PHOTOS: Birds of Prey weekend wrap-up
Home away from home: Kilde wins Birds of Prey downhill by narrow margin over Odermatt
BEAVER CREEK — Friday’s snowstorm was just what the doctor ordered for Aleksander Aamodt Kilde.
The Norwegian, who said he got sick following last weekend’s Lake Louise World Cup — where he was second in the Nov. 26 super-G and first in the following day’s downhill — had the fastest time at Saturday’s World Cup downhill on the Birds of Prey course.
It was the event’s first day of competition after Friday’s downhill was canceled on account of the weather. Kilde finished 0.06 seconds in front of reigning overall World Cup champion Marco Odermatt while Canada’s James Crawford rounded out the podium.
“Yeah you know, it’s been a tough week,” Kilde said of his recent bout with the flu. “(I had to) take down everything a notch. I felt way better even yesterday. That got canceled, got another day of rest, and then today, you know, I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system, but I got the possibility to just be ready for the two minutes that I needed to be ready.”
Working from bib No. 6, Kilde posted the fastest split on the top of the course. As the wind picked up for the late starters, his work there may have been more decisive than his gaudy second segment, where he posted the fastest speed recorded — 75.4 miles per hour — on the entire course.
“Well I had the same situation last year where I was really fast on the top,” Kilde said of 2021, where he won a super-G and a downhill. “Today, there’s more weather, it’s windy; it’s hard for me to say, but, maybe I was a little bit lucky but I also had a good feeling there.”
Odermatt challenged Kilde, winning back the lead in the second segment, only to trail by 0.02 seconds in the third. He lost another seven-hundredths in the third, but gained back three of those with his direct line off of the Harrier Jump, forcing fans to hold their breaths in Red Tail Stadium as Kilde — who told EuroSport afterward that he calls this “his second home” — waited in the leader’s chair to see if his lead would hold.
“Well, I think six-hundredths — you find that everywhere,” said Odermatt, who leads Kilde by 60 points in the current overall standings.
“Of course, it’s a sport with small margins,” Kilde added.
The defending downhill World Cup champion, Kilde has won the first two downhills of the season and has won the last two at Beaver Creek, going back to last year.
“I found a really good setup with my equipment and also with my skiing,” he said. “I believe in myself, I trust in myself and I have a good gameplan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know this plan is what I do and when I do that, it’s going to be fast.”
For Crawford, it was just his second World Cup podium in 66 starts. The 25-year-old was 82nd in the overall standings in 2021 and 14th last year. Currently, he’s seventh.
“It wasn’t until last year that I started breaking through. When you get a little bit of exposure on the tracks and confidence, it’s really easy to go out and do what you know,” he said.
“Today I definitely thought the skiing was good enough, the skiing was there. There’s still a little bit of a gap to close to Odermatt and Kilde.”
The Canadian said, given the deteriorating visibility and mounting winds, his early start may have been especially serendipitous.
“They were definitely hard,” he said of the conditions. “I think the early bib was definitely a bit of an advantage, but at the same time you have to use the advantage; you have to ski well to get on the podium.”
Crawford, who is currently ranked 10th in the downhill cup standings, finished one-hundredth of a second in front of three-time Olympic gold medalist Matthias Mayer.
“When you have so many guys on the World Cup who are able to win, at the end of the day it is mental,” he said of the close margins in ski racing. “It’s the approach you bring, it’s how you control nerves and when you’re able to actually produce on race day.”
“It was a close one, but it’s good,” Mayer said.
Sunday’s super-G begins at 10 a.m. In last year’s super-G, Kilde narrowly beat Odermatt, winning the event by 0.03 as American Travis Ganong snuck on the podium in third.
Tales from the Talon Crew: Volunteers who transform Beaver Creek into North America’s Downhill are as interesting as the athletes they serve — and in some cases, raised
On Thursday morning, Tamara Negomir loaded the bus headed to Beaver Creek Village. Even in the pre-dawn darkness, she could make out the familiar faces of her second family. It’s a tribe consisting of longtime locals and guests from afar, tradesmen and women and CEOs, and former coaches and athletes.
She recognized the smiles belonging to parents of kids who used to race with her son, U.S. Ski Team athlete, Kyle Negomir.
“You know, immediately, you start recognizing people and meeting up with old friends,” she said about enjoying the sunrise on a 6 a.m. chairlift ride to the Birds of Prey course she’s grown uber-familiar with this weekend as part of the Talon Crew.
The 325-person fraternity, knitted together by their shared love of skiing — and course maintenance — make up a significant fraction of the almost 600-strong group of selfless event volunteers who help the Vail Valley Foundation pull off the annual World Cup races. The Beaver Creek Mountain Race Department, Snowmaking Team and Mountain Operations Crew and Ski and Snowboard Club Vail coaches are also critical pieces of the team.
