As Zermatt-Cervinia races are wiped out, Kyle Negomir seeks more speed while looking ahead to Birds of Prey

The Matterhorn looms behind as Kyle Negomir rides a lift in Zermatt, Switzerland.
Courtesy photo

ZERMATT, Switzerland — For Kyle Negomir and his Stifel U.S. Ski Team teammates, recent days in Zermatt have consisted of a whole lot of sitting around and waiting as opposed to attacking the new cross-border Gran Becca downhill course. Poor weather also made views of the iconic Matterhorn scarce.

Persistent snowfall, limited visibility and high winds forced the cancellation of the Matterhorn Cervino Speed Opening double downhills scheduled for this past weekend. Two training runs were also scrapped.

“It’s one of those things that you have to get used to racing World Cup downhill — it’s pretty consistently intermittent with weather and it takes a lot of things to line up for us to build a race,” Negomir said during an interview in Zermatt. “Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of that this week.

“It’s a constant state of trying to stay ready, but mentally and physically not taking yourself out of it while spending too much energy worrying when things go wrong, the weather stinks and you’re unable to race.”

Kicking out of the start at 12,200 feet above sea level and spiraling down a glacier crossing from Switzerland to Italy as the Matterhorn looms majestically above, the Gran Becca was set to officially become the highest-altitude course on tour. That never happened.

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The 25-year-old skier from Littleton and more than 80 downhill racers had just one crack at the unfamiliar course during a lone training run Wednesday. It was a brilliant, bluebird day in the Pennine Alps, showcasing the wonderful aesthetics that the untested 2.3-mile race course presents.

“It’s really fun to ski — it’s a lot more relaxed than a lot of our other venues, which is not necessarily a bad thing for the first race of the year,” Negomir said about the Gran Becca piste. “It does have many classic downhill elements — a lot of gliding and needing a soft touch on the snow. It will take a lot of different skills for it to all come together on race day.”

Racers, International Ski Federation personnel and organizers can only hope that there will be better opportunities on a given race day at the questionable, highly-touted, early-season venue, moving forward.

In search of downhill speed

Negomir — the 2023 super-G national champion and 2019 NorAm overall champion — believes he can elevate his downhill game this season, as he gains valuable experience on venerable courses in Bormio, Kitzbuehel and Wengen. A former racer for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, Negomir’s best results across nine career World Cup downhill starts are 38th on the “Stelvio” in Bormio and 40th on the “Streif” in Kitzbuehel, both last season.

“Our coaches and my teammates keep telling me and enforcing is that downhill just takes time — the more time you have on long skis, practicing those gliding skills and things you can’t necessarily learn by thinking about it, but learn by executing, that is what I can control,” Negomir said. “Learning and getting to know the tracks also, I’m trying to stay patient.

“I was talking to Alex Kilde, and he was saying that with super-G, he could make up what he lacked in experience, being very good technically and aggressive on race day,” Negomir said, referring to the Norwegian two-time World Cup downhill champion. “But he said he struggled trying to build off that on downhill race days. It’s kind of similar to what I’m feeling at the moment.

“I’m fortunate to have enough teammates and guys on the circuit that are older and know what it takes to get to the top, so I’m really trying to learn from them.”

Succeeding this season

The Colorado racer demonstrated his big event potential, charging to a solid 17th-place super-G finish at the world championships in France last February.

“More than anything — to realistically be at the biggest stage in my ski racing career and show up and perform, it was definitely confidence-inducing,” Negomir said. “I’m definitely trying to carry that momentum from world champs and U.S nationals and build on that to be stronger this year.”

Negomir informed that he is coming off productive training camps in Argentina and Zermatt, and enters the 2023-24 season without the nagging discomfort of a broken hand suffered at a race in Wengen, Switzerland.

“I got that fixed at the end of the season at the Steadman Clinic in Vail and then recovered through the end of May,” he said. “Then I was out at the U.S. Ski Team facility in Park City and was really pushed by my teammates and trainers.”

Inspiring the next generation of Colorado ski racers

Considering the unfortunate cancellations in Zermatt-Cervinia, the first FIS World Cup speed races this season will be at the Birds of Prey races in Beaver Creek Dec. 1-3. Not surprisingly, Negomir is already excited for the home snow races, which evoke fond memories.

“Those are always special races for all of us, and personally it’s extra special because my parents are usually up working the race, and I also used to work there, slipping the course and everything,” Negomir said.

“It’s just cool to see kids around Vail in that same position and hopefully I can do something that will inspire them to be in the same position that I am one day — performing in front of your family, friends, and doing it in front of the home crowd.”

Follow Brian Pinelli on Instagram @brian.pinelli.

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