While you won't see superstars Lindsey Vonn and Ted Ligety here quite yet, local training has commenced at Golden Peak and Copper Mountain, with the speedsters training downhill at Copper and the technical specialists hitting gates right here at Golden Peak starting this morning.Copper Mountain hosted a group of U.S. Ski Team members, including Olympic bronze medalist Andrew Wiebrecht and Nor-Am overall winner Julia Ford, on Wednesday for the opening of the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center at Copper; today, technical racers, including Will Brandenburg and David Chodounsky, will head over to Golden Peak Competition Center to begin slalom and giant-slalom training.The Wednesday opening of theU.S. Ski Team Speed Center at Copperis a benchmark accomplishment for the new downhill training facility, now in its second season. Last year, USSA gave a glowing endorsement of Copper's improvements to the former training runs - which were still used by the U.S. Ski Team - saying the new, longer and steeper slopes made it the best November downhill training center in the world. However, last year, uncooperative weather and other delays postponed the opening until mid-November. "Being here now is a huge advantage for us," Ford said. "We'll have top-to-bottom training runs the whole month of November."With Copper as an optimal speed training facility for the U.S. Ski Team, Golden Peak in Vail represents the other side of that coin, with its world-class technical training grounds.In anticipation of the U.S. Ski Team's arrival here this week, workers in Vail have been tirelessly prepping the multimillion-dollar facility.Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Operations Manager C.B. Bechtel is among those hard at work."On Monday, we started grooming the hill out, getting the snow where we need it and getting a good surface on it," Bechtel said. "We've been blowing snow at every opportunity we can since Oct. 1."Bechtel said approximately 70 ski teams will visit Golden Peak over the next month or so, with more than 20 national teams included."Twenty-two to 25 different nations will be sending their actual national team to train," he said. "In November, every top ski racer in the world will train on Golden Peak. So if you love ski racing, this is the place to be."With the only men's World Cup event in the U.S. also being right here in the Vail Valley at Beaver Creek, Nov. 30-Dec. 2, ski team members such as DavidChodounskyfeel right at home training at Golden Peak."It's awesome. You get the home feeling, you don't have to feel as much like you're traveling out of a suitcase, and you can watch football on Sunday," Chodounsky said. "We were always in Vail for races in high school, so it's very familiar for me."Chodounsky may present a special case for feeling right at home here in Colorado, since the Crested Butte resident grew up skiing the familiar slopes of the Centennial State, but he's not alone in enjoying more of the comforts of home while training locally."Anytime we're in the U.S., it's like home territory, which just makes the whole process a lot easier," Marco Sullivan said. "And at Beaver Creek, the great thing is having the fans there and the family and friends. ... Whether you win or lose, you're still going to go have a beer at the Coyote (Cafe)."Ski Team press officer Doug Haney said all-star GS skier Ted Ligety feels pretty comfortable in Levi, Finland, the site of the next World Cup event, a slalom on Nov. 11. Ligety will stay in Levi through that date before heading back here to Vail, where he'll begin training at Golden Peak."Obviously, he's skiing pretty well right now," Haney said.Ligety won the first World Cup event of the season, a GS in Soelden, Austria, by 2.73 seconds, the largest margin of victory in that event in 34 years.Ligety is expected to be preceded in his arrival to Vail by Lindsey Vonn, who is scheduled to get to the valley Nov. 9.
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