- 3,602 cumulative years of Birds of Prey experience
- 50 Volunteers with 20 years experience
- 150 Volunteers with 10 years experience
- Volunteer Age Range: 18-90
- 241 Volunteers from Eagle County
- 164 Volunteers from outside of Colorado
- 35 States Represented
- 2 Other Countries (Switzerland and Canada)
“We are immensely grateful to all of our volunteers who come from near and far to support the Xfinity Birds of Prey each year,” said Mike Imhof, the president of the Vail Valley Foundation. “Like everything we do at the Vail Valley Foundation, none of it happens without our dedicated and talented volunteers — including this world-class ski racing event. It is a pleasure to witness the camaraderie and teamwork between the teams, and the family-like atmosphere that they have created.”
Even though Tamara’ s vested interest figuratively hooks her to the icy slope — she mentally bookmarks Kyle’s training run slot, looking up from monotonous shoveling to see him fly by — her motivation for returning to volunteer a sixth time has more to do with what Imhof alluded to.
“Giving back to the community,” she answered when asked why she willingly donates dozens of daily hours to on-snow, vigorous manual labor. “All these people are out here, volunteering their time, working … they don’t even have kids racing. Everybody is out here for the benefit of the athletes and the sport and I enjoy being a part of that.”
Best seat in the house
“Hearing the guys go off Red Tail and the ‘swoosh’ of their skis fly by, it’s a great seat,” Tamara said after finishing lunch with her crew Thursday afternoon.
“And it helps keep me a little distracted — doing some work as Kyle’s racing — because, of course, I get very nervous for him in the downhills,” she added, with a chuckle.
Tamara, who lives in Littleton with her husband John, grew up skiing in Northern California. As a traveling nurse, she made her way to Colorado a few times. “I’d keep coming back and then I eventually ended up staying about 30 years ago” she said.
Though she didn’t race growing up, her and John got into “beer-league racing” and towed their two sons, Eric and Kyle, to various NASTAR events at Copper Mountain and Loveland. Kyle played lacrosse, football and was a waterskier before eventually narrowing his focus to Alpine ski racing. Both sons attended Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy during high school, temporarily relocating the family to Avon, and Kyle blossomed after joining Ski and Snowboard Club Vail full-time at 16. He captured U19 and U21 national titles and the 2019 NorAm overall.
Then, on Dec. 10 of 2020, he crashed at the finish line of a downhill training run at the opening World Cup in Val d’Isere, France. Though he posted the top American time, and eighth-best overall, he also sustained serious MCL and ACL injuries as well as three broken metacarpals. The memory remained in the background while Tamara — still in Littleton during Wednesday’s training run — made sure to have FIS live streaming on her computer during work.
“Coming back from injury, I have a little bit of extra anxiety going on,” she admitted. “I’m excited for him, you know. He’s been doing it for awhile. The first time I saw him go off (on a downhill run) he was kind of off-balance in the air and his leg was kind of out. And you know, he’s gotten a lot more solid riding through the rough stuff.”
She’s not the type who talks technique with her son — “that’s for the coaches and him,” she remarked — and has always refrained from helicopter parenting.
“I was around so many over-eager parents; I’ve always tried to not be that parent,” she said. “Kyle’s taken the lead — it’s the way he likes to do it — so we just support him in other ways. We’re there when he needs us.”
Interestingly, Tamara feels her Alpine education occurred via volunteering.
“When we were at Loveland or Copper Mountain doing NorAM or FIS races, we were always working the start or course crew or timing,” she said. “We just volunteered all the time and so we started learning the ropes through that.”
Pinpointing her personal favorite volunteer moment is easy. In 2018, Kyle made his World Cup debut at Birds of Prey, and Tamara — volunteering — had the best seat in the house.
“When I found out Kyle was going to be racing in the (giant slalom) that first time, and I was working that year anyway and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a dream come true,'” she said. “That was huge and, of course, that’s my favorite memory of the race itself.”
Negomir is coming off a 23rd-place finish in the Lake Louise super-G on Nov. 27, notching points in just his 12th World Cup start and proving he’s on the way back from his 2020 crash. His mom prefers to stay out of the limelight, and when Kyle straps in for Sunday’s super-G, she won’t be searching for any made-for-TV moments to offer a last-second tip.
“He’s kind of in his zone and he’s got his schedule. So even when I’m volunteering for other races at the start, if Kyle pulls in, I’m kind of looking the other way, like ‘I’m not here.’ I definitely don’t want to distract him in any way,” she said.
“I tell him to have fun,” she said about her pre-race message. “Enjoy your race.”
Jim Sanders: the man in the cowboy hat
Perhaps the only thing more dependable than the Birds of Prey course getting voted No. 1 on the World Cup circuit by coaches and athletes is the attire worn by one of the events’ original volunteers. Ever since the security team was given black cowboy hats to wear at the 1999 World Alpine Ski championships, Jim Sanders, who has volunteered at every Birds of Prey, has made sure to rep it — no matter the weather.
