The FIS World Cup returns to Deer Valley and runs Feb. 6 through Feb. 8
Next week the world’s best freestyle skiers will descend upon Park City to participate in the Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International Ski World Cup at Deer Valley Resort.
Beginning on Thursday Feb. 6 and concluding on Saturday, Feb. 8, the crowd will be treated to a combination of moguls, aerials and dual moguls for free.
As the only domestic World Cup stop for the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, the competition will serve as a homecoming for the Americans, most of whom live in Utah.
“The team is so excited for this event because it’s a local one, and adding to the excitement is that it’s the first event of the season for us,” said Vlad Lebedev, U.S. aerials coach. “We are excited, but we’ll just have to see how it goes. Our training has gone pretty well, although it’s been long without a competition. … But everyone is ready to get out there and fight for the podium.”
Among those competing will be American star Winter Vinecki, a former star runner as a youth who has turned herself into one of the better aerials skiers in the world.
“I had no idea about aerials growing up in northern Michigan before moving to Salem, Oregon, where I took up running,” Vinecki said. “I don’t remember exactly when I figured out about aerials. … I think it was around the time before I came out to Park City to try the sport. But once I did, I was hooked and loved it. … And now it’s taken me all around the world. “
Prior to ever flying through the air, Vinecki set two world records before she turned 15. She was the youngest person to ever run a marathon on seven continents, as well as being half of the first ever mother-daughter duo to achieve the feat as her mom participated as well.
But now Vinecki is all in on aerials, and her 2020 World Cup season is expected to start this upcoming week. Her first competition of the season came on the NorAm Tour — or U.S. selections — right before Christmas 2019, where she took second place on both days.
“It’s still the beginning of the new season so it’s really hard to tell where you’re at from a competitive standpoint, but I feel really good after U.S. selections,” Vinecki said. “But since then, all I’ve been doing is training and getting ready for Deer Valley. It’s still like any other World Cup because you still want to do well, but it’s definitely a bit more comforting knowing we are competing on home soil.”
Vinecki’s journey on the snow has been one filled with triumphs and tribulations.
She started out with a bang in 2012 on the NorAm tour, finishing with five top-10 finishes. As the years of hard work began to manifest in more successful competitions, Vinecki broke out in 2016.
That year is considered her “coming out party,” as she won three NorAm events, securing the Grand Prix Title and landing her spot on the U.S. national ski team. She then competed at the Deer Valley World Cup for the first time in 2017, and has been a staple figure on the World Cup circuit ever since then.
“This will be my third time ever competing at the World Cup in Deer Valley, and the one thing I can always count on is the crowds. … They’re incredible,” Vinecki said. “I was out for the 2018 season with a torn ACL injury, and then followed that up with a really good season in 2019. I’m excited to be healthy and can’t wait for that intensity of the event. … And I’m ready for it.”
But Vinecki is quick to point out that although competing at home may be seen as a plus, it can also add to the pressure. According to her, it’s more special to podium on home soil so as local athletes, they want it that much more. Even still, the positives far outweigh the negatives of added pressure.
“You’re surrounded by a lot of family and friends, you get to sleep in your own bed, no time zone traveling and you’ve trained on sites. … So many positives,” Vinecki said. “With us being at Deer Valley, there can definitely be a bit more pressure but that can also make it more exciting. It’s definitely more fun with a big crowd of people we all know because you feel like you have that extra support.”
For Lebedev, he’s not sure what he’s looking for out of Vinecki and his other athletes — he just knows he wants to get the season started after the delay and cancellation of an earlier event.
“I feel like we have a chance to get to the podium, but we just want to get the season started and get some points finally,” he said. “I don’t know who sill step up but it will be exciting to find out. … But as with anything you need a little bit of luck to get to the top. We are ready though.”
The moguls competition takes place on Thursday evening, with aerials on Friday and dual moguls finishing up on Saturday.
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The Miners had no trouble on homecoming, dispatching the visiting Ogden Tigers 48-3 for their second straight region victory.