I should be close to 100 percent in Levi."

Ligety, 23, has been busy since the end of the Olympic winter. He’s moved into a new house in Park City, he switched to Rossignol equipment – and has adjusted nicely, he says – and, among other things, helped design a new line of ski goggles, "Shred," a nice spinoff from his nickname, "Ted Shred." ("Ligety Split," as so many media have been prone to write, leaves him shaking his head, roll is eyes…and grimacing; "Ted Shred" gets a smile, perhaps because it’s more reflective of his attacking, on-course style.)

He was heralded for his pink Uvex goggles in the last couple of seasons, so Ligety will be wearing pink Shred goggles this winter – with one distinctive change, an argyle strap.

"It was just kind of an idea this summer, we were talking about it…me and Carlo [Salmini, who represents SlyTech shin guards and arm guards, which Ligety uses], and I said I liked it but I didn’t have the time. So we decided to partner on it – I’ve worked with Carlo the last two years and he’s a good guy. He found a company in Italy, I made the designs and we’ve just gotten it finalized and we’re talking to possible distributors."

Shred is becoming an official U.S. Ski Team supplier and, in addition to pink goggles with the argyle strap, will feature green, white and blue goggles, too. "I had the ideas," he said, "but I hadn’t thought of how to make it happen, but I’m psyched with where it’s gone so quickly."

Ligety, who was sponsored last season by Park City Mountain Resort, has just signed with The Mount Holly Club, a private ski area under construction in southern Utah.

He’s also redesigning his Web site, http://www.tedligety.com , with the same person who put together Steve Nyman’s site, http://www.nymansworld.com .

But those are side issues. Right now, Ligety is totally focused on letting things rip Sunday in Levi. He’s pleased with where he’s at – "I think I’m a little ahead of last year, even with the hand thing; that’s been just a hiccup…and now I’m anxious to race."

Online coverage of the races will be available Saturday and Sunday at noon on http://www.wcsn.com , which is planning total World Cup coverage for a dirt-cheap monthly fee this winter – not just alpine but freestyle, cross-country, jumping, Nordic combined and snowboarding.