“I’ve continued that tradition,” he said. “So, a lot of people recognize me through the hat year after year.”
Sanders grew up skiing the north side of Michigan’s lower peninsula. After high school, he and a group of friends worked a season at Purgatory in Durango and throughout that winter, they scouted Idaho, Utah and Colorado for the best snow.
“We deemed Vail as kind of offering the most,” he recalled. “That was in 1972. So, then I finished college and we all moved out here after that.”
He worked two stints for the Vail Recreation District — from 1977-2002 and then again from 2013 until he retired in 2019. In 1993, he started volunteering with the Vail Valley Foundation, doing security for Vail Associates’ smaller events. When he was approached by his neighbor, Ceil Folz, about helping out in the winter, he remembered saying, “I have time.”
“In the winter, I had more flexible time, so I took over the security aspect of the races for the foundation that year (1997) and I’ve done it ever since,” he said.
He started as venue security, but after the 2015 World Ski Championships, which had three large VIP structures, he pivoted to focusing solely on being the VIP security coordinator, his current position. He leads a tightly-knit — even by Talon Crew standards — group of volunteers.
“My volunteers have a running joke,” Sanders said. “If someone new wants to get on the VIP security team, someone else has to almost die first. So, I’ve had my team for years.”
Sanders said he mostly deals with high-rollers, sponsors and other vendors. Occasionally, someone looking for special access will claim to be a distant friend of Bode Miller.
“Oh yeah, for sure — name-droppers … that’s some of them,” he said. “I try to keep it light-hearted most of the time,” he said. “I figure, why not be happy and friendly? Because I mean, look where we are!”
Through his role, Sanders has bumped shoulders with ski legends like Miller, Daron Rahlves, Jim “Moose” Barrows and Billy Kidd. Back in the day, he enjoyed chatting with President Gerald Ford, too.
“It was always kind of fun to be around them. I’m not really a celebrity chaser type person, but I get to see them through these events,” he said.
The privileged access is one unique draw, but it’s not the main impetus for Sanders’ annual return.
“I had time and it was fun to work with the volunteers,” he said. “Some came back every year because they like the sport.”
Steve Prawdzik, the Talon Crew volunteer coordinator, and Sean Norris, the on-hill coordinator, echoed his sentiment, shared by Tamara Negomir as well, in the 2022 Birds of Prey program book.
“You see the same people year after year, so a lot of it is about camaraderie … and meeting new people,” Prawdzik said.
“The whole point is that it’s camaraderie. It’s working together with people from all over the world,” added Norris. By the way, the craftsmanship isn’t bad either.
“Vail Resorts staff and people and the foundation — no one knows what’s put on behind the scenes to put these events on,” Sanders concluded. “It’s pretty incredible and they do a really good job at it.”
Weather forces cancellation of Friday’s World Cup downhill at Beaver Creek
With snow falling and strong winds in the forecast, organizers have called off Friday’s men’s World Cup downhill on the Birds of Prey course at Beaver Creek.
The jury and organizing committee for the races made the call early Friday morning. The course and venue are closed all day for everyone while the race crew works with snowcats on the hill.
Festivities will go on as planned in Beaver Creek Village with live music, a visit from Santa and more. Athlete signings will take place throughout the village as well as planned.
Saturday’s downhill is scheduled for 10 a.m., and Sunday’s super-G is scheduled for 10 a.m. as well.
At 40, downhill racer Nyman still going full speed ahead
BEAVER CREEK — On occasion, fellow ski racers have been known to refer to Steven Nyman as “Old Man.”
Mostly, though, they go with “Sven” (a shortening of his first name) or “Nymonster” (a play on his last).
Or, he jokingly adds: “They just call me impressive.”
Now 40 years old, the American downhill racer from Utah is still speeding along with no plans of slowing down (translation: retire) anytime soon. Sure, his back sometimes aches but it’s not enough to deter him from chasing after the feeling of a perfect race.
It’s been a pursuit since he made his World Cup debut in 2002. A pursuit that’s led to two Achilles injuries, two ACL tears, breaks in both legs and hand surgery. A pursuit that’s also resulted in three World Cup wins and enduring memories as he and his teammates return to their home course in Beaver Creek, Colorado, this weekend for two downhill races and a super-G.
“This is a really good life, man,” said Nyman, who finished a downhill training run Wednesday 2.95 seconds behind the top time of Otmar Striedinger of Austria. “I’ll continue to do this as long as I feel like I’m capable and competitive. I love the challenge. … It keeps me young.”
Mention anything age-related and Nyman gently points out he’s not the oldest one out there taking on the demanding Birds of Prey course. That distinction belongs to France’s Johan Clarey, who turns 42 in January and tied for the fifth-fastest time in training Wednesday. Clarey was a surprise silver medalist in the downhill at the Beijing Olympics last February.
