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Birds of Prey flashback: Lindsey Vonn returns home

Lindsey Vonn races to a bronze medal during the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships on Feb. 6, 2015, in Beaver Creek (AP file photo/Alessandro Trovati)

In some ways, it’s hard to believe it’s been five years since Beaver Creek and Birds of Prey hosted the 2015 FIS Alpine World Championships. It feels like it’s been five years since March and the outbreak of COVID-19.

Yet some of the moments are still fresh even now, most particularly the roar of the crowd as Ted Ligety came down to win the giant slalom or Mikaela Shiffrin not reacting in the moments after she crossed the finish line of the slalom.

The 2015 championships were a rousing success for Birds of Prey and Raptor, the women’s course built for this event. The weather cooperated — except for postponing the opening women’s super-G and making what turned out to be a hilarious mess of the men’s combined.

Most importantly, from a fan’s perspective, the United States Ski Team represented itself in fine fashion. Of course, Austria led the way with five golds, three silvers and one bronze, but the USA was second with two wins, a silver and two bronzes.

For all who were here the last time Vail/Beaver Creek hosted worlds in 1999 that was quite a refreshing change. Throughout the 1999 championships, the Vail Daily ran a medal box on its front page. The Americans were conspicuously absent from said chart with Chad Fleischer’s sixth-place in the men’s downhill being their best showing.

“The Star Spangled Banner” would ring out on home snow at the 2015 championships.

Worlds come in phases and the first phase was Lindsey Vonn. The championships are awarded five years before they happen, so 2015 worlds, in some ways, were built for her as a showcase.

Of course, five years are a long time in ski racing, so a lot had happened to Vonn, most notably a catastrophic right-leg injury at 2013 worlds in Schladming, Austria. Though Vonn still had what would be a career winning 23 of her 82 World Cups after essentially breaking everything in her right knee — American teammate Ted Ligety is still sitting on 25 — she wasn’t the same.

As much Vonn fans wanted the triumphant-hero-returns ending, it wasn’t happening. After Austria’s Hannes Reichelt won the opening men’s super-G, Vonn took bronze for the ladies with Austria’s Anna Fenninger winning gold and Croatia’s Tina Maze in second.

As it turned out, Fenninger and Maze, not Vonn, were the women’s stars (with one exception in slalom). Fenninger, now known as Veith, struck gold in the super-G and giant slalom, while Maze capped her career with wins in the downhill and the combined.

Nonetheless, the first week was the Lindsey Vonn Show. Her then-boyfriend, Tiger Woods, was there to watch and he elicited roars when he was shown on the big screen in the finish area.

She took fifth in the downhill, again a good result, but not what she wanted. And to her credit she competed in the combined (DNF) and the giant slalom (14th), even through because of her injuries she had not trained GS or slalom before worlds.

Travis Ganong shows off his silver medal from the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. (AP file photo/Francis Bompard, Pool)

Phase II was the first weekend as the men took over Birds of Prey for the downhill and the combined. Switzerland’s Patrick Kung nipped America’s Travis Ganong for the win in downhill. That was America’s first medal in a downhill at worlds since Daron Rahlves and Bode Miller went 1-2 in 2005 in Bormio, Italy.

Also in the downhill, no Austrian finished in the top 10. An Austrian ski official declared that performance to be “a national disaster.” Yes, Austria takes ski racing too seriously because, in reality, the collapse of the Hapsburgs and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was slightly more of a national disaster than not finishing in the top 10.

The good news for Austria is that it would win the next day in the combined, but in an unorthodox manner. That Sunday was a beautiful day, too beautiful.

Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud won the morning downhill, which was all well and good until the course melted. Austria’s Marcel Hirscher and Ligety finished 30th and 29th, respectively, in the downhill portion of the combined, meaning they would be the first two racers out of the flip for the slalom.

That was a huge break. Though more than 3 seconds back, Hirscher and Ligety took advantage of a firm track, soaring to surprising first- and third-place finishes, while those running later — Jansrud staggered to silver — had to ski through mush.

While the day of the men’s combined was more suited to spring break than a race held on Feb. 7, the weather would cool and more memories would be made in Week No. 2.

Radamus, Gile get World Cup starts Sunday

No, they won’t be the highest profile American ski racers starting the season. That honor probably belongs to Ted Ligety when the men’s World Cup kicks off in Soelden, Austria, on Sunday.

