Ski team carries on in North Amreica
BEAVER CREEK, Colo. – Some good, some bad as the alpine World Cup returned to North America. U.S. skiers had frustrating results in Colorado’s Rockies – but some solid skiing, too, from Winter Sports School alumnae Julia Mancuso, the Olympic giant slalom champion, and Resi Stiegler – and found biting, stinging, cover-my-face c-c-c-cold in the Canadian Rockies.
And now they’ve flipped race venues – the gents at Beaver Creek, Colo., for four World Cup races beginning Thursday while the gentles left Aspen and are in Lake Louise for two downhills and a super-G, starting Friday.
A raging snowstorm Tuesday wiped out the men’s downhill training for the VISA Birds of Prey races while the women were adjusting to what was expected to be icebox weather up north; the men raced Sunday in eight-below-zero weather (F) and the women were expected to get temperatures around -20 F (possibly -30 C.).
The Beaver Creek schedule calls for super combined Thursday with one run of downhill and a solo slalom sortie (vs. the traditional combined, which has two SL runs – and is the preferred format for Park City’s Olympic combined gold medalist, Ted Ligety, who scorches slalom courses). It’s downhill Friday, GS Saturday and slalom Sunday.
Ligety is still nursing a sore right hand after breaking a bone in his right index finger, but he said he’s amped by the atmosphere at Beaver Creek and loves the opportunity "to get the Europeans out of their comfort zone of racing at home."
For the women, it’s downhill Friday and Saturday, super-G Sunday. And then maybe back to Dollarado, land of the trophy homes and posh mountain playpens. WCSN.com is carrying streaming video coverage of all World Cup races this winter and, as always, live timing is available for each race at http://livetiming.usskiteam.com.
With a snow drought gripping most of Europe, the women’s races Dec. 9-10 in St. Moritz, Switzerland, were canceled last weekend while the men’s races for the same weekend in Val d’Isere, France, are expected to be called off today, the official weather control date. Under consideration were proposals to relocate the super combined from each site to either Aspen or Beaver Creek, provided sponsorship and TV arrangements can be completed; everyone was moving forward with the expectation Val d’Isere would pull the plug, too, paving the way – presupposing the financial mountain could be conquered – to keep many of the Europeans in Colorado (or bring the women back from Lake Louise) for a few more days.
Last weekend, the Sirius Satellite Aspen Winternational was held on mighty Ajax, but the snow was so low that organizers decided not to allow gate training to preserve the low snow cover. The tactic worked perfectly and the snow held each day.
Saturday – Kathrin Zettel, one of the rising stars for the Austrian women’s squad, collected her first World Cup victory, winning in 2:16.10 while Mancuso finished seventh (2:19.22) with Stiegler 20th. Stiegler started way back in 62nd but stormed the first run and just slid into the top-30 cutoff when two Austrians were disqualified; she skied first on the final run, scorched the hill for the seventh-fastest time and produced the best GS performance of her career. Meanwhile, Vermonter Jessica Kelley, who had moved to Park City during the off-season for a couple of years, was 15th in the first run and held on for her best result, too, coming in 22nd.
Mancuso said she’s being patient about returning from summertime surgery to repair a chronic problem in her right hip. "I’ll take a top 10 anytime," she beamed.
Sunday – Marlies Schild, who won the opening slalom of the season, made it 2-for-2 as she won again, this time in 1:43.18. Teammate Nicole Hosp, who also was second in the first SL of the winter, was timed in 1:43.98. The top U.S. result came from new Park City homeowner Lindsey Kildow, who was 16th with Mancuso 22nd and Stiegler 25th.
For the U.S. men, the first two speed races of the season were catch-up days – Marco Buechel of Liechtenstein won the DH Saturday by five-hundredths of a second over Canadian Manuel Osborne-Paradis with former Park City Ski Team racer Steve Nyman as the top Yank, finishing in a tie for 17th in single-digit (-15 C, +5 F) cold. Sunday, John Kucera, the 2005 NorAm downhill champ, was the upset winner – starting first, finishing first – with Bode Miller leading the Americans in 14th place.
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Buses, trains and gondolas doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but they make up the transit alternatives for the mountain transportation system the Central Wasatch Commission is trying to create, mostly in the Cottonwood canyons.