“I enjoy that medal more than if I was 21, because of all the hard work and resilience,” said Clarey, who plans to make this his last season on the circuit. “I would say to (Nyman), that as long as he’s enjoying training, and he’s enjoying skiing and competing, of course, he has to go on.”
What really keeps Nyman going is purely internal — that sensation when everything comes together in a race. He felt it during a stretch eight years ago. He won a downhill at Val Gardena in December 2014 by beating retired Norwegian standout Kjetil Jansrud by 0.31 seconds and the rest of the field by more than a second.
Then, nearly two months later at the world championships in Beaver Creek, Nyman finished fourth in a downhill despite a massive headwind on his turn to zoom down the mountain.
“The search for that performance is such a motivator,” Nyman said. “I just like being among a bunch of people that are trying to become the best they can be and pushing each other to the highest heights. But it’s hard.”
To keep going, that is.
Because of family. He and his partner, Charlotte, have two daughters, Nell, 5, and Ayla, 2. In years past, they would join him in Europe. Charlotte has a job at a new resort and they’re staying in Utah. They will join him when they can and he will fly home when the schedule allows.
“I would do this as long as I possibly could,” Nyman said. “But there’s a lot of stuff that weighs not just on what I desire and what I want.”
Any promises to his family of keeping things safe in an event where the speeds can reach around 80 mph (128 kph)?
“Downhill is not safe,” Nyman said with a laugh.
His injuries offer proof of that.
He tore his left Achilles in 2011, the right one in 2020. There’s been the broken legs that required rods, plates and pins (and more surgeries to remove them). He’s needed total reconstruction of his left knee, when it took four or so hours to repair his ACL, MCL and PCL, and another ACL repair on his right.
“I’m really happy with the way everything’s feeling,” Nyman said. “I’m in a good place.”
Over his career, all three of Nyman’s World Cup wins were in Italy. He’s raced at three different Winter Olympics, with his best finish a tie for 19th in the downhill at the 2006 Turin Games. He made a fourth U.S. team, but sat out the 2018 Pyeongchang Games due to a knee injury suffered a month before the Olympics.
“Obviously I have the deck against me right now, with my age and what-not,” Nyman said. “But I feel fit and I feel good.”
Storm drops about a foot of snow on Beaver Creek’s Birds of Prey course ahead of World Cup race weekend
While skiers and snowboarders were out enjoying the powder, the Vail Valley Foundation’s Talon Crew was hard at work on Tuesday morning clearing off the Birds of Prey Alpine ski race track at Beaver Creek.
The Birds of Prey World Cup races are scheduled to begin on Friday and while snow is never a bad thing at the ski area, there’s a common saying among the Talon Crew: “You don’t have to shovel sunshine.”
On Friday and Saturday, the Birds of Prey track is scheduled to host downhill races — the longest and most exciting of the World Cup disciplines, with skiers reaching speeds in excess of 70 mph. Given the high speeds and the danger, the course preparation requires mountains of work from volunteers.
About 120 Talon Crew members, working hand in hand with Beaver Creek crew and the race department at Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, were out on the course on Tuesday morning working on the course as the snow was falling.
‘Back down to the hard deck’
The resort reported 9 inches of fresh snow at 5:32 a.m. on Tuesday morning, and more continued to fall after that.
For the Talon Crew, working in falling snow, there comes a point where it makes more sense to use machine power instead human power.
“So we clean up what we can, and then get out of the way and let the cats do their thing and then we come back and it’s all hands on deck,” said Steve Prawdzik, the Talon Crew Coordinator, on Tuesday. “Everybody’s busy shoveling, raking and getting the course back down to the hard deck.”
While the storm caused the need for a lot of work on course, it was welcomed by skiers in Vail on Tuesday morning, who saw the crowd-favorite runs Riva Ridge, Prima and Gandy Dancer open for the first time on Tuesday.
The high snow totals were accompanied by windy conditions but a relatively tame atmosphere on the roads. Shutdowns of Interstate 70 were seldom throughout the storm, and those that did occur were short.
A winter storm warning for the area expired at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.
Action on course
Coaches from nations around the world were scheduled to receive an update on course conditions at a coaches’ meeting scheduled for Tuesday night, but as of Tuesday afternoon, all indications pointed toward a full day of training to occur as scheduled on Wednesday.
At least one day of downhill training must occur at a World Cup site to hold a downhill race, according to International Ski Federation rules.
Two downhill races are scheduled for Beaver Creek’s Birds of Prey World Cup venue this week, on Friday at 10:15 a.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m. A super-G race is scheduled for Sunday at 10 a.m.
Ross Leonhart with the Vail Valley Foundation said crews were hard at work creating a festive atmosphere in Beaver Creek Village, which will convert its ice rink to a spectator viewing area for this year’s races.
