Fans pack finish area at Birds of Prey in Beaver Creek
Beaver Creek, CO Colorado
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” Todd Jackson looks like a ski racing fan.
His white golf-style hat has the 1999 Birds of Prey World Championship logo on it, and the Arrowhead resident has been to every World Cup race at Beaver Creek, Colorado since then. He has about 20 different buttons attached to his hat ” U.S. Ski Team buttons, Olympic buttons, Beaver Creek buttons.
“I’ve got thousands,” Jackson said. “I just grabbed this one on my way out.”
His reason for coming back to the race every year is simple ” it’s fun.
“I’m just a fan,” he said. “And this one is easy to get to.”
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After a mid-week storm dumped about 11 inches of snow on Beaver Creek forcing the cancellation of the men’s super combined race, fans packed the bottom of the Birds of Prey course to get a glimpse of the downhill competition.
The spectator area was cramped 15 minutes before Switzerland’s Janka Carlo ” the first skier of the day ” entered the course.
Paula Holman waved a giant American flag and clanged her football-size cow bell every chance she got. Her trip to Beaver Creek was 17 hours in the making.
Holman and seven of her friends drove two vehicles from Spokane, Wash., to see the downhill race. A local friend convinced them to make the trip four years ago, and they’ve been coming ever since.
“It’s just fun,” Holman said.
Dennis and Kathy Cleavenger also made the trip from Spokane.
“It’s a chance to be with the best skiers and meet with people all over the country,” Dennis Cleavenger said.
He said he wishes there were more events like it in the States.
“It’s a great sport,” he said.
John Dakin of the Vail Valley Foundation said the crowd may have been one of the biggest since the 1999 World Championships.
“I think the fact that the international journalists were saying it’s one of the biggest crowds they’ve seen since the championships is pretty indicative of the size,” Dakin said.
The downhill event typically draws around 8,000 people, Dakin said.
Toni Leuthold made the trip from Winter Park with her friend Rick Didonato. It was their first time at the event. They each came armed binoculars to get a better view of the racers coming down The Brink.
“We wanted to see everything in person rather than on TV,” Leuthold said.
Gerry Mullaney and his 8-year-old son, Dustin, drove from Denver to watch the race.
“I want to see Bode Miller,” Dustin Mullaney said.
The Mullaney said they usually watch the competition on their computer.
“We’re just here to see it,” Gerry Mullaney said. “It’s such a great course.”
John Vincze, who used to coach skiing with the Canadian team, has been to the race for the last seven years.
“Any chance I can get to watch good ski racing,” Vincze said. “Early skiing in Colorado is the place to be.”
Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or email@example.com.