But locals and Ski & Snowboard Club Vail products River Radamus and Bridger Gile will be in the start house for the first World Cup race of the season.

The provenance of a ski racer often comes from multiple bloodlines, but there is absolutely no question about Radamus’ origins. He is SSCV through and through. His father, Aldo, was a coach and eventually the executive director of the club. River grew up racing for the club.

Young Radamus, now 22, made his World Cup debut at the 2017 Birds of Prey giant slalom and, one year later, wowed the crowd by almost making the flip in the GS.

Later in December 2018, Radamus earned his first World Cup points by finishing 24th in a GS in Alta Badia, Italy. Radamus capped 2018-19 by finishing 19th at the World Cup finals super-G in Soldeu, Andorra.

Last season, Radamus broke into the points again in Alta Badia, taking 14th in a parallel GS.

Gile, who started in Aspen, but transferred to SSCV during his high school years, is making his first World Cup start Sunday. The 21-year-old capped last season on a high note, with a win at junior nationals at Snowbasin, Utah, in giant-slalom and a second-place finish in the super-G.

With both relative youngsters in their careers, they will have to surge from the back of the pack to make the top 30 out of the morning run to qualify for a second run. For either Gile or Radamus, making the flip and scoring World Cup points would be a tremendous result.

The first run of the men’s GS will be at 2 a.m. Rocky Mountain time with the second at 5:15 a.m. NBC Sports Gold will be streaming the second run.

FIS cancels 2020-21 North American ski races, including Birds of Prey at Beaver Creek

In the news release Thursday morning, FIS cited “protecting health and welfare of all participants to the best extent possible” as its objective with the decision to cancel its races in North America this season.
Photo courtesy of the Vail Valley Foundation

The cowbells won’t be clanging at Beaver Creek in December and Mikaela Shiffrin won’t get to ski on American snow, either, at her favorite venue after the International Ski Federation announced Thursday morning that it is canceling its North American ski races for the 2020-21 season and keeping its World Cup competitions in Europe. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic prompted the cancellations.

The move means Beaver Creek’s famed Birds of Prey track, a regular tour stop for two decades, won’t host the men’s circuit for its regular downhill, super-G and giant slalom races during the first week of December.

The men will also lose the speed weekend in Lake Louise, Canada, planned for Nov. 25-29. World Cup organizers plan to return to these sites for the 2021-22 season. For the women, the cancellations impact the giant slalom and slalom events at Killington Vermont, planned for Nov. 28-29, and the speed week in Lake Louise, planned for Dec. 1-6.

In a FIS news release Thursday morning, organizers cited “protecting health and welfare of all participants to the best extent possible” as its objective with the decision.

“The desire and motivation to hold these races as scheduled for all parties was strong,” said Markus Waldner, FIS men’s chief race director, in a news release Thursday morning. “The training set-up and races in USA and Canada are very much appreciated by the teams. But ultimately, the unique logistics and situation for the early season alpine races has current travel restrictions and corresponding quarantine regulations in both directions, which led to this joint decision.”

Shiffrin, the two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time World Cup overall champion who grew up in the Vail Valley but also attended high school at Vermont’s Burke Mountain Academy, took to her social media feeds on Thursday morning to weigh in on the cancellations.

“I think by now everyone probably knows that Killington is my favorite race,” she wrote. “It’s such a pleasure to be able to race in the U.S., and race in the East Coast with those East Coast fans screaming. It’s also such a joy to see so many young ski racers in our nation there to cheer us all on. It’s been amazing, and I am going to really miss it this year.”

She added: “So, this is a bummer, however — it’s going to feel so incredible next year to race in Killington, to have some sense of normalcy, and to get back to all of the things we love to do. There’s a lot to do now, so that we can get to that point. We are so happy and lucky to be able to ski race this year at all. And, it’ll be that much sweeter when we can come back.”

‘Definitely disappointing’

Joe Griffith, assistant general manager of the Beaver Creek slopeside Chophouse, heard the news Thursday from one of his bartenders.

“It’s definitely disappointing,” he said. “Especially for us because we’re right at the base of the mountain. It’s sad.”

Griffith has been with the Chophouse for six years and has seen busy weeks over the years during Birds of Prey week.

“I want our ski season to be as profitable and as normal as possible,” Griffith said. “We want everyone to be safe and have a safe season.”