Fans can watch for free from Red Tail Stadium; no word has been issued on if the stadium will be accessible on skis from the Red Tail run. Free transportation will be provided from Beaver Creek village throughout the duration of the event.
Gore Range Gravity Alliance hosts Backcountry Ball Thursday
Ready to get a little merry and dress in your best for a night on the town this holiday season? Exchange the flannel for festive threads and head to the Backcountry Ball hosted by the Gore Range Gravity Alliance this Thursday night at Shakedown Bar.
Gore Range Gravity Alliance provides educational opportunities on topics such as navigation, safety, avalanche awareness, gear maintenance and more. This new nonprofit in Eagle County aims to foster the community of women who recreate in the backcountry and on local trails with summer and winter programming.
Although Gore Range Gravity Alliance has hosted events such as yoga socials, women’s panel discussions, ski and bike movie premieres, hut trips and beacon hunts, this will be their first big fundraiser and they are going big on Thursday night.
“We definitely hope to see everyone 21 years of age and older, of course, out in full force in their fanciest duds at this event,” said Gore Range Gravity Alliance founder, Amanda Marchiani. “We really think this is going to be a great event for the community to get out and start the winter off right and let loose before the holiday madness begins.”
Doors open at 7 p.m. and live music will be provided by the Rednor Eaton Duo, followed by DJ P-Rock. The evening also includes bites to eat by award-winning chef Taylor Frankel, formerly of Sweet Basil, who’s now started Taylor Made Chef Co. To capture the moment, Vail Photo Booths and Alpenglow Law will sponsor a photo booth. It’s worth it to show up because there will be many giveaways from sponsors including Brooklyn Bell skis from Weston Backcountry.
In the short time this nonprofit has been around, Gore Range Gravity Alliance has weaved its way into the hearts of the community and has developed relationships with area businesses. From Wine ‘n’ Wax Nights and Cripple Creek Backcountry to events just across from the popular uphill skinning spot, Meadow Mountain in Minturn, Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea Company Roastery Café, the Gore Range Gravity Alliance has reached out to many businesses to help grow its community.
Other local bike and ski shops like Kind Bikes and Skis, Venture Sports, as well as businesses like the Agora in Minturn, Vail Brewing Company and Lakota Guides have shown support in various ways from lending their space to supplying products and gear for giveaways.
“Sometimes I pinch myself because I’m sort of still in awe of how we’ve grown in less than a year and the amount of support we get, but I think it just goes to show how important fostering community really is and that what we’re doing really is making an impact,” Marchiani said.
Doors will open at the Shakedown Bar at 7 p.m. on Thursday with the music starting at 7:30 p.m. For tickets to The Backcountry Ball, visit GiveButter.com/BCBALL. For more information about the GRGA nonprofit organization visit GoreRangeGravityAlliance.com and find them on Instagram @gorerangegravityalliance.
River Radamus: Finding the fast current
At this point, River Radamus probably expects cliche headlines. Not one, but two stories have used “A River Runs Through It” on the former multi-time Youth Olympic and World Junior champion’s progression from SSCV prodigy to international star. Coming into the 2022-23 season, however, the up-and-coming bright spot in U.S. men’s Alpine skiing has ambitions — on and off the slope — worthy of more than glittery literary devices.
In a deep international GS field fused together by “old guard” skiers like Alexis Pinturault, Mathieu Faivre, Tommy Ford and Zan Kranjec and the dominant new generation — led by Marco Odermatt, Lucas Braathen and Filip Zubcic — Radamus knows he hasn’t done enough to prove his name belongs with the rest of the rising stars.
“They’re bringing a new energy to the field and really pushing the sport forward. I’d like to think that I’m part of that, but the reality is that I haven’t been there and done that,” he said, adding that for much of the year, his resume was the only one in the top-15 lacking a World Cup podium.
“So, still I feel a little bit like I’m on the outside looking in, but I feel primed to be able to compete for those medals and push myself into that top, elite group of the GS field.”
The 24-year-old Edwards skier progressed from 49th in the 2019 giant slalom cup ranking to 28th in 2021 and 15th last year. His two early-season sixth-place marks — one at Soelden and another at Alta Badia – were a prelude to his breakthrough fourth-place finish in Beijing, where he missed the Olympic podium by 0.26 seconds.
“You know I think there’s a bittersweet element to it, knowing how close I was,” he said of that day.
“It’s a huge stepping stone. It showed me that I really belong there and have the ability to compete for medals in the future. I’m taking the confidence from that and I’m also super hungry lining up into the next World Championships this year and down the road to the next Olympics. I think that there’s lots of positives to take from it,” he continued before articulating perhaps the main one: he’s ready to ride in the discipline’s fast current.
“I think it also put everyone else on notice that I have the ability to compete there,” he said.
