BEAVER CREEK - Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal Likes Beaver Creek - and more than one would think.
Svindal's won three times at the Birds of Prey World Cup: Super-combined in 2006 and the downhill and super-G in 2008. When he doesn't win, the two-time overall World Cup champion is a constant in the top 10 here.
But fond memories of 2007?
"I do have good memories," Svindal said. "The crazy thing is, even from 2007, I have good memories. If I was going to crash hard and go to hospital, this is a good place to do it. I like this place, not that I want to go to hospital. It's a very good hospital."
That 2007 Birds of Prey appearance was brief one. Svindal went off Golden Eagle Jump and crashed, ending his season. The Norwegian broke his cheek in three places, as well as his nose.
More critical was that the blade of his ski cut into his leg, doing extensive damage. At the time, doctors had to go in through his abdomen to repair those muscles in his leg.
That wasn't exactly a scrapbook moment.
Svindal recovered triumphantly from that crash, showing no ill effects. In his first time back at Birds of Prey during the late fall of 2008, all he did was win the downhill and super-G on back-to-back days. That helped him win his second overall title in three years at that point, and, as he returns here, he looks poised for No. 3.
After a DNF in the traditional season-opener in October in the giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, Svindal crushed last weekend's stop in Lake Louise, Alberta. He won the downhill and super-G on back-to-back days. The accompanying 200 World Cup points vaulted him into the overall lead, and while it's early, those points count as much now as they do in March during the World Cup Finals.
"It just seems like the equipment is running well and I'm fit and physically, too," Svindal said. "I don't get that tired when I ski. It seems like that could be a good thing too through the season. It seems like I could use a little less energy for every race."
That's a good thing. The World Cup tour is grueling with its traveling. It's even more so when one is pursuing the overall. Fitness is a must and Svindal definitely qualifies as a workout phenom. And life's even better for him now that he feels healthy.
"If you're healthy and you can work hard, that's actually fun," he said. "If you're injured and you have to do alternative stuff, it can be boring. But if you can work hard, and you can still go biking, running and do a lot of other stuff too - lifting, surfing, sailing. If you have a full day of activities, then you get your two hours of workouts, and six hours of activities afterward, it ends up being fun."
And, for the record, when it comes to surfing, Svindal's girlfriend, aka Julia Mancuso of the U.S. Ski Team, still has the upper hand.
Svindal's latest hobby in the water is actually stand-up paddling. He enjoys heading to Maui or the waters off Norway and Sweden for SUP.
"I actually do more stand-up, actually," he said. "You can catch big waves with that. I feel you can catch more waves. Plus, I really like the challenge of keeping your balance when there's no waves, between sets. That's like training right there, staying on the board."
While there's no word of whether he'll be making and appearance on Gore Creek come the Mountain Games this summer, Svindal is happy to be here for this weekend's events.
"I think it's more the snow than the course," he said. "The climate here is more similar to Scandinavia than the Alps and the rest of Europe. Just the conditions are more similar to where I ski as a kid."
It shows. He was fifth in training Wednesday and a casual 17th Thursday. And he knows after last weekend, that most of the field will be watching him.
"It's good. I have had confidence before. It's better than it's been for a few years," Svindal said. "You always try to have good confidence and attack the course because that what it takes to win."
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.