Birds of Prey history

In 1999, the Birds of Prey racecourse made its debut at the World Championships in front of 20,000 fans, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, after the 1989 World Championships helped put Vail and Beaver Creek on the world stage.

In one summer, 1997, the Birds of Prey course was constructed at Beaver Creek.

“What the challenging thing on Birds of Prey is you need a different attitude to ski,” said course designer Berhnard Russi, who earned Olympic gold and silver, World Championship gold and nine World Cup downhill wins for Switzerland in the 1970s,. “Out of the starting gate you have to be very light and very smooth. And once you come over the Brink, and it changes from heaven to hell. From one moment to the other you have to change your technique completely.”

It became a place where Americans would shine — 11 wins between 2003 and 2014 — which no doubt helped draw the crowds that have flocked every year. 

“It’s our big home race. It’s the only race we (men) get to have in the United States,” said American Ted Ligety in 2008. “It’s very important for us. It’s nice to be able to go to a race here where your friends and family can show up. Beaver Creek is obviously awesome for all events.”

Last year, American Tommy Ford thrilled American ski racing fans when he won the giant slalom.

In 2016, the Birds of Prey races were canceled due to snow conditions.

“North America’s skiing community has tremendous spirit and resolve, and while we are saddened that, this year, we will not be able to gather in person to witness the iconic feats of athleticism that are the hallmark of the legendary Xfinity Birds of Prey, it is clear this decision is in the best interest of the health and safety of the world cup athletes, coaches, technicians, volunteers, media, staff, all of the World Cup fans, and the World Cup tour itself,” said Mike Imhof, president of the Vail Valley Foundation. “We look forward to welcoming the world back to Beaver Creek in December 2021, and thank all of our partners for their hard work, thoughtful discussion, and unity throughout this process.”

The Vail Valley Foundation has helped host the annual World Cup races for decades, and led the hosting of three Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail/Beaver Creek in 1989, 1999 and 2015.

Nadia Guerriero, vice president and COO of Beaver Creek Resort, host mountain for the event, agreed that the cancelation is in the best interest of all parties.

“We very much appreciate our partnership with the Vail Valley Foundation and their decision to prioritize the health and safety of all the athletes, coaches, employees, volunteers and many more who support Xfinity Birds of Prey. We look forward to welcoming back the event in December 2021,” Guerriero said in a news release.  

For more information, visit bcworldcup.com.

Shiffrin, locals make U.S. squad for 2020-21

If Mikaela Shiffrin keeps at it, she just might make a career out of this skiing thing.

The queen of Alpine racing officially got re-invited to the U.S. Ski Team for the 2020-21 season, as the squad announced its roster for the upcoming campaign on Wednesday. This was obviously a no-drama moment for the three-time World Cup champion.

We’re forecasting that Shiffrin has a spot as long as she wants it, and probably after well after that. Wednesday was, however, a big day for some locals as Allie Resnick and Trent Pennington got their first invites to the team.

Resnick is a familiar name to the team. Emma, 17, was already on the development squad, and now here comes Allie, 18. Both sisters grew up here and went through Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. Pennington, 17, is from Shalimar, Florida, and found his way to SSCV.

There is quite the local flavor on the squad at all levels. The B Team includes Bridger Gile, Kyle Negomir and River Radamus for the gents and Alice McKennis, Paula Moltzan and Nina O’Brien for the ladies. O’Brien is fresh off earning all-American honors in slalom at Montana State University.

Nicola Rountree-Williams, of Edwards, is a C Teamer. Jacob Dilling and Kellen Kinsella returned to the Devo Team.

Up on the A Team, there are no surprises. Travis Ganong, Ted Ligety and Steven Nyman are back. Tommy Ford’s there too after earning his first World Cup win at the Birds of Prey slalom here in December.

Shiffrin will be attempting a comeback season of sorts. Most racers would love to be trying “to rally” from a season with six World Cup wins. Of course, Shiffrin’s season was ultimately cut short by the death of her father, Jeff, on Feb. 2 and the onslaught of the COVID-19, which wiped out the final two stops of the tour in Are, Sweden, and Cortina, Italy.

Like the rest of the world of sports, the World Cup is waiting to see how the coronavirus situation evolves. The season traditionally opens in Soelden, Austria, with women’s and men’s giant slaloms in October.

Birds of Prey, the men’s stop at Beaver Creek, is theoretically set for Dec. 4-6. The FIS Alpine World Ski Championships are in Cortina Feb. 8-21, 2021.

