BEAVER CREEK — For ski racing fans, Birds of Prey will be the center of the universe for two straight weeks this year.
With the World Alpine Ski Championships coming to the Vail Valley in 2015, the U.S. leg of the International Ski Federation calendar will look fairly different than in years past due to the women’s 2015 World Championships test event, which will run just prior to the annual men’s Birds of Prey World Cup at Beaver Creek.
The original plan was to have the women’s event run after the men’s World Cup, but the calendar was changed to have the women go before the men in an effort to keep the European teams from having to spend too much time in North America in December.
As a result, both the men and the women will likely race on the same downhill course, a hybrid of both the men’s and the women’s courses, starting with the women’s course at the top of the run and crossing over into the men’s course for the second half.
“They had no choice,” said former World Cup racer and Vail Valley resident Patrik Jaerbyn, who sits on the board of directors for the 2015 organizing committee. “There’s no way you can have two full downhill tracks ready in the beginning of December.”
So a compromise was made to have both the men and the women race on the same downhill course.
“This course solution will feature the top half of the new Raptor ladies’ course and the bottom half of the Birds of Prey men’s course for all races,” said John Dakin, a spokesperson for the 2015 local organizing committee.
Since racers must have a few training runs in before the actual competition, the first women’s downhill training run will occur on Nov. 26, one day before the mountain begins its regular operations for the 2013-14 season.
Training runs will go for three days before the official runs of the World Championship test event commence on Nov. 29. More of an exhibition than an actual World Cup event, the results won’t count toward the women’s World Cup points, but will still serve as a nice indicator of how things are shaping up for the 2013-14 season and beyond.
The women’s event wraps up on Dec. 1, and the men will then begin training runs two days later on Dec. 3. Men will race super-G on Dec. 6, downhill on Dec. 7 and giant slalom on Dec. 8. The downhill courses won’t be the exact same, as the gates will be in different places, but for the men used to racing on “America’s Downhill,” as the Beaver Creek course is known, this year will be a new experience.
However, there is at least one factor that could get the men back on the course to which they’re accustomed.
“If Mother Nature is incredibly generous with early season snow, this plan may change,” said Doug Haney, of the U.S. Ski Team.