“I truly feel like I’m primed to have the best season of my career.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same
There have been some paradoxical realities characterizing Radamus’ first post-Olympic offseason. While the ousting of his coach the past few seasons, Forest Carey, whom he said “has been invaluable to me,” was rough, the personnel change didn’t dramatically alter the system surrounding his training or racing. Of his new head coach, Ian Gardner, Radamus stated, “He’s also probably one of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with.” All in all, the shake-up has been minimal in terms of his Alpine Xs and Os.
“I think our team is still working really well,” he said. “It’s a continuation for sure. Forest has been Ian’s mentor through the years as well, so there’s a consistent vision and care for the athletes. It’s always tough seeing Forest being let go, but I still trust our coaching staff and I still think we have a great atmosphere right now.”
Another novel perk for Radamus, courtesy of his breakout 2022 season, was increased factory service and access from Rossignol. This year, the sponsor will pay his technician and grant the skier specialized service and access to its vast resources. “I’m let in a little bit more on the ski development side to find out what exactly works for me,” Radamus explained, adding that it’s a blessing and a curse.
“I think it’s something that’s incredibly valuable, but I think I have to keep it in check,” he said. “I have so much more access to find out what setups work out for me, but it’s sometimes overwhelming. I think I spent a lot of time in the prep period worrying about what the skis were doing as opposed to what my skiing was doing. And I think I have to find a balance in that and make sure my technician controls that part and the data bears out what skis were best as opposed to my input. It’s overwhelming to deal with on a day-to-day basis.”
In a world where equipment can be the difference between extremely meaningful hundredths of seconds, Radamus explained the main advantage of increased factory access in terms of performance comes down to skier-ski synergy. In other words: anyone can make skis fast, but they have to work for the individual, too.
“Once you’re on the World Cup level, it’s not that anyone has truly faster skis than you; it’s more about the construction of the ski and how it connects with the skier,” he explained. “The better you get, the more options you get to fine-tune the feel of the ski. More constructions that are stiffer in the tip or more flexible through the middle, longer, shorter — all these different factors that can connect better with each individual skier.”
Hearkening back to the offseason theme of incongruity, Radamus understands the balance between nerding out — or freaking out — from a tech perspective, at the expense of focusing on fundamentals.
“I’ve always been of the mindset to find something that works well enough and focus on the skiing,” he said. “I think the ski construction can count significantly and matter a great deal if everything else is fully in touch. If your fundamentals are off, it won’t matter what skis you’re on.”
He’s had time to work on those fundamentals, as well as sharpen his speed events, at Copper Mountain, where he’s been stationed since returning from the Soelden giant slalom on Oct. 23.
“I haven’t had a lot of time on snow on the big boards this summer, so it was really valuable to me to get full-length speed training and get to carve it up with the big speed boys,” he said. “The super-G and the downhill training there is probably the best in the world right now.”
Though giant slalom remains the primary focus, he plans on getting in more super-G racing — “where it makes sense” — this year.
“It’s always fluctuating and it all depends on how early races go,” he said. “I think I’ll have a better chance on the more technical tracks than the ‘glidey’ ones, so we’re targeting those and slowly trying to expand without losing any of the GS ability.”
Downstream from opportunity
Last spring, Radamus expressed his passion for lowering barriers and expanding access to the sport he loves through his foundation on the Arc City Podcast with fellow U.S. Ski Team athlete Jimmy Krupka. Radamus described the last two years as being “a laborious process,” but now, the River Radamus Arco Foundation, which will focus on helping U16 athletes, is almost ready to launch.
“I think that the U16 age is a really vital one. Kids are often just getting into high school and the sport suddenly becomes much more expensive and cost-prohibitive with out-of-region racing, more gear and more specialized coaching,” he said.
“It’s much more of a year-round process once you get into high school and that’s why we see the biggest drop-off in enrollment in our sport. So, my goal with the Arco River Radamus Foundation is to make sure that those athletes who have the ability and are on track still see it as a viable option to continue pursuing the sport through the FIS ages.”
The foundation will be a subset of the World Cup Dreams Foundation, which provides “funding and support to snow-sports athletes that are not fully-funded.”
“We’re planning to finalize (with the World Cup Dreams Foundation) through the next couple of weeks, build momentum through the season and then give our first grants out before the next season starts,” Radamus said. As for the name — ‘arco’ is an Italian reference to every skier’s raison d’etre: the perfectly carved turn.
“It’s something that sticks with me. It’s what it’s all about,” Radamus explained. “The reason I connect with skiing is the beautiful feeling of a perfect turn. That’s what I’ve always come back to and it’s always driven me. It’s the root of our sport and it’s what I want the goal to always come back to.”
Hoping to please the home crowd
Examining the lay-of-the-GS land, Radamus can’t help but get amped up.
“I think GS is in a really exciting place right now,” he said. “I don’t think it’s ever been more competitive and high level than it is now. On any given day, there’s probably 15-20 skiers who could podium. That’s really exciting and unnerving, because you’re never settled into a spot.”