Vail legend John Dakin passes the torch, and his microphone, after 40 years

VAIL — John Dakin is so good with a microphone in his hand that he can weave such words as “plastic pants” into his World Cup ski racing call and make it sound seamless.

Dakin’s rich baritone voice has been part of Vail and of U.S. ski racing for four decades. After more than 30 years with the Vail Valley Foundation and around 10 more with the Colorado Snowsports Museum, Dakin has called it a career.

“It’s overwhelming to be part of it. It’s been a great ride,” Dakin said.

He joked that his epiphany had nothing to do with filing for Medicare, deciding to take Social Security or noticing that three-quarters of the mail in his mailbox was from AARP. It was really the day he decided to pull out one of his old U.S. Ski Team uniform tops and wear it to work at the Snowsports Museum.

“I realized that what I was wearing was older than some of the artifacts I was looking at. I didn’t want to scare anyone into thinking I had escaped from an exhibit,” Dakin said.

Always winning the word game

During Dakin’s retirement reception at the Snowsports Museum, Jen Mason decided that in addition to having a speech prepared, they would revisit an old Vail Valley Foundation tradition. When Dakin announced the World Cup ski races, his colleagues would come up with some oddball words like “arugula” or “plastic pants” — nothing to do with ski racing — and challenge him to weave it into that day’s race call.

During Dakin’s retirement soiree, he was charged with incorporating the word “aardvark” into his speech. If you know Dakin, you know that “aardvark” rolled through his narrative seamlessly.

Do not envision him in retirement on his couch in his bathrobe, “curled up like an aardvark,” Dakin said as the crowd laughed with him.

Dakin is an amazing photographer. He’s headed to Yellowstone with the World Wildlife Foundation to follow wolves around and take some pictures. In May he’ll head to Botswana for a photo safari. And maybe he’ll get another dog.

“I feel that I have been truly blessed in my professional life to find something I was passionate about, ski racing, and to be in the right place at the right time to start and expand my career, it’s been head and shoulders above anything that any kid coming out of Grand Junction, Colorado, could have ever thought possible,” Dakin said.

Taking a look back over his long career, he thanked the board and staff of the Colorado Snowsports Museum, the members of the University of Colorado ski team, U.S. Ski Team members, World Cup racers, Hall of Fame members. … The list is long, as it should be for someone who has enjoyed such a long career.

“You are all truly special to me. Without you, I would not be here. Thank you so much for giving me so much,” Dakin said.

Dakin credits Bill Marolt from the University of Colorado and the U.S. Ski Team for his start in the industry, first with the CU ski team, then a call from Marolt in 1981 to recruit Dakin to the U.S. Ski Team in Park City, Utah.

“Marolt’s involvement with the U.S. Ski Team, the FIS, the World Cup and World Championships enabled me to continue that friendship. It’s not a stretch to say that without Bill, I would not be here,” Dakin said.

About those 1989s

Dakin was part of the team that successfully lobbied the International Ski Federation to bring the 1989 World Alpine Ski Championships to Vail, the event’s first trip to the U.S. since Aspen in 1950 when Europe was still too bombed out from World War II to host it. It kicked Vail’s international marketing into hyperdrive.

After those 1989 World Championships, Dakin’s role and most of the Vail Valley Foundation’s role in events like that was supposed to disappear, in a return to what was then the status quo. It didn’t.

“Vail and the valley would never be the same after the 1989 World Championships. I’ve been blessed to be part of all three World Championships. That has to be some kind of record,” Dakin said.

It was Dakin’s baritone voice that called U.S. Ski Team great Tamara McKinney’s gold and bronze medals in 1989, and Vail native and U.S. Ski Team member Mike Brown’s last run.

Dakin also smilingly explained to a 1989 worldwide television audience that, while Europe was contending with a multi-year snow drought, the night before Vail had been pounded with so much snow that the downhill had to be postponed.

At the other end of that spectrum, Dakin and others told the world about the bizarre and untimely death of FIS board member Archduke Alfonso de Borbon of Spain before the 1989s even started.

“It was a terrible accident. It was one of the toughest things any of us have ever encountered,” Dakin said.

During all those events over all those years, with the world demanding his attention, Dakin walked through countless media centers, greeting old friends and new acquaintances, shaking hands while his eyes smiled at you, remembering names. No matter the clamor around him, you could ask him for one moment and he would happily give one, and one was enough.

