Young racers help keep Olympians on their toes at PCMR | ParkRecord.com

Young racers help keep Olympians on their toes at PCMR

Matthew Piper, USSA, Special to The Park Record

Aspiring ski racers joined training U.S. Olympic Team members at Park City Mountain Resort earlier this week in a best-of-both-worlds scenario for the U.S. Ski Team.

Technical specialists Will Brandenburg, Tommy Ford, Tim Jitloff, Nolan Kasper and Jake Zamansky are all Vancouver bound, but first they were the beneficiaries of some extra North American race action against top juniors and even some international rivals Monday through Wednesday at the Eagle Race Area.

"We wanted to up the intensity and create a race-rehearsal environment," said National Development System Director Walt Evans. "The worst thing that an athlete can do is go sit on their hands for two weeks."

The idea: Bring some of the nation’s most talented young racers to Park City to apply pressure to the training Olympians while identifying who might be on the next team in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

Evans registered the race with the International Ski Federation back in April and soon found the U.S. would have some company, after Sweden and Norway signed teams up for the four-race slate (two giants slaloms and two slaloms).

Fourth place in Torino in 2006, Sweden’s Andre Myhrer eared two seconds to go with first in the final slalom, while Jitloff won both giant-slalom races.

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"If anything, it’s just relaxing," Jitloff said Tuesday after wrapping up his second GS victory. "It’s almost like when you get comfort food when you’re away from home for too long. Same thing in skiing sometimes you need a comfort race.

"I’m happy to finally actually have some sunlight when I ski. It’s kind of nice. I’ve been on the tour in Europe and haven’t had a day where it’s been this sunny and warm in months."

And for the youth competitors, what could be better than racing alongside your idols as they prepare for the world’s biggest stage?

"It’s a pretty unique experience," said 20-year-old Park City Ski Team racer Charlie Reynolds. "There are some pretty good skiers here. It’s fun to watch them and compete against them. Nolan and Tommy are my age, so it’s really cool to watch them kill it."

The entire U.S. Alpine Men’s Team trained at PCMR before the Olympics, but the speedsters and all-arounders left for early training sessions while the technical specialists stayed behind in Park City, an obvious choice for an Olympic training venue.

"To be at home, to be on home snow home everything," said U.S. Technical Coach Rudi Soulard. "There was a long time between (the last World Cup race) and the Games. It’s always good to keep in race shape. Training is one thing and the race is something different. We try to minimize the gap between training and the race."

Much of the team stayed even longer because conditions were so good "it’s a mirror image to what they’re seeing at Whistler," Evans said and training opportunities are rare at the Olympics. The team members also trained at USSA’s Center of Excellence, although not in high volume.

"It’s nice, low-key training great hill, good conditions, consistent weather," said Ford, a 20-year-old from Bend, Ore. "It’s nice to have people around, friends around, to go to a race like this in front of people who are excited."

Twelve workers from USSA joined 12 from the Park City Ski Team and five from Park City Mountain Resort for race setup, getting considerable help and input from the U.S. coaches. Evans said the prices were extremely affordable for North America, and feedback from everybody was "outstanding."

"When we put on a race, we put it on whether it’s at the very rudimentary level, right up to World Cup," said Park City Mountain Resort Equipment Manager Robin Dark, who said preparation for the course begins before the ski season starts. "We have the same product all the time, and it’s always hopefully a good one."

The Olympic giant slalom is scheduled for Sunday at 11 a.m. MT on Whistler Creekside’s Dave Murray run, with slalom on Saturday, Feb. 27.