He made it into the top 15 four times (not counting the Olympics) last year, “but it’s never a given,” he noted. “You always have to go out and fight because there are so many hungry people who want to take your spot.” His showing in Soelden this fall was emblematic of that reality.
“It’s strange. It makes you feel like you may have stagnated in some way, having done better at a race the year before than you did this year, but truly, I’m not that concerned,” he said of his 26th-place finish (he was sixth in 2021).
“In every way, I think that I’m a better skier now than I was this time last year. Sometimes results come and sometimes they don’t. I think conditions like what we had this year in Soelden are things I still need to work on,” he continued, pointing out how soft, springy snow has been a kryptonite he’s known about since the end of last year.
“That’s still a weakness of mine that I need to improve to execute on a daily and weekly basis throughout the season.”
Based on his speed training at Copper, Radamus received a bib for the Lake Louise super-G on Nov. 27. Though he was a DNF, he’s optimistic about his next shot at the event at what he considers to be a more favorable, technical Birds of Prey course, on Dec. 4 at Beaver Creek.
“I think the super-G at Beaver Creek more suits my skills,” he said. Last year, Radamus had two DNFs on his hometown slope. He’d like nothing more than to redeem himself.
“Birds of Prey is obviously the one that I want to have success at more than any other track. There’s nothing like racing in your own backyard,” he said. His reflection on last year’s performance, however, wasn’t totally saturated in disappointment.
“I feel really proud of the preparation and the way I addressed the event,” he said. “I pushed as hard as I could and I was on top-15, top-10 pace in both of the super-Gs. Ultimately, that’s what I want more than anything — to know that I gave everything I had every time I get out of the start gate, and I think I did that there.”
He can’t promise locals a podium finish, but he can assure them, like a kayaker steering into the fastest-moving rapids, that he’ll go all-in with an aggressive approach.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “And I can’t guarantee where I’ll end up, but I’ll definitely be giving everything I got.”
If he ends up on top of the podium, there’s probably a good headline out there somewhere.
World Cup notebook: Johnson takes third in Idre Fjall FIS open mogul event
The U.S. Moguls Team looked sharp in its season-opener over the weekend, sweeping the podium at a FIS open event in Idre Fjall (SWE) on Saturday and Sunday. Olivia Giaccio, Alli Macuga, and Vail’s Tess Johnson went 1-2-3 in Saturday’s event, which featured five nations, and Kasey Hogg, Kylie Kariotis and Skylar Slettene formed a red, white and blue trio on Sunday.
Last year, France’s Perrine Laffont won the overall moguls crystal globe, while Australia’s Jakara Anthony, the Olympic gold medalist, was tops in the combined moguls-dual moguls standings. Giaccio (fourth) was the top American in the 2021-22 moguls standings, while Johnson finished fifth.
Del Bosco places 33rd in Austrian National Championships
EagleVail’s Chris Del Bosco, who is competing for the U.S. in ski cross this season after a 15-year career with the Canadian national team, placed 33rd at the Austrian National Ski Cross championships at Pitztaler Gletscher on Nov. 19.
The Pitztal races are often used as a test by many World Cup teams before the FIS ski cross World Cup season officially gets underway on Dec. 8 in Val Thorens (FRA). Austria, Germany, Canada, France, Switzerland, Japan, Italy, Great Britain, Czech Republic, Georgia and the U.S. were all represented at the event.
Austria’s Mathias Graf took the win, with Swiss skier Jonas Lenherr coming in second and Germany’s Florian Wilmsmann rounding out the podium. Brant Crossan was the top American in 19th. Del Bosco’s training partner, Tyler Wallasch, who was the lone American Olympian last February, did not start.
Andy Clark is the ultimate team player for Eagle County youth
Andy Clark is full of love for all things youth and for all things community. He uses his successful business platform to give and then give some more. He is remarkably passionate about advocating for youth and does so in an extraordinarily humble way. If you are lucky enough to know Clark, you know what I am talking about.
People are drawn to Clark because of his big heart, accepting personality, and supportive soul. He grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, playing hockey on the ice of his backyard pond with his three siblings and countless friends. He went on to be an All-American at Saint John’s University in Minnesota and was then invited to try out for the 1988 United States Olympic team. He ultimately moved to Vail and joined the semi-pro Vail Mountaineers in the late 1980s.
Clark hosted the Red Wings Alumni for 20 years in our community, with a summer camp, and a winter hockey series as well. This experience helped raise over $190,000 for youth hockey in our valley. These seedlings are what began a career of giving for Clark.
For almost 30 years, Clark led the Vail Junior Hockey Club, the Vail Eagle Hockey Association, WECRMD programs, Battle Mountain hockey, was a VMHC Board Member and a “Master Level Coach” all while growing many other hockey-related programs in Eagle County. He developed and grew the Rocky Pond Hockey Championships at Nottingham Lake, now being held at Eagle Town Park.