At the end of those 1989 Worlds on closing day, a glorious bluebird Sunday afternoon, Dakin was resplendent in his Descente parka and boots. He paced back and forth across the finish corral carrying what was then a new-fangled wireless microphone … talking to the world.

American Giant Slalom winner Tommy Ford is a fan of Wu-Tang Clan

Tommy Ford, winner of the Giant Slalom at the Birds of Prey FIS World Cup, is a Wu-Tang Clan fan.

When asked during his post-race press conference appearance what music he’d most like to listen to during a victory lap, he said, “Wu-Tang comes to mind.” There were some cheers from other fans watching the press conference.

Affectionately called Wu-Tang, the ‘90s New York rap group is most famous for “C.R.E.A.M.,” which stands for Cash Rules Everything Around Me. The song is off the 1993 album, “Enter the Wu-Tang.” Spotify has called the Wu-Tang “the most revolutionary rap group of the ‘90s – and only partially because of their music.”

After the first run down the GS course on Sunday, Ford bagged first place and was able to maintain his spot after making the flip. He finished with 2 minutes, 31.25 seconds on the clock. Norweigans Henrik Kristoffersen and Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen took second and third place respectively.

Ford, from Bend, OR., grew up skiing at Mt. Bachelor and raced on the Dartmouth College ski team. He also races in the Super G. Today’s first place title marks his first victory at the World Cup, and brownie points for winning on home snow.

“It’s really good to be here with the Talons Crew and my family and friends,” he said.

Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s River Radamus after Birds of Prey: ‘I want it bad’

BEAVER CREEK — Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s River Radamus didn’t make the cut at the Birds of Prey giant slalom World Cup race on Sunday at Beaver Creek, but the 21-year-old is taking it in stride and focusing on getting better.

“I really wanted to perform at home, and I feel like I let some people down,” he said from the finish corral on Sunday. “I know I have the speed, I just have to figure it out.”

Conditions deteriorated throughout the day with snow and fog rolling across the mountain. Radamus was the 41st racer out of the gate. The cutoff for the second run was close to 3.5 seconds behind Ford’s first-run of 1:16.40. Radamus came in a little over 4 seconds behind Ford, missing the cut.

“I want it bad,” he said of making the jump. “You just have to trust your inspection and trust your skiing and commit.”

The Beaver Creek giant slalom is one of the longer courses on the World Cup circuit, Radamus said, and its at elevation.

“It’s all about skiing really efficiently — powerfully with the least amount of output so that we’re able to ski strong at the bottom,” he said.

After his run, he was checking his time splits on the monitors in the finish area.

“I know what happened,” he said. “I thought I skied alright and then I pushed the line a little too much on the flats and it crushed me.”

Radamus is looking forward to getting back to work, and the Birds of Prey in 2020.

“I know it doesn’t come overnight,” he said. “It’s time to get back to work, learn some more and come back next year stronger and faster.

Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

The bond between ski racers and their moms: 2 feel-good moments from Birds of Prey

BEAVER CREEK — Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s River Radamus finished his Birds of Prey Wolrd Cup giant slalom run on Sunday in front of an excited hometown crowd at Beaver Creek. While the 21-year-old didn’t make the cut, young fans in the Red Tail finish area were clamoring for his bib after the run.

“Sorry, I’m saving this one for my mom,” he politely told them.

It was a sad moment for the kids, but surely a happy moment for Mrs. Radamus.

The moment was one of two captured by the Vail Daily showing a special bond members of the men’s U.S. Ski Team share with their mothers.

Tommy Ford put down a near-perfect first run of the giant slalom on Sunday, heading into the second run sitting in first place. On his way back to the athlete area in between runs, he ran into his mother.

The two shared a long embrace, with pride beaming from Mary Ellen Ford.

“It was beautiful,” she said of the moment. “It’s hard to explain.”

Fan to River Radamus: "Can I have your bib?" — River: "Sorry, I'm saving this one for my mom."
Mary Ellen Ford hugs her son Tommy after he qualified in first for the second run of the Birds of Prey giant slalom on Sunday.
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Mary Ellen coached Tommy as a kid and follows the World Cup tour through Europe, supporting her son. She also supports the other men whose parents might not be able to make it to every stop.

Shortly after Tommy parted ways with his mom, Mary Ellen stopped Ryan Cochran-Siegel, giving him two hugs — one from her and one “from his mom” who wasn’t there. She said the Fords grew up with the Cochran family.

