BEAVER CREEK — The word to describe the downhill course the world’s fastest skiers are racing on Friday may not even be a word.
“Turny” seemed to be the description of choice for the 2013 men’s downhill course after skiers got a chance to preview it in training Thursday.
With two weeks of World Cup racing at Beaver Creek beginning in November this season, the resort was forced to forgo “North America’s Downhill” — the normal men’s World Cup downhill course — for a course that included a portion of the women’s, as the task of preparing two completely separate downhill courses this early in the season simply wasn’t possible. A hybrid course was designated for both ladies’ and men’s competitions, comprised of the upper half of the new Raptor ladies’ race course and the bottom half of the traditional men’s Birds of Prey course. In the end, it will be only the men using the hybrid course as Beaver Creek crews were able to get the full-length women’s course ready in time for last week’s competition.
“It doesn’t feel anything like the normal course,” Bode Miller, who won North America’s Downhill on the regular course in 2011, said of this year’s hybrid. “It’s really turny, but they’re different turns. The (normal course) turns are linked together, single-gate, really hard fall-line turns, and (the hybrid course) turns are really traversing across the hill, huge, swinging turns. It’s a different hill now, certainly.”
The winner of Thursday’s training runs, Erik Guay of Canada, said the course was indeed different than he was expecting.
“It’s not quite as challenging as the Birds of Prey course, but it’s certainly not an easy course by any means,” he said. “ ... It’s got some challenging sections to it.”
Sweden’s Aksel Lund Svindal finished second in the Birds of Prey downhill last year. He said while he loves the normal course, the hybrid is challenging, as well.
“It’s a little different than what we are used to, it’s a lot of turns,” he said. “I think the other course is one of the most spectacular downhill courses in the world, and I don’t think any other one is as cool as that one, but this is a tough course ... it’s not an easy course.”
Svindal said he was disappointed with his performance in Thursday’s training run, where he finished 23rd with a time of 1:44.54, and offered the following advice to the rest of his team after that run.
“You have to be early on the new ski all the time, because it’s turny and you need good switches from ski to ski, have a good rhythm.”
The top performer on the American side, Travis Ganong, said the women’s course section will be a decider in the event.
“There’s three single turns and then it goes into three double-gate turns, and after that last single and into the two doubles,” he said. “It’s really blind, you can’t see any of the gates, so it’s hard to know when to transition into the next turn. That’s definitely the key section, because if you’re able to pull those turns off well and go on that last traverse high and without finding all the bumps, you can carry all your speed on the flat. That’s kind of how you’re going to win on this hill.”