Birds of Prey World Cup downhill preview: Who’s it going to be?
So whose idea was it to attach to planks to one’s feet and go hurtling down a mountain?
Depending on the source, it happened in China, Russia or Scandinavia well before the birth of Christ.
In the ultimate test of skill and courage/sanity, racers will reach speeds up to 70 mph, traveling 1.6 miles in about 1 minute, 40 seconds in today’s Xfinity Birds of Prey FIS World Cup downhill, starting at 11 a.m.
Not that it needs illustrating, but Germany’s Thomas Dressen is a walking (happily) example of the danger of downhill.
He wiped out during last year’s downhill here — two torn ligaments in his knee and a busted shoulder — on Dec. 1, 2018. Saturday was the first anniversary of that crash, and he came back with a downhill win in Lake Louise, Alberta.
It’s pretty simple: Get down the hill as quickly as you can while avoiding injury.
Birds of Prey tests all elements of the athletes. You have to have a powerful glide up top on the Flyway, which is where Daron Rahlves won in 2003. Drops and turns? The Brink, Talon, Pete’s Arena. Hermann Maier mastered them early and often with three World Cup wins here and the 1999 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships gold.
Jumps? Better watch for those, too. Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal wrecked off Golden Eagle during a training run in 2007, only to come back the next year to win.
Svindal finished his career with three downhill wins here.
The winners of this race is pretty much a who’s who of World Cup skiing during the last two-plus decades.
Maier will always be the Man here. He helped build the course’s legend. Daron Rahlves and Bode Miller gave this an American touch, winning four straight times from 2003-2006.
While Rahlves was the first American to win at Birds of Prey, Miller ended up as being only one of the three to win here three times or more in downhill — Maier, Bode and Svindal.
Unlike super-G at Beaver Creek, there isn’t a winner that makes a ski-racing fan scratch his or her head.
Who joins history today?
Beat Feuz of Switzerland, is the defending champion. Teammate Mauro Caviezel was second and Svindal third.
As noted, Dressen won last week in Lake Louise, while Italy’s Dominik Paris was second and Feuz and Switzerland’s Carlo Janka tied for third.
First off, as expected, none of our expert panelists had Switzerland’s Marco Odermatt in Friday’s super-G. Big shock. Since Odermatt was winning his first World Cup, we’re pretty sure Odermatt didn’t have Odermatt. Shauna Farnell, our resident ski goddess, came the closest with Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde finishing second.
Second, a member of our panel wanted a prize, so here we go: The winner this week gets a free digital subscription to the Vail Daily.
Our panelists get points for the place of the racers they pick. Lowest score wins. The standings after Friday:
Farnell: Kilde, 2.
Tom Boyd, chief of press for the Vail Valley Foundation: Mauro Caviezel, Switzerland, 5.
Nate Peterson, Vail Daily: Caviezel, 5.
Chris Freud, Vail Daily: Vincent Kriechmayr, Austria, 7.
Ross Leonhart, Vail Daily: Max Franz, Austria, 30.
Pat Graham, AP Denver: Carlo Jankaa, Austria, 35.
Our picks for today
Boyd: A comprehensive man, he goes for the entire podium — Kriechmayr, Dominmik Paris and Bryce Bennett.
Farnell: U-S-A! … Travis Ganong.
Freud: We like the comeback story … Dressen
Graham: Going to Paris, the Italian version … Dominik Paris.
Leonhart: Based on the fact that we rode up on the bus with his family … Travis Ganong.
Peterson: Hermann Maier … He’s really old school (Both Maier and Peterson).
For downvalley humans, it’s pretty cool when elk decide to hunker down around Eagle for the winter. For the elk, it’s more of a lesser-of-two-evils situation.