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Birds of Prey downhill canceled due to high winds

The staff of a flag held by Beat Kotoun of Switzerland bends in the wind Sunday at the Birds of Prey World Cup spectator area. The men’s World Cup downhill was canceled due to high winds.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

BEAVER CREEK — Crowds waited with hopes of good news, even though they could feel the gusts coming hard into the finish arena at the Birds of Prey World Cup ski racing venue in Beaver Creek on Sunday.

Beat Kotoun, born in Bern, Switzerland, and now living in the Dallas area, held a Swiss flag that threatened to get away from him at times.

After an hourlong wind delay, a glimpse of hope emerged as an announcer told the crowd race was “good to go.” But a minute later, with skiers fleeing the course, the display board showed a live update from the International Ski Federation: “Race canceled.” A few minutes later, the crowd was notified.



Kotoun said after enjoying a great weekend in Beaver Creek and watching his countryman Marco Odermatt win the super-G opener on Thursday, he will head back to Texas on Monday.

“It would have been a good one,” Kotoun said as he folded up his flag.



Course workers battle strong winds as they remove snow from the run before a men's World Cup downhill ski race Sunday in Beaver Creek.
Robert F. Bukaty/AP

‘Not possible’

Chief Race Director Markus Waldner summed up the weekend well in a post race interview directed to fans.

“We had three nice races, but today was unfortunately not possible,” he said.

It was the first wind cancellation at Birds of Prey since 2010, and it was also the cancellation of a downhill which was itself brought to Beaver Creek after being canceled in Lake Louise last weekend.

Crews worked hard to try to create a course that could be skied in the windier conditions, smoothing down the jumps and moving the start to a lower location, but that location itself was still too windy, Waldner said.

“We were up there trying to postpone a couple of hours, but we had some wind gusts, especially on the Brink,” Waldner said. “It was sad to cancel as the course was in excellent shape, even better than yesterday, very nice weather, but it was dangerous.“

“We were thrilled to welcome the world back to Beaver Creek for the Xfinity Birds of Prey Audi FIS Ski World Cup in 2021,” said Mike Imhof, president of the Vail Valley Foundation, the local organizing committee for the World Cup races. “We have had an incredible three days of racing, and we were hopeful to wrap up Birds of Prey with a second downhill today. However, due to severe high winds, and for the safety of our athletes, course workers, and volunteers, we needed to cancel the race today.“

Norwegian speed specialist Aleksander Aamodt Kilde was Saturday’s downhill victor, claiming a top podium spot for the second consecutive day. Kilde was the winner of the super-G Friday, where American Travis Ganong finished third.


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