This outdoor hockey tournament is open to everyone: young or old — every age group comes together for a weekend of fun — no coaches allowed. The best part of this weekend is that adults and kids get to rediscover what a great game is when the competition is not about the score, but about the fun. Clark created this culture. And of course, all proceeds benefit Battle Mountain hockey activities.
Over the years of living in Eagle County, it became very clear to Clark that not all families had access to youth activities outside of school. He knew he had the ability to help. In the early 1990s, Clark worked with Tom Aronberg and WECMRD to start the first recreational youth hockey program in the valley. This league was affordable and grew in size each year.
Ultimately, the growth of the league helped create momentum for the building of the Eagle Ice Rink. Creating opportunities for youth to feel like they belong to a group and community is important to Clark. Currently, he feels that we have made progress but there is still work to be done to lessen the barriers to access and inclusion.
The resume and accomplishments could easily go on and on; however, what Andy is most proud of and our community benefits from the most to this day, and will for many, many years into the future is the culture and community that he has created at the Eagle Town Park outdoor rink. He has engaged a truly amazing group of volunteers and town staff that show up day after day to build, maintain, stock and play at the Eagle Town Park outdoor rink.
Long, cold winter days can sometimes feel lonely. Go to Eagle Town Park and you will be surrounded by a healthy community of families out having good, clean fun — all for free, together. Clark’s business, Alliance Moving Systems, takes care of all of the expenses and storage of all of the rink materials. Each November, the day after Thanksgiving, a group of volunteers set up the two rinks and begins flooding them (weather permitting). Once the ice surface is ready around mid-December, the rinks will open. Clark always makes sure that there is plenty of free equipment for skating, hockey and building a fire in the outdoor fire pits. This is the most wonderful way to spend time together in the winter with friends and families.
For the past fifteen years, Alliance Moving Systems has been involved in the Home to Home donation program. Alliance receives donated furniture and content from clients and these items are then available at no cost to families and organizations in need. Furniture that has not been placed with families throughout the year is brought out each summer for a garage sale and all the revenue is given to a local church or charity. The wonderful part of the Home to Home program is that there is no money exchanged. The donated items go from a generous client’s home to a deserving family or organization.
A recent addition at the Alliance warehouse provides a venue for nonprofits, groups and young adults to gather in a unique venue in a fun, safe environment. The addition is called The Downvalley Attic and it is a 1,800 square-foot gathering spot with a foosball table, pool table, kitchen, bathroom, music/performing stage, including full audio and an 88-inch big-screen TV. Below the Downvalley Attic on the second floor is my son Max’s music studio, called Maxed Out Studios. This music studio is also part of the unique part of the warehouse with a second-floor music studio with a third Floor “Attic” venue. Church groups, young adult groups, as well as sports/teams have enjoyed the space. The goal is to rent the space to business groups and private parties so that nonprofits and youth groups can use it for little to no charge throughout the year.
Andy’s main motivation for his professional work is to have a successful company that can give back to the community. Business owners have to be more than profit-driven, and he believes they must be community-driven also.
He states: “There are great businesses that are supporting youth organizations every year, but imagine if all businesses got involved in youth programming? I encourage everyone to look at their own place of employment and see how they can become part of the solution to lower youth activity program costs and increase opportunities for our kids. It doesn’t take a lot — just a vision and some teamwork.”
The advice Andy wants to share with young people is that they have opportunities in their future, whether it is here in our valley or after they graduate. They need to know that they can find a path that starts with participation in organizations, sports teams, or activities outside of school that can help give them confidence and skills. His vision for improving opportunities in Eagle County would be a youth community center in the Avon/Edwards area for kids as well as a downvalley community center in Eagle/Gypsum. Young people need a venue where they can be safe, choose activities that improve their skills and get them to lead a more active lifestyle.
Clark’s biggest motivators were three extremely humble people in the valley, each of them modeling what it means to give back and support the community. Clark goes on to say “Bob Doyle of Bob’s Place is one of the most generous people I know. He helped me understand that a business is just an extension of a community and that we better be good at taking care of our community. Glen Heelan, owner of Cassidy’s Hole in the Wall in Avon, also showed me how to get other businesses involved in the vision of community events. And lastly, Pat Hiln is one of the most generous and selfless people; without Pat’s support and guidance, so many youth would not have had the opportunities that they enjoyed so much. Each of these men were really important in helping me find my way in the valley”.
Clark has impacted thousands of lives throughout the many years he has coached, advocated, funded and supported youth. He prioritizes genuinely listening, always follows through on his word, and will never stop being an advocate and giving back to make this community great. Not only are we grateful for Andy, but it is our hope that other businesses will be inspired by his giving.
Come join Andy Clark and friends with a smile and a pair of work gloves on Friday, Nov. 25, when they begin setting up the Eagle Town Park outdoor ice rink.