In a decade of racing, lots of big moments at Beaver Creek’s Birds of Prey
Beaver Creek, CO Colorado
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” This year marks the 10th year of racing on Beaver Creek, Colorado’s Birds of Prey course, and locals, racers and organizers who have seen the it grow over the years say the race has already made history.
World Cup races have regularly been hosted in Vail and Beaver Creek since 1983, and the first race on the Birds of Prey course was held in 1997. The race has been a regular stop on the professional circuit since then, with the exceptions of 1998 and 1999, when Vail hosted the world championships, and 2001, due to lack of snow.
Some said the years have been full of memorable moments ” especially in recent years when Americans have risen to the podium.
In 2004, Americans Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves took first and second respectively in the downhill competition. In 2005 Rahlves took first and Miller took second.
Some also remember 2006 as an especially successful year, when four Americans made the top 10.
People who have watched the races take off shared their favorite moments in Birds of Prey history.
“Of course all the wins from Bode and (Steven) Nyman. It just chills you when one of your own comes across the finish line and the crowd cheers,” said Radamus, who has seen most of the Birds of Prey races.
He also named 2007 as a memorable year, when American Andrew Weibrecht vaulted out of 50th place to take 10th in the downhill.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “The crowd just went absolutely crazy. It just stunned everybody.”
“Seeing the U.S. Ski Team do well is always a highlight for me, especially because of Sarah’s connection,” he said. “When Daron and Bode were one and two on the podium, that was a special moment.”
Schleper said he goes every year for every race.
“I love just getting up there and seeing a World Cup race,” he said. “It’s so rare to see skiers and racers of that caliber.”
Frampton said he will always remember the 1999 Championships, when Austrian Hermann Maier won the downhill race.
“It was unbelievable how he won that,” Frampton said. “Seeing him coming across the last jump ” it was very cool. It was an incredible run.”
Garnsey said each year is special because the character of the hill changes depending on the snow.
“We’ve had some fabulous racing on that hill,” he said.
He named the 2004 and 2005 races when Americans dominated the podium as his favorites.
“It’s great whenever an American can be on the podium, especially on the downhill,” he said. “It hasn’t been that frequent ” usually the Europeans dominate.”
He’s seen the caliber of the course evolve, too, he said.
“It’s so much more sophisticated,” he said of the course preparation. “In the old days, they just groomed the course and called it a day. Now the expectation is just that it has to be bulletproof and more challenging.”
Folz said she remembers the early years of the race when Birds of Prey was regarded as a “novelty,” and Americans were never on the podium.
“Now it’s become one of the top two downhills in the world,” she said.
Her favorite memories include seeing Miller and Rahlves on the podium.
“With that transition of the U.S. team being real contenders, it was such a dramatic and dynamic change,” she said. “The size of the crowds got huge.”
Anthony named the year Rahlves won ” he was standing at the finish line when it happened, he said.
“I went into tears,” he said. “My heart just went into my stomach. Everybody was screaming. He just rode on in, and we saw the American stripes.”
Rahlves is one of the last of the generation that raced with Anthony, he said.
“I’d seen him as a junior, and to see him win, it was great,” Anthony said.
Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or email@example.com.