In addition to his mother in town from Bend, Oregon, for the races, Tommy’s father is at Beaver Creek, as well as his girlfriend, women’s U.S. Ski Team member Laurenne Ross.

“She’s amazing,” Mary Ellen said. “They’ve known each other since they were 6 years old.”

Tommy went on to win his first World Cup race of his career, the first American to win at Birds of Prey since 2014. He celebrated with his coaches, teammates — and family after the race.

If you can, don’t forget to call your mom today.

Assistant editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

WATCH: Snow falling at Beaver Creek

American Tommy Ford wins Birds of Prey giant slalom

BEAVER CREEK — The question on many people’s minds after the Birds of Prey giant slalom at Beaver Creek on Sunday: Who is Tommy Ford?

The 30-year-old won the first World Cup race of his career on home turf at Beaver Creek on Sunday, the first American to win a Birds of Prey race since Ted Ligety in 2014.

Ford hails from Bend, Oregon, is a nine-time national champion and has been skiing with Team USA since 2009. According to his ski team bio, he went to Dartmouth, is a fan of raspberry rhubarb pie with vanilla ice cream and thinks Bruce Lee should play him in a hypothetical biographical film.

Off the hill, he enjoys climbing, drawing, surfing, mountain biking and other outdoor activities — usually with his girlfriend, women’s U.S. Ski Team member Laurenne Ross.

“He just loves it, he totally loves it,” his mom, Mary Ellen, said of his passion for ski racing.

Ford was swarmed by his teammates, coaches and family after the race — as the fans let out a strong “USA” chant.

Phrases like “a new era,” “nerves of steel” and “unbelievable” were thrown around the finish corral.

“That was special, really special,” said fellow U.S. Ski Team member River Radamus. “That was the coolest ski racing or sports memory I’ve ever been a part of. He’s been so close for so long and kept chipping away and finally made it through.”

Norwegians Henrik Kristoffersen and Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen rounded out the giant slalom podium.

“Obviously it’s hard to beat the Americans on home snow,” Kristoffersen said after the race.

“I’ve been on this snow for quite a few years,” said Nestvold-Haugen, a Denver University graduate. “I always like the snow. It’s what we call the ‘hero snow’ where it gives back more. It feels like being home.”

American Ted Ligety, 35, finished eighth in the Birds of Prey giant slalom at Beaver Creek on Sunday. Fellow American Tommy Ford won the race, the first American to win a Birds of Prey race since Ligety won himself in 2014.
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‘On this path for a long time’

The giant slalom is a two-run format, with the top 30 advancing to the second run and the time totals of both runs added up.

On a snow day at Beaver Creek, some racers had trouble with the course and visibility. Frenchman Alexis Pinturault made a mistake at the top on his first run, opening the door for the rest of the field to make a move. Two racers later, Ford put down the fastest first run of the day, setting himself up to go last in the second run, a competitive advantage knowing what he must do to win.

Fellow American Ted Ligety finished the first run with the fourth-fastest time, however he finished eighth after the second run.

“There are all sorts of thoughts going through the mind,” Ford said about waiting in the start gate before his second run. “Once things get going, it just happens.”

Ford has cracked the top 10 eight times in World Cup races, including fourth in Soelden last week. His runs at Beaver Creek were smooth.

“I was just sticking to what I know and trusting my skiing,” he said.

With Mt. Bachelor plastered across the front of his helmet, Ford reflected on his upbringing that got him to the top spot on the Birds of Prey podium.

“I’ve been skiing as hard as I can and on this path for a long time,” he said. “I feel very grateful for my upbringing at Mt. Bachelor and my family.”

He said he’ll probably celebrate his first World Cup win with a big dinner with his friends and family.

The Americans had a strong showing in the giant slalom Sunday, with Ford taking first, Ligety eighth and Ryan Cochran-Siegle finishing 23rd. In total, six Americans took to the giant slalom course for the first run.

“Those young guys are coming,” Ford said, naming River Radamus, Brian McLaughlin and George Steffey. “Watch out.” He added Cochran-Siegle is “still consistent” and there’s “of course Ted.”

For a man who doesn’t set an alarm in the mornings — including Sunday’s race day that started at 9:45 a.m. — Ford is a ski racer American fans will soon love if they don’t already.

Assistant editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.