Cowbells, autographs and cheers |

Cowbells, autographs and cheers

Veronica Whitney
Bret Hartman/ The crowd reacts as U.S. skier Erik Schlopy crosses the finish line Saturday during the World Cup Birds of Prey giant slalom at Beaver Creek. Schlopy finished in sixth place.

BEAVER CREEK – George Petrick wore the skin of his fingers off ringing a cowbell during the Birds of Prey World Cup races here this weekend.But he didn’t give up. On Sunday, Petrick, 50, of Evergreen, put a couple Band-Aids on his fingers and once again rang the big bell cheering the men’s top slalom skiers racing in the fourth and last World Cup event here this year.”I rang it for everybody because we admire them all,” said Petrick, who has attended the Birds of Prey races at Beaver Creek since 1997.After three days of continuous races – super-G, giant slalom and downhill, where Americans Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves placed one-two – on Sunday, thousands of people gathered by the finish stadium to watch once again the top skiers in the world come through the finish line.Max Axelrod, 11, of Truckee, Calif., was among dozens of children waiting next to the finish line to get an autograph.

His ski jacket already had the names of Bode Miller, Erik Schlopy and Daron Rahlves all over. His baseball cap had Hermann Maier’s name.”I love being here because you meet everyone, and when you watch the race live, you can feel how fast they’re going,” he said.Max’s friend, Garrett Cottam, who had watched the downhill and the giant slalom on Friday and Saturday, was disappointed when Bode Miller didn’t finish his first run Sunday – there are two runs for giant slalom and slalom.”But it’s great to be here because you get to meet them,” he said.Former Vail Mayor Ludwig Kurz said he watched all four events. This year, the International Ski Federation awarded Beaver Creek the four World Cup events – before, the mountain only hosted the downhill and the super-G – making it the only mountain on the World Cup circuit to host the four events.

“It’s the best we’ve ever had because of the four events, the conditions, the weather and the American epic in the downhill,” he said.The race festivities included music from Die Trachtenkapelle, a band brought from Lech, Austria, and commemorative T-shirts being shot from a hand-held cannon to the crowds.”This has been a great showcase for the sport and the resort,” said Tony O’Rourke of Beaver Creek Resort Company, “All our lodging was booked, we had lots of destination and locals watching the races. I was very surprised with Friday’s crowd on a school day.”For Allison Shettid, 39, of Evergreen, who watched the downhill, the giant slalom and the slalom on Sunday, the downhill was the most exciting of all the races.”It’s high energy,” she said.

But to Chris Molder, the slalom was a treat.”I like the technical aspect of it,” said Molder, 39, of Avon. “It’s not the best wax or the best skis. It’s the skier itself.”Former U.S. Ski Team member Carrie Sheinberg said the event’s organization had been very good.”I’m not surprised with what a good job (Beaver Creek) did,” said Sheinberg, 32, of Hartford, Conn.. “I watched all th events,” she added. “The downhill and the giant slalom are my favorites. And it’s always great when Americans do so well.” Vail, Colorado

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